Review: Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

52. Vagabonding by Rolf Potts
Publication: Villard Books; 1st edition (December 24, 2002), Paperback, 224pp / ISBN 0812992180
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travel
Read: March 1-2, 2010
Source: Library
Summary from Amazon:

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.


I’m already pretty familiar with Rolf Potts through his travel blog, Vagablogging, which I’ve been following ever since I decided to travel around the world myself. I think he’s pretty much considered the authority on round the world travel, and so it was with that in mind that I decided to read his book.

Now, I had been researching round the world travel tips pretty solidly for almost a month when I started reading Vagabonding, and so I knew almost everything Mr Potts was talking about beforehand. Stuff about prepping for long-term travel, both mentally and financially. Stuff about how to get around the world, what to do when you get there, and how to do it without going bankrupt. Stuff about hostels and working abroad and, basically, everything you need to know. It’s good stuff, very informative stuff, but I kinda already knew it.

What I actually took away from Vagabonding was a renewed mental attitude towards what I’m planning to do. Going on a long-term travel trip is pretty strange here in the US, where you’re expected to go directly from high school to college to career, and where apparently everyone but me knows what they want to do for the 40-ish years of their working life. I don’t! Not really. And so I’m going to travel and maybe, hopefully, I’ll figure out who I am and what I can do.

When I try to explain this to other people, however, I’m confronted by confusion and near-anger. How could I do this to myself?! What about my future?! And so on.

I knew instinctively that travelling was something I had to do, but I was nevertheless plagued by doubts. Was I really doing the right thing? Vagabonding gave me the reassurance that, yes, I’m doing the right thing. Mr. Potts is writing from the perspective of a dude from the US, and so he knows the kinds of doubts and worries that travelers go through. He’s had them himself! But his enthusiasm for travel, especially long-term travel, shines throughout his book, and the reasons he gives for why long-term travel is good for you definitely outweigh the doubts. (If you want to know those reasons– read the book.)

Knowing that someone else went through what I was going through, that they had had the same problems, the same doubts and arguments with family members, but went ahead and did it anyway and came back better for it— that gave me so much encouragement. Yes, it is worth it to travel, and yes, it is worth me doing it.

So I’m kind of really fond of this book, even if it was slightly outdated already and even if I didn’t agree with Mr Potts about bringing technology with you when you travel. If you’re interested in long-term travel but haven’t yet done any research into it, Vagabonding is a must-have book. If you need reassurance like me that long-term travel is worth it (and that it isn’t as hard as some people would have you believe), Vagabonding is a must-have book.


Find your own copy @ Amazon or IndieBound

Other reviews: The Ren Men Book Review

If you just like travel narratives, you might still like Vagabonding since it does have some memoir stuff in it, but you might like Mr Potts’ other book more, since that’s all memoir. Probably. I haven’t actually read it yet.

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0 thoughts on “Review: Vagabonding by Rolf Potts”

  1. I’m surprised people have been negative about your plans. I always think it’s an amazing idea to travel, and I’m so excited for you getting to do it!! Also, if you want to prove them wrong using Science, I read a Completely Scientific Study that said that people who spend their money on things are less happy and satisfied than people who spend their money on experiences. Like travel. So you can tell that to the naysayers. They won’t be able to refute it because it’s Science.

    Adding this to the list! I need a cheerful read about travel after the hella alarming travel book I just read.

    1. The feedback from people on the INTERNET has been positive, for sure, but real-life people have been half positive, half negative. I think the negative stuff is that they’re a) envious, b) think I don’t have enough money to travel and c) they don’t get WHY I want to travel. And if they’re my mom: d) worried I’m going to die far away from home and then what’ll I do?


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