They say running away won’t fix your problems. We knew that, but for a few magical days, three stressed-out city girls ran away to the National Hobo Convention. We were looking for wisdom from people who live on their own terms. It wasn’t a realistic solution, but in the month that followed our weekend with Hobos, we all did some pretty brave things. Sami moved to Seattle for a new job, I got a promotion, and Andrea sold her house. So maybe running away works sometimes. Thanks to the Hobo community and Britt, Iowa for a transformative weekend.
Here’s what happened in all three of our words and Andrea’s photos.
Rachel: Sami is taking off for Seattle soon. So before she leaves us and the magic of our Hobo weekend fades, what did you think about hobos (if anything at all) before getting into this?
Sami: Honestly, until you sent me the BuzzFeed article, I’d have thought they were loners, maybe a little kooky, maybe drugged out. I didn’t see them as a tight-knit community that would host something like the convention.
Andrea: I truly believed they were similar to homeless people and that they found ways to get money and probably drank a lot. I never thought they would be so hard working but such free spirits at the same time. They similar to hippies in that they are open-minded and loving and I agree with Sami, very tight-knit community.
Sami: Yeah! I liked how even the ones who had bought houses, and had kids, and settled down, were still free spirits at heart! I was also touched by their initiatives to raise $$ for the sick hobos.
Andrea: Yes!! Exactly, they wanted to make the lives for their kids easier but they are still such wild beautiful souls.
Sami: And some were making the efforts to be involved in social media and learn how to use it to their advantage to educate people on the hobo culture
Rachel: My Dad grew up near a railroad track and he used to tell me bedtime stories about a secret language of symbols called “the Hobo Code” and about the people who lived by it.
Sami: The code was so cool! I love that’s been passed down through the generations. The Hobo legends were so fascinating. I loved how there were hobos from the 60’s that everybody knew. And, I found the difference between “old school” hobos and “new school” hobos interesting as well. Did y’all notice that?
Rachel: Yeah, some of the older hobos were like celebrities to the younger hobos.
Andrea: The new school hobos were more like “stereotypical hippies”. The old school were hard working and just had a strong desire to experience different cities. But the new school is a bit loopier.
Sami: Yeah! The new school seemed a little more stoned. And I think they were the like the dudes who played us our new favorite song “Rich Girl Blues”.
Rachel: Hahaha. Yeah, that guy singing the “Rich Girl Blues” to us in a boxcar was one of my favorite moments. The Hobo Jungle was my Burning Man.
Sami: HAHA totally! A true cultural exchange! So many people asked me if the locals clashed with the hobos. I was stoked to report that they got along great. I love that this is living proof that counterculture can co-exist with the normies. #peace
Rachel: How would you describe the Hobo Jungle?
Sami: A rough-around-the-edges family reunion/small town music festival (ala Stars Hollow) and trailer park all in one. We left before anything truly wild happened, but it seemed like this really beautiful shared outdoor living space. Reminded me of some of the old music “festivals” my friends would pull together in college- the campout shows. People playing guitar, napping in the grass, etc.
Sami: We didn’t stand out. Or at least no one made us feel like total outsiders. Even the rich girl blues was pretty gentle mocking. Still felt inclusive.
Rachel: Agreed, I felt like the rich girl blues was laughing with us, not at us. Andrea, you jumped right in there! Went straight to the fire pit where everyone was singing. TBH I did not expect the hobos to be signing one-hit wonders from the 90s. It was chill.
Andrea: The singing pit was awesome. They were so funny and actually started talking to me a little. But as if they already knew. Didn’t ask where I was from or my name. Just threw me right into the conversation.
Rachel: It seemed hard to be a hobo in 2017.
Andrea: Riding the rails is not going to work anymore. It’s kind of sad but understandable why it doesn’t work. Most train cars are sealed. But applying the hobo mindset can work with daily living for sure. Minimalists are somewhat like the hobos. Having less and enjoying the simple things in life
Sami: Yeah that is a really good point. It is hard. So many regulations. I love that comparison to minimalists. Brings to mind “hobo at heart”. I was thinking about what hobo fans would look like in 20 years if it will be easier or harder to be nomadic.
Andrea: The hobo jungle was so cool. As much as those guys rocking the blues were entertaining they don’t seem similar to what the hobo jungle was years and years ago. The older guys def gave me the vibe of how it used to be.
Andrea: But it was so laid back. People playing music and just lifting spirits up. There was this positive therapeutic energy flowing in the jungle
Rachel: I would say all three of us qualify as “hobos at heart”
Andrea: Yes 🙌🏻
Sami: ✨✨✨ hell yeah
Andrea: I def didn’t feel strange among them. It felt good to be there.