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Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel [Paperback]

Rolf Potts
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 24 2002
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
• determining your destination
• adjusting to life on the road
• working and volunteering overseas
• handling travel adversity
• re-assimilating back into ordinary life

Not just a plan of action, vagabonding is an outlook on life that emphasizes creativity, discovery, and the growth of the spirit. Visit the vagabonding community’s hub at

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Product Description

From Booklist

Veteran vagabond Potts regales readers with his mantra: anyone with an adventurous spirit can achieve the feat of taking extended time off from work to experience the world. In 11 short chapters that follow the same structure, Potts tells how to negotiate time off from work, prepare for travel, and get the most out of your time on the road. Each chapter contains a profile of a famous proponent of vagabonding (e.g., Thoreau, Annie Dillard), quotes from everyday people with extensive travel experience, and a tip sheet of print and online sources for practical travel advice on topics such as airline tickets and accommodations as well as safety concerns. Alternately warning readers about using drugs in foreign countries and entertaining them with anecdotes from exotic ports of call, Potts gives a thorough recounting of his outlook on traveling. This book seems squarely aimed at twenty- and thirtysomethings; anyone with decidedly nonvagabond accoutrements (e.g., children or career ambition) might be more skeptical of Potts' philosophy. For those with a bad case of wanderlust. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

From the Back Cover

“Potts wants us to wander, to explore, to embrace the unknown, and, finally, to take our own damn
time about it. I think this is the most sensible book of travel-related advice ever written.”
—Tim Cahill, author of Hold the Enlightenment

“Rolf Potts has produced an engaging book that does what few, if any, other travel guides do: make readers aware of how many possibilities vagabonding offers them to enhance their lives, and how accessible the experience of long-term travel really is.”
—Jeffrey Tayler, author of Glory in the Camel’s Eye, Facing the Congo, and Siberian Dawn

“Vagabonding brings to inspiring life both the hows and the whys of life on the road.”
—Don George, global travel editor, Lonely Planet Publications

“Digging into Rolf Potts, one encounters real issues about travel, issues that most other travel writers overlook, while still having a good time.”
—Joe Cummings, author of Lonely Planet Thailand, Lonely Planet Bangkok,
Moon Handbooks: Mexico, and Moon Handbooks: Texas

