For most of us, the word “home” tends to conjure up images of a concrete, immobile dwelling—a house, an apartment complex, a condo—something with weighty permanence. For Jacob Cammack, "home” is a fluid concept that can range from a van parked under a cemetery tree to his latest domicile—a 6x6 tent in a Rosewood backyard.
Jacob is a modern nomad, a wanderer who migrates across the country according to season and mood. Originally from Lincoln, Nebraska, he’s spent the last two springs pedicabbing in Austin. When the temperatures begin to rise and life in a tent becomes less viable, he moves north to ranches in Montana or fishing crews in the Pacific Northwest. “I adventured myself out of debt,” he tells us. “It took three years, but I did it.”
Jacob’s tent is in Sharon’s backyard. Sharon is a graduate student with an online vintage business and a flamboyant taste in art. She found Jacob on Craigslist after he put up an ad that said “My tent, your backyard” and described himself as a leave-no-trace minimalist looking for access to a bathroom and kitchen.
Sharon has a penchant for sharing her space with wanderers and short-term renters. “I like to keep people moving through. I like new people and I also like running my own show, which is harder to do with long term roommates,” she tells us as Jeff, Jacob and I sprawl out on her living room rug, digging into a vegan smorgasbord of hummus, raw vegetables, and bread that Jacob has carefully prepared.
The mood is playful. Jacob, Sharon, and their newest housemate, Jake, make a regular habit of sabotaging each other with elaborate practical jokes. Sharon recently set an earsplitting rooster alarm clock beside Jacob’s tent at 6AM in the morning. “She got me,” he admits. “The whole neighborhood must have heard that thing. I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off.”
“But he deserved it,” retorts Sharon as she turns to me, “He’s always putting this plastic mannequin head—we call it ‘The Head’—in unexpected places. The freezer. My bed. The closet. It’s terrifying!”
The communal aspect is important for Jacob. In his personal philosophy, possessions take a backseat to relationships and experiences. “A couple years ago I had some kind of spiritual experience and the next thing I knew I was giving away everything I owned and taking off, hitchhiking into the wild.”
Jacob is an ultra minimalist. He unzips his tent is the muddy backyard. The only thing in it is a sleeping mat. The rest of his possessions occupy a small corner of Sharon’s laundry room. He’s got a backpack with a few books, a rain jacket, and some biking shorts. That’s pretty much it—and he likes it that way. On his most recent odyssey to Austin, he carpooled with a stranger who drove off with his backpack, leaving Jacob stranded in a parking lot.
Jeff asks him how losing everything made him feel. “It was the best day ever,” he says, “I love it when that happens.”
P.S. Yes, Jeff slept in the backyard tent (with The Head). Jacob cut him a break and slept inside on Sharon's couch.
Photography by Jasmine "Bobby" Oliver