WITH MY WORK FINISHED and my pores oozing sausage grease, I find my way back to the train station at Revnice, where I first entered the Brdy Hills. It's a Sunday night, and homebound tramps are everywhere, in the train-station bar, sleeping on benches, strumming guitars, or nuzzling with sweethearts. Everyone looks half-dead: It's a scene from Night of the Living Hobos. Tomorrow the tramps will return to their jobs as clerks, mechanics, psychiatrists, and mayors.
For a brief but glorious time, I've lain myself down in the bohemian heart of camping. My extreme-sports-loving friends back in the States spend thousands on high-tech gear and strenuous expeditions that cannot possibly deliver the degree of comfort I got lying on the ground 20 yards from a pub. At every step my beer glass was full, my belly had meat, and my cigar was lit. Soap? Razor? I don't need no stinking razor. I've found the real, world-preserving wildness celebrated by that Yankee bohemian, Henry David Thoreau—the wildness not of place, but of what he called "foresters and outlaws." This is camping: eating junk, getting dirty, misbehaving. I've gone native: This boy is a tramp.
The train pulls into the station. I climb aboard and once again sprawl on the floor. As we pull out, the car begins to shake and clank in a satisfying rhythm. I'm just drifting off to sleep when a man dressed in ripped jeans and a torn army jacket, accompanied by a mangy dog with a metal muzzle, plops down next to me. He pulls an envelope full of tobacco out of his pocket and offers to roll me a cigarette. I decline, but look closer. Though I probably appear rather disgusting myself, this man looks much worse. He has clearly been on the road a long time, a lot longer than a couple of weeks. Wait a minute, I think—here's a real hobo.
He pulls out a stainless steel hip flask and offers me a swig. I take a long pull and wipe my mouth with the back of my hand.
"Dekuji," I say in thanks.
Realizing from my accent that I'm an American, he sits up, grabs his guitar, and begins to play: "This land is your land, this land is my land, from South Moravia to North Bohemia..."
It's time to go home.
While living the Czech outdoor life last June, Brad Wetzler gained ten pounds.