book reviews

VAGABONDING: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel (Guest Review by Rachel Barber)

How many of us know the meaning of the word “Vagabonding”? (I’d heard of it, but had no idea until I read this book!). Many of us have an interest in travelling or would like to be known as a “traveler” – but give up at the thought of making plans. This book has answers for all the aspiring travelers out there, making it a consistent top choice in the travel genre since first being introduced.

It has inspired many travellers, writers and influencers around the world, including famous personalities such as Timothy Ferriss (American podcaster, NYT Bestselling author). If wanderlust, long-term travel and backpacking had a bible, this would be it. It’s the closest you’re going to get to a book expressing the philosophy of long-term travel. Below are some of the key takeaways from the book.

First Lesson: What is Vagabonding?

It’s beyond “just” travel; vagabonding is a unique outlook on life. It’s about gaining the courage to loosen our grip on the things we consider essential and most importantly it’s about “time” – our most important commodity and how we decide to spend it.

We “stay rooted to our home and career” and use the future as an excuse to justify sticking to what we’re comfortable with in the present. In this way, people often end up spending the best part of their life earning money in order to taste the feeling of freedom during the least valuable part of their lives. It’s time for you to take control of your circumstances instead of allowing them to dictate your life and decide when you can and can’t experience freedom.

Next lesson: You don’t need to be rich to become a “traveler.”

Rolf breaks the stereotype which so many people still believe. “Travel is a luxury for the rich person only.” This is absolutely inaccurate. Travel is meant for everyone and is a lot more possible than you think; all you need is the right mindset. He describes several focus areas for potential jobs that can fund months of travel.

Find an opportunity abroad: In today’s world, finding a job abroad is far easier than many of us think. Some may not even need to quit their current job; just look for a relocation to your overseas office for a couple years and you’re all set for life in a new location, providing a whole new experience!

Online / Freelance Business: Creating content for Blogs and other platforms, starting a successful online-store, providing website development or any sort of freelance or consulting jobs…earning online has never been more feasible than it is today.

A penny saved is a penny earned… Reducing your costs while in your home country will help massively towards creating a fund available for travel. Rent out a room in your house through Airbnb, cancel all your local country subscriptions, unnecessary insurances, telephone, mobile-data contracts etc. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference it can make towards your savings.

Teach a language: of course, teaching English is always an option. The language is in high demand in many Asian countries as well as a few European countries too. Rolf did this for two full years in South Korea which not only helped fund his travels but taught him about the Asian social customs too.

I’ve mentioned a few significant options, but there are several other work-abroad opportunities described in this book which make travelling far more realistic than you think.

Third lesson: Be a traveller; not a tourist

Tourist attractions are defined by their ‘collective popularity’, which often devalues the attraction and affects your experience entirely.

As a Vagabonder, you’re not constrained to the rules and routine set by society. Is the queue to see the famous landmark too long? Well, then feel free to head off and take a random bus into the nearby mountains. Vagabonds see their surroundings whereas tourists superficially look at attractions.

Another way to think of it: tourists don’t know where they’ve been; travellers don’t know where they’re going. “As for the tourist-circuit, slowing your travels down will automatically lead you off the tourist trail. When you aren’t racing from ‘attraction’ to ‘attraction,’ you’ll quickly discover that the best experiences come from the diversions along the way”. From spending a few weeks to a few months at a time in multiple countries rather than just a few days, I can truly say my most memorable experiences have been the unplanned, unmapped and often uncaptured ones.

This book, after experiencing several months on the road myself, is one of the most relatable I’ve read in a long time. It inspires one to think about a non-conforming approach to personal discovery and growth which shifts one’s focus from routines and possessions to understand the bigger things in life.

It makes you realize why travel should be treated as a personal experience. Living the story is more important than telling it! Rolf isn’t urging us not to post that Instagram of us climbing a banana tree in the Peruvian jungle; but reminding us not to lose sight of the experience itself.

Do you love travel? Have you had travel dreams for some time? Then read the book Vagabonding! This book could be the extra push you’ve been needing to turn those dreams into a reality.


~ Writing in the Fast Lane thanks Rachel Barber for sharing her review of Vagabonding: AN UNCOMMON GUIDE TO THE ART OF LONG-TERM WORLD TRAVEL by Rolf Potts. To follow her travel discoveries, pop over to her instagram and find out what she’s up to.~

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