introducing…click clack gorilla

the short answer…

Once upon a time the Click Clack Gorilla escaped from a 9-5 job through the tunnel she had been secretly digging behind the water cooler with her stapler and has been at large in Europe ever since.

Born of an exercise in travel writing, Click Clack Gorilla has since become less about marauding and more about plunder and international gorilla conspiracy. That is to say: dumpster diving, tiny houses, music- and merrymaking and, most often, her life in a squatted caravan community in Germany.

Co-author of College Prowler’s Guide to Skidmore College and author of two zine series—Click Clack Gorilla and Gefunden—the Click Clack Gorilla is an ex-journalist squatter builder explorer writer who specializes in dumpster dived feasts, dark alleys, abandoned buildings, and time travel.

The Click Clack Gorilla can be found reguarly editing, writing, and blogging at Young Germany, as well as making the occasional appearance in fine publications like The New Escapologist and Shelter Publication’s 2012 book Tiny Homes. On stage you can find her at the front of The Battenkill Ramblers (formerly Black Diamond Express Train to Hell), an anarcho old timey country (slash bluegrass slash folk) band, singing and playing various household objects as if they were instruments.

and the not-so-short answer…

Escape was only the beginning. In 2004 I graduated from a liberal arts college in the United States. Two weeks after graduation I started a 9-5 job at a local publishing company. Proofreading. I was bad at proofreading, and I was worse at sitting behind a desk. There are only so many times that you can reread articles about pill splitting and cancer prevention before your brain begins to melt. I found a job au pairing in Germany, broke my red pen in half, and moved halfway across the world. I always thought I would come back someday. I still haven’t.

When my year au pairing was up, I taught German business folks English for a few years, I moved to Dresden to work on a book (eaten by my hard drive in a very tragic chain of events), and I returned to west Germany where I almost faltered in my quest. I loved the idea of a simple life with few expenses that would allow me to work on my own terms. But I started looking at fancy apartments with high rents that would have trapped me right back in the bills-work-bills-work cycle that I knew made me unhappy. When a friend suggested I try out her community, I thought, “why not?” After introducing myself at one of the community’s meetings and getting a “yes” to move into a tiny blue guest caravan, I packed my things into a bike trailer and moved across the city in several exhausting trips. That was my first Wagenplatz.

what is a “wagenplatz”?

The short answer is that a Wagenplatz is an intentional community in which people live together on a piece of land in a variety of wheeled dwellings. The word’s only English equivalent is “trailer park,” and technically this fits, though the phrase rings false in my ears. In my experience, trailer parks are not neighborhoods based on common left-leaning political ideas, consensus, mutual aid, and autonomy—as a Wagenplatz is—but accidental communities brought together by space and coincidence, much like the traditional off-wheels neighborhood. When friends from back home ask me to describe our community, I often revert to comparison. Remember the Boxcar Children? It’s something like that, but with a lot of us. A commune of boxcar children.

For the nitty gritty details, read the Marauder’s Guide to Wagenplatz FAQ.

my tiny trash house

After a few months at the Frankfurt Wagenplatz, I decided to move to a similar community in Mainz. My partner—known here as the Beard—and I shared a red seven-meter Wagen (what you’ll sometimes hear me call the sleeping Wagen today) and used a communal kitchen we called hell with several of our 17 other Platz-mates.

In July 2009 a couple gave me the 60-year-old wooden caravan/trailer (German: Bauwagen) that they had had on their garden plot for the last 20 years. All I had to do was dig the axle out of the ground and get it home. (Structure with wood siding and black door pictured above.)

Two days later and a few layers dirtier we hauled trash house home to our Wagenplatz and the oh-crap-I’ve-never-built-anything-more-complicated-than-a-CD-shelf, diy-renovation gauntlet began. A year, 900 euros, and many borrowed tools and trips to the dumpsters later, I had me a sweet little house on wheels.

