Until last summer I worked an organization called Mobile Loaves & Fishes, which serves the homeless in Austin and in five other cities across the country. A couple times a year, the MLF leadership takes employees and other members of the community out onto Austin’s streets for something called a Street Retreat.

Street Retreat participants leave behind their money and credit cards, take no food, and pack the minimum they need to survive for 48-72 hours. (Most leave their phones home, but a couple MLF employees keep theirs in case of emergencies). During the retreat, participants spend time sleeping, eating, and hanging out with Austin’s homeless population.

I was completely unprepared for it my first time out…which I guess is kind of a good thing. I went out there with a limited working knowledge of what it means to be homeless; in my mind I always assumed it was something like camping or following The Grateful Dead. That is: not always comfy or clean, but also, kind of an adventure with opportunities for plenty of good times.

Read more about Amanda’s Street Retreat experience on her blog.