So, What Exactly Is Vagabonding?

Rolf Potts, author of the book Vagabonding, describes vagabonding travel as:

“The act of leaving behind the orderly world to travel independently for an extended period of time” and “A deliberate way of living that makes freedom to travel possible.”

Put simply, vagabonding is the act of prioritizing experiences and travel adventures in your life. When you arrange your life priorities, an unlimited amount of independent travel becomes possible!

After selling my house and many of my possessions (that weren’t books or sentimental), I have been vagabonding since January 2006. I now travel the world as I wish. I get to do what many wealthy people wish they could do or plan to do after retirement. I’ve lived on some of the most beautiful islands in the world.

Instead of centering every day around money, I chose to collect experiences, relationships, and self-growth. You can still be successful in your business endeavors; earning money and vagabonding aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, the more you experience the world and grow yourself, the better your chances for success. But priorities should first focus on health, happiness, and life experience. Humans are attracted to healthy, happy people—your opportunities for success and good relationships grow when you develop yourself!

Plus, you get to enjoy the journey instead of only grinding through to a reward in the future. Living life deliberately beats the alternatives every time.

I chronicle daily life on the road via my not-so-serious adventure blog:

vagabonding life

What Is the Difference Between Vagabonding and Vacation?

A vacation is an attempt to squeeze a year’s worth of enjoyment, relaxation, and adventure into a two-week package. Americans attempt this all the time; it’s the default for anyone with a conventional job. What often results is an expensive distraction and then an unsatisfied return to reality. After vacation finishes, you may find yourself worse off than before you left, trying to catch up with work, mail, chores, and all the other unnecessary ways that we complicate life. Sadly, a sizable percentage of working Americans opt to not even use their vacation days for fear of “getting behind” on everything!

I can relate. During my eight years at IBM, taking more than a few days off resulted in a full inbox and projects careening out of control. The stress of returning home to the mess caused me to dread vacations!

Someone who is vagabonding never really returns completely from their trip. They may be home for some time while working or visiting family, but they typically plan to travel again soon. Vagabonding is the deliberate arranging of priorities that allows one to travel whenever they wish and for as long as they wish. Vagabonding is about making a conscious choice for self-growth and new life experiences instead of spending a lifetime working to accumulate “toys.”

Why Not Wait for Retirement to Travel?

Thoreau put it best when he said we spend:

“…the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it.”

In other words, live your best life now. There is no guarantee that you will have the finances or health by retirement age to do the things that you want to do. You can’t predict the world economy, future pandemics, or where we will be decades from now — but, the present is yours. This does not mean we shouldn’t prepare some for the future, just try to avoid getting stuck in the cycle of working to buy things to distract yourself from working in the first place!

Working and being financially successful doesn’t mean you have to be a good consumer. Use that money for experiences instead.

In 2005, I realized I was selling my time and health for money. Although I had a “good” job at IBM, my health and happiness were declining as I worked 50, 60, or 70 hours a week to make other people even richer. Leaving that conventional life and quitting my corporate job to travel (link to my site) were the best moves I’ve ever made.

What If I Don’t Have the Money?

You would be amazed at how little money you need to travel through a majority of the world. Do you even know for sure how much money slips through your fingers monthly? Make a spreadsheet. Find all the ways the money leaves your account — the results can be surprising.

When you choose to go live life instead of watching others do it, you won’t need a giant television. If your car already runs fine, do you really need a new one? The same applies to your smartphone. For the average cost of a new smartphone, you could literally live and play on an island in Southeast Asia for a month or longer. Sure, you have to have a phone, but does it need to be upgraded this year?

Financing vagabonding is simply a matter of adjusting priorities so that gaining life experience comes first. Many of the travelers I have met were poor university students who managed to stay on the road for years!

Budget destinations such as Asia, Africa, and South America are full of adventure and culture but cost a fraction of what you probably spend to live daily at home. For the cost of one average dinner and movie night in the United States, you could eat, sleep, and play for a week in Southeast Asia! Here is an example of my costs for two days in Bangkok.

How to Get Started Vagabonding?

Making the decision to bow out of the Rat Race is the first and most important step. Stop spending money on material things (that includes travel gadgets!). Instead, grab a copy of Rolf Potts’ Vagabonding book for some inspiration.

If you’re serious about becoming a digital nomad or escaping the corporate world, have a look at my site for a blueprint of how to get out.