‘VAGABONDING’ – Why This Book Changed My Life

As I scrolled through random traveler’s Instagram accounts, I came across a post about this book, “Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel”. I immediately knew that I needed to buy it and after hopping on Amazon, it was mine.

I found it in the mail after work one night and began reading… I couldn’t put it down. It isn’t a big book and before I knew it I was halfway through within a few hours. Within those few hours Rolf Potts changed my life. It was everything I needed to hear.

I have spent the last few weeks questioning my life as more and more of my friends have gotten engaged, gotten real jobs, and purchased their own homes. Do I really want to spend the next few years traveling the world? Should I be responsible and go back to school? How long can I realistically live with my parents? Should I be applying to real jobs too? I feel like a loser telling guys that all I am doing is waitressing, a real catch eh? Needless to say, I have been a little more than lost.

Not only does Potts offer very standard travel advice for trip planning, dealing with cultural customs worldwide, and funding your travels, he inspires you, the traveler. He uses historical examples from famous explorers and writers. He throws in quotes from real people like you and I, from all walks of life. He uses his own personal experiences to motivate you.

What stood out to me was Pott’s chapter on “Keeping it Simple”, where he discusses society’s constant need for consumption. “Indeed, the freedom to go vagabonding has never been determined by income level; it’s found through simplicity – the conscious decision of how you use what income you have” (Potts, 2003). Potts not only focuses on the consumption of material items but also the frivolous spending at bars, restaurants, and other various social events. This chapter hit home for me as I am currently practicing the whole ‘conscious consumption’ thing as well as staying in more to save money. I blew a whole line of credit while in my third year of university on going out and partying… I have seen how it happens first hand and I am still paying for it now, yes I had fun… but think of all the traveling I could have done. Pott’s point is that you don’t have to be rich, you don’t have to have a lot of money to be a vagabond or travel in general… you just need to be careful with how you spend it while at home and while on the road.

I really appreciate it when people make a point to emphasize how money doesn’t necessarily make you rich; Potts even says, “America is famous for its unhappy rich people, most of us remain convinced that just a little more money will set life right” (Potts, 2003). In my personal opinion, we don’t have to drive expensive cars, shop at expensive designer stores, have expensive and outrageous weddings, or buy massive houses. I am not saying we have to give up everything we want but for people who want to travel, these are the kinds of sacrifices they may need to make, myself included. Possessions don’t necessarily make us happy but memories do. The people we meet on the road, the friends, the lovers, the strangers. The experiences we have with these people are what life is all about.

While reading this book, I found myself really paying specific attention to his points and actually thinking “wow, I can’t believe he just said that”, or “why didn’t I think that way before”. When an author has the power to actually make me question my life or life in general and makes points that bemuse me… that’s awesome. The only other time this has ever happened to me was when I read Robin Sharma’s ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’, a phenomenal book about following your dreams and living a simple life. (Emory, if you’re reading this… mail it back to me!)

Overall, if you have ever dreamt of living a vagabond lifestyle or traveling in general, this book was made for you. If you’re lacking inspiration and motivation in your life or questioning whether or not you’re making the right choices in regards to travel… this book is for you. This book really pulled me out of a semi-depression, nothing dramatic but you know how it is. The best part is that Pott’s reminds you that you don’t necessarily have to be on the road to be a vagabond. We all have to come home at some point to save money and pay off debt as well as plan for where we want to go next. This is all part of the process. This is how you grow and get to your next destination in life. This isn’t just a book; it’s my travel bible and it revived me.

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