Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

Vagabonding is about taking time off from your normal life - from six weeks to four months to two years - to discover and experience the world on your own terms. Veteran shoestring traveler Rolf Potts shows how anyone armed with an independent spirit can achieve the dream of extended overseas travel. Potts gives the necessary information on:- financing your travel time - d...

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Title:Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel
Author:Rolf Potts
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Edition Language:English

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel Reviews

  • Matthew Trinetti

    I finished reading Vagabonding for the second time. The first time I read it was about four years ago, when I first started to experience serious wanderlust. It was inspiring and echoed the way I felt about traveling, but it wasn’t applicable yet. One Day, I mused, I will go on a long-term trip. One day, I will go “vagabonding.” It put the bug in my ear that long-term travel is possible.

    But finishing it now, in the midst of an extended journey, is incredibly satisfying and comforting. It’s satis

    I finished reading Vagabonding for the second time. The first time I read it was about four years ago, when I first started to experience serious wanderlust. It was inspiring and echoed the way I felt about traveling, but it wasn’t applicable yet. One Day, I mused, I will go on a long-term trip. One day, I will go “vagabonding.” It put the bug in my ear that long-term travel is possible.

    But finishing it now, in the midst of an extended journey, is incredibly satisfying and comforting. It’s satisfying to know that I am actually DOING IT — realizing my ambition and living out a dream. And it’s comforting to read something that describes exactly what I’m experiencing physically, mentally, and emotionally. I feel welcomed among a league of travelers who have come before me, walk alongside me, and will follow in our footsteps.

    Here are my favorite takeaways from the book.

    It really comes down to priorities. I believe if you have a burning desire to travel or do anything really, you can make it happen [See: Desire + Decision = Magic]. But this isn’t just a lesson I’ve learned from the book — I’m seeing it firsthand with the people I’ve met on the road:

    - A young Texas couple traveling and working in Europe indefinitely;

    - An Australian architect taking year career break to travel from Europe to Asia;

    - A few German university students hitchhiking around Europe during a three month summer break;

    - A Japanese woman dropping everything to travel the world for a year after living through Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami;

    - A 70-year-old Estonian man who escaped the Soviet rule at nineteen and vowed to travel around the world and return to Estonia only when it became a free nation (which finally happened in 1991).

    The only common thread between these people is a strong desire to see the world and making the decision to do it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. It just requires removing the reductive lens from which we view our lives and the world and expand our belief of what’s possible.

    Although Vagabonding teaches the techniques to affordably travel for extended periods of time, it more importantly introduces a way to find adventure in everyday life.

    This mentality isn’t reserved just for long-term journeys; it can be achieved by looking at the everyday world with new, curious eyes. It’s about seeing things for what they are, and not for what you think they should or want them to be. It’s about being intensely curious and observant about about the lives around you at the moment, whether that’s your neighbor from Ohio, your hostel roommate from Chile, or the local Latvian you meet at a bar.

    Potts introduces the concept of how work and pleasure fit into our lives, and how the first step of vagabonding is earning your freedom to take an extended journey. Yes, this speaks to financially preparing yourself to live on little or zero income. But it also advises how to handle your career, relationships, and attitude prior to taking a leap.

    It’s interesting how this represents the same belief of the entrepreneurs profiled in Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Startup, while echoing the lesson about the Deferred Life Plan in The Monk and the Riddle. I love when seemingly unrelated books communicate a similar message.

    Like most things, long-term travel starts with taking ownership of your actions and fate. It won’t happen unless you make it a priority.

    When I first fantasized about taking a long-term trip, my goal was simply to experience life in different places around the world and to learn about the culture firsthand. Vagabonding suggests the best way to achieve this is to travel simply, slowly, and without the confines of a specific agenda.

    Traveling simply means freeing yourself from “stuff”, leaving you with only the bare necessities to live. By freeing yourself physically from the stuff that defines you, you’re stripped down to just yourself — a sometimes scary reality that forces to figure out who you actually are.

    Traveling slowly represents engaging with your surroundings, absorbing a place rather than “ticking it off”, and seeing and listening rather than looking and hearing. It’s the difference between being a traveler and being a tourist: one is active, the other is passive.

    Traveling without a strict agenda or bulleted to-do list, you’re led mostly by heart instead of brain. You do what feels right. And without a feeling like you need to be somewhere or get things done, you give people and places the love and attention they deserve.

    For me, vagabonding has led to incredible experiences, most of which revolve around conversations with people: spending hours at a cafe talking to an Estonian about growing up under Soviet rule; sharing a typical Icelandic Sunday dinner with locals and discussing elves; hitching with a car full of Lithuanians and learning about their love for the countryside and local beer. Contrast this with my attitude a few short months ago, while working under a strict hour-by-hour daily agenda. I would have rarely allowed myself the time to have such conversations.

    This review and more at

  • Chris

    I hit the road for 8 months--7 countries, 4 continents--because of this book.

