Travel Book Review: Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

vagabonding by rolf potts

One of my very favorite activities other than travel is reading. Combine these two things together and you’ve made one very happy camper. I always head to the travel section of the bookstore when I can. It’s always fascinating to see how others see locations I’ve already been to or ones that are on my list. Whether I always agree or not, it’s nice to hear about how others view the world and learn something new.

I picked up Vagabonding by Rolf Potts the other day as a suggestion. What drew me to this book was the way it advocates long-term travel as a lifestyle choice. For those who might be hesitant about trying a digital nomad lifestyle, this is a book worth looking into. Potts makes a strong case for this type of lifestyle and how it can suit those who have been looking for a way to travel the world over a long period of time.

Part philosophical, part self-help, this book lays out some options and idea if you are planning on leaving your job behind. Written in 2002, it was published a bit before the internet was perceived as a resource, so some of the information is a little outdated for those looking to live a more digitally-inclined lifestyle. However, the ideas based on the philosophy of long-term travel is spot-on even today.

Potts is honest and straight-forward with us about how we should go about enjoying our experiences abroad—even though at sometimes it might be uncomfortable.

“Thus, the question of how and when to start vagabonding is not really a question at all. Vagabonding starts now. Even if the practical reality of travel is still months or years away, vagabonding begins the moment you stop making excuses, start saving money, and begin to look at maps with the narcotic tinge of possibility.”

–Rolf Potts, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

 This no-excuses attitude can be a little grating if long-term travel isn’t an option for you. Even though this can be a little irritating if you don’t see yourself on the road anytime soon, Potts does have a point and some valuable advice for those who want to get the most out of their travels. His section on interacting with locals and how to approach cultural differences is extremely helpful—especially as a millennial traveler looking to be socially and environmentally ethical.

Potts also offers a fair argument for the traveler versus tourist debate, which goes to show that it is a long-standing argument how we should choose to see ourselves when we travel. Potts agrees that this is something we as travelers need to get over and that we can learn much by being both at various points in our journeys.

Most of all, Vagabonding encourages really getting to know a culture. Quality is better than quantity, which isn’t an option for all travelers—long-term or short. When it’s possible, I do believe slow travel offers more benefits than rushing from country to country, but that is an individual choice based on budget and time. Is it better that a traveler takes an opportunity to visit a place instead of not, even if it is only for a day or two?

These are all good questions that Potts raises and if Vagabonding made me think of anything, it was that I’m not the first to adopt a nomadic lifestyle—and that it can be a legitimate life choice for those who want to take it up. To be encouraged to try long-term travel is not a common thing, and it was refreshing to read a book that championed an alternative lifestyle.

You can buy Vagabonding here:

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

Have you read any books that encourage a nomadic lifestyle? Any recommendations?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander


  1. Bri Ollre

    “Getting to Grey Owl” by Kurt Caswell might be something you should check out! Some very good essays/stories about travel and the nomadic way of life.

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