Vagabonding – Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts


I must admit I had never heard of Rolf Potts despite being a travel blogger for so many years. I picked up this book on recommendations of too many people. It had been on my Kindle for some time now, but it was on a recent trip that I read it while waiting at different airports. I assume there is no better place to read the book in Vagabonding when you are on the road or traveling.

The book begins with a bang. I was so happy to read about the in-depth impact of independent travel that I thought this may actually be The Book for travelers and wannabe travelers. However, I soon discovered that this book oscillates between 2 extremes. One is the deep philosophical look at long-term travel and what it does to you as a human being. The second extreme is a series of links after each chapter that give you the practical resources that can help you during your travels. The two ends are as apart as they can be. For most of us, the travel reality lies somewhere in between the two extremes.

Author Rolf Potts has read a lot of travel literature, especially that of long-term independent travelers. He quotes those travelers, from their books and from their experiences. He adds his own adventures to these stories and then comes up with some practical ideas for the readers. I like the way he drives the point that travel teaches you minimalism like nothing else. As you have to carry everything you want to take along, it teaches you how to live with the minimum.

Rolf Potts attempts to demystify various myths associated with long-term term travel. Like he tells you long-term travel has nothing to do with demographics – your age, your gender, your income, your ideology. He tells you it is not difficult to earn as you travel or even earn enough to be able to travel after a threshold level. He tells you that being a long-term traveler means being a student for a lifetime. I can not agree more with him.

I liked the way he tells you that travel begins well before you step out of your home, sometimes months before that. It is a seed that that germinates slowly till it becomes forceful enough to make you leave everything and go and out and explore the world. He goes on to say that meaningful part of travel begins at home. I agree. I have always enjoyed the process of researching a destination – spending hours and hours over maps, reading history and finding obscure things and mentally getting lost in the geography.

At the practical end, he gives you a list of guidebooks and then tells you that Guidebooks should never be your only source of Information. What I like is that even when he constantly tells you to pack light – he still tells you to carry some souvenirs for people you would meet on the way.

Some interesting quotes from Vagabonding by Rolf Potts.

  • I or You pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick if the earth – Walt Whitman
  • Research your own experiences for the truth… Absorb what is useful… Add what is specifically your own… The creating individual is more than any style or system – Bruce Lee
  • Vagabonding is an outlook on life
  • Vagabonding is about looking for adventure in normal life
  • The Vagabonding is an attitude – a friendly interest in people, places and things like an explorer
  • Vagabonding is about gaining the courage t loosen your grip on so-called certainties of this world
  • Vagabonding is not a social gesture, nor is it a moral high ground. It is a personal act that demands only the realignment of self
  • Vagabonding is, was and always will be a private undertaking – a goal is to improve your life in relation to yourself
  • On your resume list, your job skills travel has taught you: Independence, flexibility, negotiation, planning, boldness, self-sufficiency, and improvisation
  • Whoever loves money, never has enough money – Hebrew Scriptures
  • No matter how meagerly you live at home, you can’t match the scaled-down minimalism that travel requires
  • Travel is a kind of monasticism on the move. On the road, we often live simply, with no more possessions than we can carry – Pico Iyer
  • Downsizing can be the most vital step in winning the freedom to change your life – Thoreau
  • You can read everything there is in the world about a place, but there is no substitute to smelling it
  • Tourist attractions are defined by their collective popularity, and that very popularity tends to devalue the individual experience of such attractions
  • People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home – Historian Dagobert Runes

From all your herds, a cup or two of milk, 

From all your granaries, a loaf of bread,

In all your palace, only half a bed;

Can a man use more? And do you own the rest – Ancient Sanskrit Poem

The book has so many quotes that one can get lost in them.

Buy Vagabonding – An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts at Amazon India

There are questions and answers – the FAQ style. I constantly got a feeling that a blogger has written this book by compiling all his blog posts. The consistency is style is distracting. From understanding the deep meaning of travel you suddenly jump to the most practical aspects like – where you get money for traveling.

Every chapter is followed by a long list of links called Tip Sheet. I could see most popular blogs, guidebooks, travel sites in these lists. Practically it is a single source of any travel related resources online.

If you plan to do long-term independent travel – it can be a very useful book. It will both inspire you, keep you grounded and at the same time help you with practical information.

Read it.

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 by Rolf Potts

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