One of the four resources on our resource page is the book Vagabonding by Rolf Potts. This book has, in my humble opinion, become the unofficial travel hackers’ bible. Before I left for my study abroad journey I read it and took notes. My hope is that a small taste of it will be enough for you to devour an entire copy.
This is not just another guidebook. It arms the reader with the proper attitude and psychology needed to maximize their experience while abroad.
It is 200 pages of quotes, insights, and travel stories that are meant to evoke your inner Indiana Jones. My notes are simply the tip of the iceberg.
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Rolf points out that most people equate experience with cash value and challenges us to think differently.
Henry David Thoreau quote from Walden
Rolf uses Thoreau to illustrate the notion that most people save their entire lives to retire, and hopefully travel. When what they really should be doing is traveling while they are young and more able bodied.
“Spending of the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it”
Escape magazine editor, Joe Robinson, petitioning for more vacation days
“The leading casualty of all this is our time” said Robinson, “that commodity we seemed to have so much of back in the sixth grade when the clock on the wall never seemed to move.”
Rolf encourages highlighting the skills on your resume that you will have acquired while abroad:
Pico Iyer quote
“Quitting — whether a job or a habit — means taking a turn so as to be sure you’re moving in the right direction of your dreams”
Rolf discusses money and how we always think that ‘just a little bit more’ will solve our problems. As Rolf puts it, most people try to “get rich from life rather than live richly.”
Three general methods to simplifying your life
- Stopping expansion
- Reining in your routine
- Reducing clutter
Ralph Waldo Emerson quote
“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
The psychology of spontaneity
Rolf brilliantly uses Columbus as an example of cautioning people who try pre plan their trip and schedule everything in advance.
“You will never be able to truly appreciate the unexpected marvels of travel if your rely too heavily on your homework and ignore what is right before your eyes.”
“The most vivid travel experiences usually find you by accident, and the qualities that will make you fall in love with the place are rarely the features that took you there.”
The naturalist John Muir used to say the best way to prepare for a trip was to “throw some tea and bread into a sack and jump over the back fence.”
This is the meat and potatoes of travel for me and Rolf does a great job of illustrating it. “Normal experiences (such as ordering food or taking a bus) will suddenly seem extraordinary and full of possibility.”
“All the details of daily life that you ignored back home — the taste of a soft drink, the sound of a radio, the smell of the air — will suddenly seem rich and exotic.”
Despite reading Vagabonding, this happened to me when I studied abroad. I got overly excited and want to see and do everything immediately upon arrival. Rolf urges you to ease your way in and take things slow.
From the horse’s mouth
Rolf goes into detail about some of the personal experiences he has had while traveling. If this doesn’t make you want to get up and go explore the world I don’t know what will. This part is beautifully written and you can tell he put a lot of thought into it.
“You will quaff ouzo all day on the islands of Greece, dance to techno all night on the shores of Goa, or lose a week’s sleep in the Carnival madness of Rio de Janeiro.”
And this, my friends is where I leave you. As you can see below I cut the spark notes short by about a third. My hope is that it serves as a cliffhanger for you to pick up your own copy and read it yourself.