Vagabonding by Rolf Potts


I love to travel. Well, I love to daydream about travelling while staying solidly in my own little corner of the earth. I always have an explanation why-it’s too expensive, I can’t take the time off, I need to brush up on the language, I don’t know if it’s safe to go alone, I don’t know if I like anyone enough to travel with them…the list goes on and on. It’s not that I’m (consciously) looking for excuses. It’s that we’ve all been conditioned to believe there’s a certain way to travel- in brief, two week increments where we check off all the tourist must-sees before returning back to our normal lives. Rolf Potts’s Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel takes a sledgehammer to our preconceived notions of what travelling is and opens up a totally new way to explore the world.

Potts’s wants us to take away a few simple things. Number 1: This kind of long term travel is possible regardless of age or income. According to Potts, traveling can be relatively inexpensive if you’re willing to stay in cheap hostels and eat from street vendors. Trains are better than planes, and hitchhiking is even better. And you could earn money on the road, working on farms or teaching English. It won’t be a ton of money, but it should be enough to get you to your next place.

Number 2: Vagabonding requires a different outlook of life. Good travelers are able to see adventure in anything new. Not every experience you’ll have on the road is going to be SUPER CAPS LOCKS EXCITING, so you’ll have to learn to cultivate small pleasures, like having an interesting conversation or trying a new meal.

Number 3: Take your time. The trick to long term travel is that there’s no rush. Don’t spend your first few days somewhere new running around trying to frantically cross everything off of your tourist “to do” list. Instead, take some time to explore your surroundings, wander around, meet locals and listen to their recommendations. Don’t set time limits. Leave a place only when you feel like you’re done.

This book isn’t a how to. Potts doesn’t give us tips on how to score the cheapest airline tickets or where to find the cool non-touristy places. It’s not the book for people gearing up to go to Cabo. It’s about changing your way of thinking to suit long-term travel.

Vagabonding isn’t perfect. For all of the authors talk about how affordable long-term travel is, it still seems like you’d need a hefty savings account, or rich parents even to get to these locations (flights ain’t cheap).  It’s also not super well-written and the constant interjections of Walt Whitman poetry got annoying pretty quickly. But despite its faults, I found it to be an exciting book that reignited my wanderlust. Now that I know this kind of travel is possible, I don’t know how I’m supposed to stay sitting at my desk.

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