To find an index of the whole project from start to finish, click here. For those with shorter attention spans, you’ll find a summary of the project here.

dumpster diving

When I’m not writing about tiny house living or the quirks of life on a Wagenplatz, you will usually find me talking about trash, dumpster diving, scavenging adventures, and freeganism (what some people who attempt to live solely from the refuse of others call themselves).

There are a lot of reasons to dumpster dive. It keeps objects out of the land fill and food on my table. It keeps my bills low and my working hours lower. And it is a hell of a lot of fun to sneak around at night looking for treasure. Calvin and Hobbes were right: there is treasure everywhere. You would be amazed (schocked! stunned! bowled over! knickered!) at what some people throw in the trash.

I write about dumpster diving because I want you—whoever you are, however you live, and whatever you do with your time—to know that almost everything you need can be obtained without money. I want you to know that the silver lining to the dark cloud of living in an incredibly wasteful time and place is that you can feed yourself, clothe yourself, and shelter yourself by dumpster diving and scavenging, that even if society has disowned you or pushed you right over the edge you can live like a queen on the scraps.

I want you to know that you could work less if you satisfied some of your material needs and desires through objects scavenged rather than purchased. And I really, really want everyone to know that dumpster diving and trash picking are nothing to ever be ashamed about or embarassed of. Don’t wrinkle your nose at the lady rooting through the trash. That lady is you in another set of circumstances.

support click clack gorilla

If you like what you see on these pages, keep reading and take a good long look around! Subscribe to the RSS feed! Do a happy dance! Tell your friends! Post links on the spacebook or myface or whichever social networking site you prefer! Leave me comments! Send me e-mails! I love hearing from you, and I love writing for you. If you tell me what you like to hear, I will usually be more than happy to write something more on the subject.

If you like what you see here and happen to have a few extra dollars in your pocket, you can make a donation by clicking the tip jar button in the upper left hand column. This is something that, besides just being fucking awesome that will make me love you forever, allows me to keep Click Clack Gorilla ad-free. Or you could just hire me to take care of that pesky writing project that you need done. Email all proposals to nicolettekyle AT yahoo DOT com.

Or you could post my button on your site. (Code below.)

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You could also order my anarcho country band’s demo cd and give us some love over on our blog and website The Battenkill Ramblers. Listen to some of our tunes here.

Friday September 14th 2007, 8:19 am 12 Comments
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12 Comments so far. Please leave a comment.

I find this to be absolutely amazing. I stumbled across this through google somehow. I find you to be an incredible writer. Ive been reading through this at work for two days now with a definite fascination. I find it more interesting because I recently discovered that due to laws I was unaware of, I have german citizenship and I think I might just pick up and go. I used to write myself, and I gave up on it years ago. I’m thinking I might start again. You’re writing is seriously inspirational. I’m just a little curious about a few things. I keep trying to get these in the order in which they were written on your website but I can’t seem to figure it out. You have an archive by years, but it seems like they’re not all in the archive. Or I can’t find them. Like on the main page, there is one about you aupairing, but it doesnt show up in the archive under 2007. I’m trying to get them in order. Where in the states are you from? How old were you in 2004 when you moved to germany? What made you decide on germany? How did you get a job as an au pair? What made you decide to leave that job? I see from the about portion that youre living in a wagon. Were you teaching english while living in a wagon? I think you just had a baby. Are you raising the baby there? (Are you still in a wagon?) Is it like a commune? Are you allowed to be on the land, or do they occasionally make you move? You have the most fascinating life. I am so jealous. I’m sure the answers to many of my questions are in your blogs, I just cant seem to get them in time order, so im getting really confused when I try to follow along. It would help me get these organized in my head if I had a better idea of the writer. I’m 28 years old, graduated rutgers in 2007, picked up from NJ and moved to FL, and currently live with my boyfriend. About 6 months ago I discovered i was able to get a german passport because my mother didn’t becomee a US citizen until after I was born, she happens to be from Frankfurt. I am seriously toying with the idea of just picking up and going, and hearing about how someone did it, and why, and how it turned out, that would really help me. Especially since from the way I looked into it, my boyfriend will never have german citizenship even if we get married… But at anyrate, I think you’re brilliant. You’re writing is so clever, its funny, its witty, its true to life, and i really feel like im experiencing these things through your eyes. Just thought i’d let you know.

