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

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...

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

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

  • 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!

  • Heather

    This is a short read that I intend to read over and over. Basically, it explains that you don't have to be in college or retired to experience long-distance travel. Hiking the Appalachian Trail or spending a year in Thailand is completely do-able for even 30 or 40-somethings. It's a reminder for me not to get caught up in the rat race and the sequence of school, job, marriage, kids, more job, 1 week vacations at a time, retirement, and then death. Although I take away a bit of inspiration and li

    This is a short read that I intend to read over and over. Basically, it explains that you don't have to be in college or retired to experience long-distance travel. Hiking the Appalachian Trail or spending a year in Thailand is completely do-able for even 30 or 40-somethings. It's a reminder for me not to get caught up in the rat race and the sequence of school, job, marriage, kids, more job, 1 week vacations at a time, retirement, and then death. Although I take away a bit of inspiration and liberation from this book, it's actually a practical piece with tips on how to incorporate long distance travel in your life and not spend eterninty looking forward to a one-week vacation every year. It's my little escape from routine reality.

  • 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.

  • Ru Viljoen

    "...deliberately not carrying a camera and sedulously avoiding the standard sights, the anti-tourist doesn't have much integrity or agenda beyond his self conscious decision to stand apart from other tourists."

    That comes half way into a book that at first states that vagabonding is all about your personal lifestyle choices and not about contrasting with or criticizing other people's choices. I have read of at least 5 labels for travelers which RP stereo typically dismisses.

    The book is filled to

    "...deliberately not carrying a camera and sedulously avoiding the standard sights, the anti-tourist doesn't have much integrity or agenda beyond his self conscious decision to stand apart from other tourists."

    That comes half way into a book that at first states that vagabonding is all about your personal lifestyle choices and not about contrasting with or criticizing other people's choices. I have read of at least 5 labels for travelers which RP stereo typically dismisses.

    The book is filled to the brim with useful tips and resources but the hypocritical criticisms are wearying. Does RP expect people to identify other travelers by these few tip offs label them as pretentious travel snobs and judge them to be "dong it wrong"?

    RP spends a lot of time teaching people the correct mindset as he perceives it. I expected more travel tips and less attitude conditioning. Admittedly his advice, condensed into, keep an open mind and travel with spontaneity, seems sound. However it applies to everything else too, so it is hardly vagabonding specific.

    The majority of the book is an attempt to cover each contingency wherein open mindedness would be useful and a description of where others have gone wrong.

    Very disappointing.

  • 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.

  • Dorai Thodla

    Not a fast moving one but an amazing book. I think I will go back and read parts of it again. There are lots of things to like about the book.

    First of all it provides a different view of life. I wish I had something like this in my twenties. I have a friend who spends about 6 months in a year traveling. I did not understand him. After reading this book, I can imagine why he does that.

    A few snippets from the book:

    Not a fast moving one but an amazing book. I think I will go back and read parts of it again. There are lots of things to like about the book.

    First of all it provides a different view of life. I wish I had something like this in my twenties. I have a friend who spends about 6 months in a year traveling. I did not understand him. After reading this book, I can imagine why he does that.

    A few snippets from the book:

    This requires a different mindset. To some this comes naturally (the possessions/options dilemma). But I think, it goes a little beyond that. We are addicted to relationships and continuity. We build routines of social interactions. When you are vagabonding, you miss these activities. You need to switch from known/familiar patterns of interactions with familiar people in familiar surroundings to very different somewhat unknown patterns of interactions with strangers.

    This book covers various ways of earning your living while traveling and provides extensive links to resources.

    I love this quote in the book.

    I have mixed feelings about work. I like it but only parts of it. I always wondered how I can do parts of the work that I like and chuck the parts, I don't.

  • 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.

  • Kate

    As someone who lives a nomadic life, I found enriching what he has to say about long-term travel and living an alternative lifestyle.

    He give some excellent, concrete ideas to those who want to travel but claim they can't afford to. He also helps us see how living a traveling life can be greatly rewarding. And also how "vagabonding" is really about being open to life.

    Some of my favorite quotes:

    "Vagabonding is about not merely reallotting a portion of your life for travel but rediscovering the en

    As someone who lives a nomadic life, I found enriching what he has to say about long-term travel and living an alternative lifestyle.

    He give some excellent, concrete ideas to those who want to travel but claim they can't afford to. He also helps us see how living a traveling life can be greatly rewarding. And also how "vagabonding" is really about being open to life.

    Some of my favorite quotes:

    "Vagabonding is about not merely reallotting a portion of your life for travel but rediscovering the entire concept of time."

    "As Pico Iyer pointed out, the act of quitting 'means not giving up, but moving on; changing direction not because something doesn't agree with you, but because you don't agree with something. It's not a complaint...but a positive choice, and not a stop in one's journey but a step in a better direction. Quitting--whether a job or a habit--means taking a turn so as to be sure you're still moving in the direction of your dreams.'"

    "There are always people who dare to seek on the margin of society, who are not dependent on social routine, and prefer a kind of free-floating existence." (Thomas Merton)

    "There is still an overwhelming social compulsion--an insanity of consensus, if you will--to get rich from life rather than to live life richly."

    "Vagabonding is, was, and always will be a private undertaking--and its goal is to improve your life not in relation to your neighbors but it relation to yourself."

    "I refuse to spend money on haircuts."

    Thoreau: "Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul."

    Kurt Vonnegut: "Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God."

    Antonio Machado: "Paths are made by walking."

    Eknath Easwaran: "Excitement and depressions, fortune and misfortune, pleasure and pain are storms in a tiny, private, shell-bound realm--which we take to be the whole of existence. yet we can break out of this shell and enter a new world."

    "On the road, you learn to improvise your days, take a second look at everything you see, and not obsess over your schedule."

    Robert Pirsig: "I don't want to hurry it. That itself is a poisonous ... attitude. When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it and want to get on to other things."

    Ed Buryn: "The challenges you face offer no alternative but to cope with them. And in doing so, your live is being fully lived."

    "Vagabonding is like a pilgrimage without a specific destination or goal--not a quest for answers so much as a celebration of the questions, an embrace of the ambiguous, and an openness to anything that comes your way."

    "When in doubt about what to do in a place, just start walking through your new environment. Walk until your day becomes interesting."

    Buddha: "We see as we are."

    "Should sickness or crime catch you off guard, the best response is to humbly accept these things as part of life's adventure."

    "Break through the static postcard of fantasy and emerge into the intense beauty of the real. in this way, 'seeing' as you travel is somewhat of a spiritual exercise: a process not of seeking interesting surroundings, but of being continually interested in whatever surrounds you."

    "As anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss pointed out fifty years ago, mourning the perceived purity of yesterday will only cause us to miss the true dynamic of today."

    "Long-term travel is not the exclusive realm of rebels and mystics but is open to anyone willing to embrace the vivid textures of reality."

    "The vagabond frees in himself the latent urge to live closer to the edge of experience."

    Annie Dillard: "What we know, at least for starters, is: here we--so incontrovertibly--are. This is our life, these are our lighted seasons, and then we die. In the meantime, in between time, we can see."

  • rahul

    -Emily Dickinson (1830–86).


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