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Travelling Life (part 1)

Travellers come from all walks of life and have many different reasons for living on the road. There is no minimum monthly mileage, nor a set period of time which someone has to travel for, that qualifies a person to be a traveller. There is not a totally common dress code, musical preference, or philosophy.  Some live nomadically throughout the year, moving within the UK or further afield or just staying in one area. Some never move from a secure piece of land.  Not all full-time travellers are involved in the festival circuit but there are part-time travellers who have access to houses, but also have a bus, bender, van etc for the summer months of the festivals. There are also the punters and party people who spill onto the scene each summer, who is and who isn't a traveller is not really an issue. Travelling is more a state of mind and a way of life.


There is no doubt that life on the road is harder in many ways than that of a house dweller. Basic needs like heat and water are harder to meet. Most live-in vehicles have woodburners in and it is a daily task collecting wood, chopping and stacking it. Standpipes are rarely provided on unauthorised sites and travellers often rely on garages or churchyards for clean water. The constant fear of eviction that a lot of travellers are forced to live with also adds a big burden.

Domestic chores involve children at a much younger age on site. They are also given a great deal of time and attention, all adults take part in their entertainment and learning. An enormous amount of energy is put into vehicle and home maintenance and restoration. The most basic jobs are learnt early and children watch, ask questions and help. Unfortunately it is not always easy for traveller parents to get their children accepted at school although many prefer to educate their children themselves.

The media image of travellers emphasises their reliance on government handouts but many have skills and trades. There are a multitude of skilled tradespeople on site, these skills can be traded both internally and in the local area for cash or as an exchange. Seasonal work at festivals and in agriculture also plays a big part in a lot of travellers lives.

Life on the road is as diverse as life in houses. Some people just want to party, some want to bring up their kids in peace, some want to work, some are not interested in money, some want to make as much as they can! There are those who will happily go and shop at Tescos and those who against buying from any multi national. There are meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans. Smokers and non smokers, drinkers and tee-teetotallers.

Some travellers have TVs and can be addicted to the latest soaps just as any house dweller, however other more creative hobbies are often taken up on sites. Reading, drawing, writing, games, listening to and playing music, making jewellery and other crafts as well as damn good conversation are all popular on most sites.

As with the settled community alcohol and drugs are used by a lot of travellers (although not all). Site parties are often mad affairs sometimes going on for days with a lot of heavy drinking involved. Unfortunately more travellers seem to be turning to alcohol on a daily basis and it is sad to see how essential it has become. Regular heavy drinking does nothing for the atmosphere on site either, just look at how people behave in the city centres after a night on the booze. Cannabis is by far the most popular drug amongst travellers, maybe because it helps relieves tensions between people living in close confines. Also it enhances the creative imagination and time and opinions of others can seem irrelevant whilst working on a drawing, poem or new song. Other drugs are taken by some travellers, heroin is not generally accepted by any travellers I know and is not welcome on any sites I have visited but there are people that take it. Maintaining a habit though can be difficult on site and often travellers who abuse drugs end up living in cities.


Most travellers prefer to be in the countryside with access to clean water and ideally hard standing for heavy vehicles in winter. The reality is that good sites are rare and so all sorts of areas become sites. Common land was traditionally a regular spot for travellers of all types passing through. Its use is increasingly controlled now and often there is no vehicle access. Green lanes were also historically used by travelling people but are now also subject to laws of obstruction or have passed into private ownership. Road verges are usually council owned and are less easily evicted but are often unsuitable for those with animals or children. Other council owned areas of land are generally the best bet. These areas may range from rural recreation parks to urban derelict lands. Privately owned industrial or commercial property that is for sale or empty after bankruptcy can be lived in but increasingly now barriers are put up or ditches dug to prevent access. Disused airfields, quarries or M.O.D. land are popular park-ups but although the owners rarely use the space eviction may still be rapid. Large lay-bys are often the last respite for many travellers but are again unsuitable for those with animals or children. Squatted buildings with surrounding land can also become sites.

Sometimes travellers simply head for the first seemingly suitable space, sometimes they have reconnoitred the locality for prospective sites. Sometimes they return to a previous park-up or join friends. Sometimes, contrary to popular opinion, they are even invited to park-up on someone's land. Some individuals make private arrangements with landowners who need them for work or just rent off them. Others have access to land owned by friends or family. Many travellers would buy their own land if they were allowed to live on it, unfortunately most of those who have tried have not been able to get permission to live there. Friends of mine who bought land to live on back in 1995 eventually got evicted off their own land as they could not get planning permission. Ironically there are now gypsies squatting their land!

Click on pictures for full image. Pictures courtesy of Lilmisslostit, Sensamillia, Andy, MysteryT and Iain.

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