    College behind me, an ex-fiance, and a wad of cash in the bank (invested since I was a child)--that was when I discovered this book. I boarded the plane 5 months later.

    I carried it with me the whole trip (it's very light). When I was feeling homesick or just sick, down, or in a rut I'd read a bit of this book and it would fire me up and give me ideas of what to do next.

    Being on the road for an extended period of time

    I hit the road for 8 months--7 countries, 4 continents--because of this book.

    College behind me, an ex-fiance, and a wad of cash in the bank (invested since I was a child)--that was when I discovered this book. I boarded the plane 5 months later.

    I carried it with me the whole trip (it's very light). When I was feeling homesick or just sick, down, or in a rut I'd read a bit of this book and it would fire me up and give me ideas of what to do next.

    Being on the road for an extended period of time has a LOT of challenges. Potts doesn't tell you what each of these challenges would be--that's impossible--but he does show you ways of thinking and doing that can help you get the most out of these challenges.

    This book isn't necessary for a successful trip. Hardly. People learn on their feet all the time, and what better way to learn than to jump in head first. I will say I'm glad I had this little guide to help me open my eyes to the world of long term travel when I never even knew it existed.

  • Chrissy

    Rolf Potts gives a ton of good resources for how to travel long-term. This is not for the person who wants to take a week vacation in Cabo, but for someone who wants to hang out in a country or two or however many for a long time -- several weeks to several years. It's inspiring and helpful to know that I'm not the only one who wants to travel this way!

  • Derek

    Rolf Potts’

    was recommended to me by a friend who apparently thinks I:

    a) Need to get out of the house (and the city/state/country)

    b) Enjoy books that heavily rely on quoting Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road”

    It’s not a bad book, certainly not the type I would pick up on my own, but there’s nothing really life-changing here either. Potts is conversational (almost to a fault), and he makes some fine points about living with less and accepting circumstances on the road for what they

    Rolf Potts’

    was recommended to me by a friend who apparently thinks I:

    a) Need to get out of the house (and the city/state/country)

    b) Enjoy books that heavily rely on quoting Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road”

    It’s not a bad book, certainly not the type I would pick up on my own, but there’s nothing really life-changing here either. Potts is conversational (almost to a fault), and he makes some fine points about living with less and accepting circumstances on the road for what they are: experience. It’s standard self-help book advice that works at home as well as abroad, of course, and the book does leave one with an itch to travel.

    He briefly touches on his own experiences, and the passages where he makes flippant remarks about the diversity encountered in his travels (think, “Ah yes, it was in Borneo where I met a half-Korean, half-Polish French émigré who discussed with me the politics of Ugandan foreign policy”) struck me as pretentious even if they were true. I don’t doubt my knee-jerk reaction has much to do with my un-travelled life, but I think I would still feel he’s propping himself up even if I were a fellow globetrotter.

    In Potts’ defense, he makes fine points about the commoditization of travel, such as “extreme” sports or the dubious desire of the ultra-rich to visit “unspoiled” cultures. As a Gen Xer who seems to have taken the lessons of

    to heart, he’s in a good place to critique the way in which everything has been bought and sold, including the “alternative” lifestyle of travel. I only wish these thoughts could have been expounded.

    He seems well-read, but I think he wrote a book specifically designed for people who

    do much reading. The exceedingly short chapters lack depth, the columns are unbecomingly wide, and the whole thing is peppered with “profound” quotes from Eastern philosophers, famous travel writers, and American poets. One gets the impression these chapters would function better as blog posts or magazine articles than in a book. And maybe that’s the point. Perhaps we’re just supposed to flip through quickly and get our asses out the door.

  • Priya

    I found this book Strictly OK and I fail to understand the hype this book has generated so much so that it comes under "Top 10 books travel books".

    Given that the author is well-travelled, there could have been a lot of meaningful things to be shared with the readers from his personal experiences. Unfortunately, all that the book contains is a whole bunch of website links and references to read. And an equal number of quotes from all kinds of travellers.

    At best, this book can serve as a dictiona

    I found this book Strictly OK and I fail to understand the hype this book has generated so much so that it comes under "Top 10 books travel books".

    Given that the author is well-travelled, there could have been a lot of meaningful things to be shared with the readers from his personal experiences. Unfortunately, all that the book contains is a whole bunch of website links and references to read. And an equal number of quotes from all kinds of travellers.

    At best, this book can serve as a dictionary for one who is looking for sources of reference on how to travel on your own. Even those references appear inadequate.

    Saying things like 'speak to people who have traveled extensively for advice' or 'you must always travel safe', 'save money for travel' makes no sense whatsoever unless the target audience is a five year old. They certainly do not warrant whole chapters.

    It looks like the author has randomly aggregated a bunch of blogposts, thrown in a long list of weblinks and created a book.

    I would give two stars simply for some of the weblinks which I found useful.

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