Comment by Audrey Apelbaum 03.14.12 @ 10:48 pm

First I want to say I enjoy your blog very much. You’re a good writer. But today I noticed that you used the word derth (actually spelled: dearth) in referring to your dumpster-dived blankets. Dearth actually means scarcity and I don’t think you meant that.

Comment by Sarah 09.28.12 @ 4:41 am

Hello Nikki,

I dont know if you remember me, but our mums were/are pen pals for years and you guys came to visit us in York many moons ago (whcih if I remember rightly ended in a massive hangover!). I have sort of stumbled across this blog and just wanted to say your home looks amazing, I LOVE these wagons!!!! Also, and probably more importantly congratulations on your little person, she is very cute!

We should keep in touch and I will deffo keep reading about your life in Germany.

Take care,
Sal x x

P.S my mum says hi (she is sat next to me now and is fascinated by the wagonplatz :)

Comment by Sally Marshall (Nee Mowbray) 11.01.12 @ 10:13 pm

I have been reading your posts the last couple of days and I have to say that I really love your blog! We are like minded but I live very conventionally right now.One day…

Comment by Krysta 02.10.13 @ 2:28 am

Hi there! I nominated Click Clack Gorilla for a Liebster blog award. I know you technically have more followers than the “rules” call for, but I wanted to spread the blog-love nonetheless! Check out my blog for more details.

Comment by misscorinne 02.18.13 @ 5:10 pm

I just stumbled upon your youtube video and had to find out more about you and how you live.. I love it.. and will keep reading

Comment by sue ann 05.26.13 @ 6:12 am

Greetings Nikki. I have been reading your past blog posts for a few days and I love them. Your writing style is so real. I was in Schwetzingen Germany years ago and I love Germany and I have hopes to somehow return someday. But, unfortunately, for the moment I am stuck living here in Indiana. YUCK! I would give anything to be able to live the same lifestyle that you are living. Who knows, maybe one day in the future I will be lucky enough to actually meet you and Beard in person…IN GERMANY! Thanks for sharing your experiences and your stories with us.

Comment by Ray 08.27.13 @ 5:23 am

[...] for food made us feel like great adventurers, like Penny, who has great advice on foraging, or Nikki, who writes beautifully about the abundance we can find in the world. It was exciting being able to pull pounds and pounds of food out of these trees we’d barely [...]

Pingback by An Abundance of Apples | The Earthling's Handbook 08.28.13 @ 12:54 pm

saw you on little yellow houses (or something?) on youtube. good job, and good luck.
if you’re in the USA on the west coast sometime, come and see our self-built little spot. you and your crew seem like fun.

Comment by Tys 11.09.13 @ 6:42 am

This is amazing! I know nothing about living in communes, on wheels or otherwise. Also, dumpster diving is actually how we furnished our house almost entirely after we immigrated. My parents still have most of it.

Comment by Anton 01.20.14 @ 4:36 pm

Found you from the video you did on YouTube about your gypsy van – absolutely awesome, and what a beautiful place to live.

I’m also an ‘escapologist’ having left the US back in 2003 to move to Bangkok, Thailand. Like you, never went back and have no intention of doing so, although I may be spending half the year in Spain beginning in 2015.

Also like you, my ‘work life’ consists of about 2-3 hours a day writing, which gives me more than enough money to fund a comfortable lifestyle without the need for copious consumerism. The rest of the time?

Reading, hanging out with friends, watching YouTube videos, surfing the internet and playing computer games. Travel is also in there somewhere.

Can’t beat this kind of life. Been doing it for 4 years now, and don’t plan on ever giving it up :)

Comment by Rachel 02.12.14 @ 10:26 am

You seem like the most rad person. Keep at it!!

Comment by Maddy 03.03.14 @ 6:51 pm

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