True traveler shares tactics for life on the road |

True traveler shares tactics for life on the road

Kara K. Pearson/Special to the Daily
Olof Swanson, 42, squats near his gear as he finishes rolling his cigarette. He says smoking is his only vice.

Everyone knows that Summit County is home to many transient folks, but seldom does one meet a true traveler, a person who doesn’t stay in one place long enough to make any acquaintances, let alone any friends.

Olof Swanson, 42, is a self-described “tramp,” and for the past 12 years he’s been moving from place to place, relying predominantly on hitchhiking as his mode of transportation – except when he crosses continents. He has been on five of the seven continents – South America and Antarctica are still awaiting his arrival.

Swanson returned to America four months ago – on July 4 – from spending a year in Japan and other parts of Asia. He works when he needs to, as a cook or messenger, but mainly digs through Dumpsters for food and supplies.

Swanson was born in Kansas City, Mo., but grew up with his parents and siblings in Botswana, Africa, where his father was a priest. Swanson left home when he was 15 years old, much to the surprise and anger of his parents, who are currently living in Maine and whom he hasn’t seen in years. He married when he was 20 and divorced a year and a half later. At age 30, Swanson decided he wanted to visit a city a year, which is what prompted his current lifestyle. Books such as the journals of Lewis and Clark, which his parents had exposed him to, also fueled his interest in the nomadic lifestyle.

Swanson may be on his way southeast by now. He likes to travel the southern part of the country because it’s warmer and there’s more traffic, which makes hitchhiking easier. He wanted to stay in Breckenridge, but figured, because it’s a tourist town, there wouldn’t be much job availability. He wouldn’t have had a problem sleeping outside this winter – his parents taught him how to camp in the snow – and since he wears at least four layers of clothing, he would have kept warm.

He has a variety of survival tactics that he’s learned throughout his traveling years. He generally sleeps roadside because it makes leaving easier and he always keeps his gear near him – just recently a homeless person in Sacramento stole everything he had. Two more tips: Always have a book and don’t drink or fall in love.

“Love and liquor I decided to leave alone when I was on the road,” he said.

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