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy Class Meets the Road Sept. 18 2003
This book is essentially about the thought process behind taking time off from your regular life to discover and experience the world on your own terms. If you've been around the world a few times, you'll find it puts many of your fuzzy warm thoughts and ideals into words. If you haven't, it'll probably make you wonder why you haven't taken off already.
People who like to plan and be prepared should treat this as a companion to more nuts-and-bolts guides. Others may find this plenty since travel is all an adventure anyway. It depends on your personality and comfort with the unknown. The rarely expressed aspect of Potts' book, however, is the acknowledgement that both work and travel are admirable and that one complements the other. To travel, you must also be productive sometimes. But to be productive, you also have to continually learn and see other points of view. Traveling abroad on more than a one-week vacation makes this possible. An entertaining and inspiring read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great little travel philosophy book July 14 2003
Rolf Potts' tome of vagabonding is an inspirational work rather than a practical guide. While the same practical information is contained in other books, this book shines in the area of travel philosophy. Travel is like a religion, where some people are incredibly fervent about it, while others just don't understand. This book makes you realize that long-term travel is not only possible, but desirable and worthwhile.
I particularly liked the section on working for travel. As a 9-to-5 worker planning a long-term trip, I needed the inspiration to keep going. I liked being told that working will actually make me appreciate travel more. After all, to afford travel, I have to be here anyway.
Throughout the book, there are great little excerpts from famous travellers, philosophers, and explorers, as well as anecdotes from ordinary travellers. Rolf has a particular liking for Walt Whitman, and I may just have to go pick up some Walt poetry now. The literary references in this book let you know that world travel and a simple life aren't new concepts.
The only problem I see with this book is that it may soon become dated with its references to specific websites.
The book is of a small and convenient size to take on the road.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to inspire, not to direct you April 16 2003
As a former "vagabonder" who's now (quite unpleasantly) ensconced in the 9 to 5 world, I needed a book to inspire and redirect my thinking.
This is the first and only travel book that's done that for me.
Rolf is clearly one who understands the vagabonder mentality. That's proven by his cautions against excessive planning, reliance upon guidebooks (even Lonely Planet), and against depending upon your cataloged preconceptions of a travel destination. For the true vagabonder relies almost entirely on serendpity, not obsession. You unplug from the media, from email, from everything. And you rely on now, today.
I thought it both delightful and completely true that one should target a destination based solely upon the flimsiest of whims (e.g., learning to play ping-pong). Because once you arrive, all will be dashed and certainly enhanced simply be being there. This is both the truth and the "zen" of long-term, vagabond travel: once you get there everything will be different, and better, than you could have imagined.
Rolf buttresses his thinking with many quotes from those who have preceeded us in the "vagabonding" mentality. Thoreau, Whitman, etc. (But where is Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness"). In any case Rolf addresses in full measure the social "oddity" of vagabonding, including the fulfillment it brings. People will not understand us. So what?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Holy Grail Nov. 6 2003
Anyone who has ever thought about travelling, this book will make you go! Anyone who has ever been travelling, this book will make you want to go again and anyone who is travelling whilst reading this, this book will make you that bit more adventurous when ordering food in a cafe where a squat toilet is another eating area! It's definitely a case of, if he can do it then so can I!
Of course if your not a travelling type then the book will mean as much to you as a tin of baked beans to a kipper, but for those who yearn for life as one of the wandering nomads of this world, this book will seem like the travel bible in as much as it suggests a life less ordinary!
This book is about working to live and not living to work!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Been There. Done That. . . Jan. 29 2003
By A Customer
This is an earnest if somewhat dreamy primer on the subject of extended long term independent travel. It most closely resembles, in both spirit and content, Ed Buryn's classic sixties book Vagabonding in Europe and North Africa but without that author's now dated "groovy" countercultural musings. Potts indeed graciously acknowledges Buryn's contribution (unlike the shamefully disingenuous Rick Steves.)
The practical advice Potts offers is solid but also a bit sketchy. For the nitty-gritty of travel technique and practicalities I far prefer a book like Rob Sangster's The Traveler's Toolkit. Still, Potts does provide a very thorough listing of (mostly web-based) resources that will do much to fill in the gaps.
In the more contemplative sections on traveling "vagabond"-style, Potts writing is charming and mercifully free of the tendentious ideological dross that often characterizes writing about travels to what were once called "Third World" destinations. My special congrats to him for gently mocking the "traveler/tourist" dichotomy for the silly supercilious parlor games it often engenders.
Still, there is a somewhat moony, disembodied feeling to the book. Instead of all the gaseous quotations from the famous and unfamous (used as filler) I would have appreciated some more attention to hazards, dangers, and risks. These can be substantial: from wild auto-rickshaw drivers to leaky, overcrowded boats, from rabid animals to exotic diseases, and (last but not least) from rickety to downright pathological political regimes. The world can be a wild, wonderful place but it can also provide a cornucopia of nightmares for the ill-prepared and underinformed. Potts does his aspiring vagabonders a serious disservice by not leveling with them about the seamy and potentially hazardous underside of "shoestring" travel in exotic lands.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fantastic read!
Published 23 days ago by Jeff
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring
Loved this book! Super easy read but filled with lots of inspiration for those who are trying to incorporate travel into their lives in a long term and meaningful way. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Adrienne
1.0 out of 5 stars Useless and boring
Do not be fooled by a title, cover page, and sale ranking. This book quotes other and better books. There are more inspiring books out there. Read more
Published on Dec 10 2010 by Adventurer
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent look at some of the less-discussed aspects of travelling
Fantastic book. I wish I read it before I went backpacking for a year. I definitely would have gotten more out my trip. Don't read this for a guide to the best museums in Paris. Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2010 by Curtis Palmer
1.0 out of 5 stars Deceiving...
One thing this book taught me was to not trust reviews. I don't understand how this book got thirteen 5-star reviews, friends of author perhaps? Read more
Published on July 22 2008 by JM
1.0 out of 5 stars useless....
I've travelled a little over the years so I was interested in this book for bigger & better adventures. What a joke! Read more
Published on June 24 2008 by daniel gautreau
4.0 out of 5 stars How to walk the earth
This book offers those of us the information that we need to trek the earth. The tips and small bits of info that Potts offers up are amazing and applicable if you are a serious... Read more
Published on Aug. 20 2006 by Thaddeus & Annie
5.0 out of 5 stars Got me back on the road!
Vagabonding provided me with the inspiration to get back out on the road, with a world of opportunity to see new places and take part in different cultures. Read more
Published on Feb. 22 2006 by Mark Macisaac
1.0 out of 5 stars Save Your Money For Your Trip
There is no doubt that Potts has had some great experiences; it would have been nice if he would have shared them. Read more
Published on March 13 2004 by Seachranaiche
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the Best Travel Book of the Year!
Potts, a Contributing Writer to National Geographic Traveler offers his insights and personal philosophy of world travel. Read more
Published on Oct. 10 2003 by Eric Dondero, Author, Worldwide Phrase Book
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