Vagabonding 101: Everything You Need to Know to Travel the World

by Martin

“I want to travel the world.” Have you ever said this before?

Do you want to travel the world? Do you want to learn how to travel the world? If you answered yes, then vagabonding/long term world travel is an option that you need to look into.

Wtf is vagabonding? I knew so much about the topic that I spelled the word wrong the first time! Today I will highlight to you guys every important aspect of vagabonding and long term world travel that I learned from my research.

What’s my research?
I often read a book on entrepreneurship, personal finance, or travel. I find myself really engaged in the book. I also get really inspired for a few days after. Then just like everyone else I do nothing about it. When I read about a new diet or training regimen I’m quick to apply it. So why can’t I take some action on the other stuff I read?
How to travel the world

This is why I won’t be doing a book review on Vagabonding by Rolf Potts. Instead I wanted to summarize the points from the book along with my own thoughts as I go along. Enjoy learning how to become a vagabond and travel the world.

A little theory on traveling the world.

What is vagabonding?

Vagabonding is not a lifestyle, nor is it a trend. It’s just an uncommon way of looking at life– a value adjustment from which action naturally flows. And, as much as anything vagabonding is about time– our only real commodity– and how we choose to use it.

Long term travel is often viewed as a dream. Traveling in general has become nothing more than another accessory. It’s just something that we put on our credit card and it adds to our debt with all of our other crap. The art of traveling is just another commodity that’s putting us all in debt. It really shouldn’t be like this. Why is traveling the world viewed as some dream? It’s as if only people that win the lottery or retire rich can afford to see the world. This is not the way that travel should be perceived.

Are you afraid to travel? Traveling around the world is statistically no more dangerous than traveling across your hometown. I’ve felt more safer stumbling around drunk out of my mind in Varadero, Cuba than in my own hometown. If you insist that you think problems might occur on your travel excursions, then simply check out World Travel Watch before taking off. Stop stressing over the evenings news and start planning. The more you stress the less likely you are to ever leave home.

Getting started/planning your trip.

I’m a very realistic person. My problem with most lifestyle design blogs is that they give irresponsible advice out casually. Quitting a high paying job or leaving your current life situation is not exactly all that easy. Below are some realistic tips to help you plan your long term travels financially:

Figure out what’s holding you back. There must be something holding you back. It usually comes down to two things: debt and lack of money. Debt usually comes from student loans and consumer crap. The lack of money comes from spending money on crap always. Once you figure out what’s holding you back from traveling you can move on to the next step.

Earn your freedom. You need to work to pay off your debts and save up some money. Long term travel is not just something that you jump into after a book motivates you. You need to earn it financially and emotionally. This is why paying off your debt and saving up money should be your two main financial priorities in 2011 and moving forward.

Consider “anti-sabbaticals.” These are jobs where you stay for a limited period of time just to save up enough money to move onto something else. Perhaps something more meaningful. As you move from job to job and city to city you’ll be able to test out a variety of jobs until you might even find one that you fall in love with.

Finding work. There are two go-to resources that you need to check out when looking for work abroad: Overseas jobs and Dave’s ESL Cafe. I check these sites out all the time to see what jobs are on the rise around the world.

Travel mistakes that you’re bound to make:

Don’t stress about problems that will occur on the road. Just be ready to deal with these main issues while traveling the world.

  • Ripped off by merchants. You’re bound to get ripped off. Don’t let this interfere with your perception of an otherwise positive experience. Just because one person rips you off it doesn’t mean that the whole region is full of scam artists.
  • Cultural issues. Cultural situations are bound to arise. It will happen no matter how hard you try to prevent it.
  • Getting lost. Yes it is possible to get lost in the world of iPhone tracking apps and Google Maps. All you can really do is be humble and ask for directions.

How to travel the world for free

Becoming a vagabond.

Simplicity doesn’t mean becoming a monk. Simply by selling off random crap around the house can find slowly finance our world travels. We keep on convincing ourselves that we just need a little more money. The truth is that we’ll never have enough money. Never. Why do billionaires still work? They have “enough money.” The truth is that waiting until you have enough money will mean waiting forever. The goal for now should be to not add any more possessions to your life. Put that iPhone data plan on hold. Spend less on BS if you really want to start vagabonding. Plain and simple.

Remember that Vagabonding is a private undertaking. People will consider you irresponsible. Don’t let this hinder your travel plans.

Planning your trip? The goal shouldn’t be to eliminate all uncertainty. You will miss out on the whole point of traveling. Use guidebooks as general guidelines. They have useful and condensed information. Don’t let them plan out your time. Plan your finances and your flight out. The rest can always be decided at the last minute.

Sources of travel info? Word of mouth and internet. Where else can you get better information on a destination than through the internet or by asking someone that has been there?

Where should I go?

  • Family. Visiting family across the globe is usually a good excuse to start your world travels. This will also give you a chance to hopefully stay somewhere for free and to have your own personal travel guide.
  • Interests. Your interests can really dictate where you end up traveling to. Many kickboxers venture over to Thailand to improve their skills. Your interests could lead you to many new places around the world.

You should also strive not to bulk your trips. Doing one thing at a time can be time-consuming enough. What I’m saying is that just because you’re in Italy don’t feel pressured to visit your relatives in Portugal. Just because you’re on the road it doesn’t mean that you must force yourself to visit everyone and every place in one shot.

Should I go alone?

  • Personal preference.
  • Depends on goals.

People to avoid? Whiners, chronic pessimists, self-conscious hipsters, and soft people. Someone may be a good friend from school or work but you don’t know how they’ll behave on a vagabonding experience. Try taking a short trip first. You’ll be shocked by how much differently someone behaves in the morning, at night, when stressed, when tired, and when frustrated. Just because your buddy is always happy at school it doesn’t mean that he’ll behave the same way on a cross-globe trip.

Looking for airplane tickets? Hotwire, Expedia, Travelocity, and Cheap Tickets.

Travel search portals. Johnny Jet, Travel-Library, and BootsnAll.

How do I deal with money on the road?

Money no doubt has to be the most stressful thing interfering with you and your travel plans. If you consider the following three points, you’ll be able to alleviate much of the stress that comes with long term traveling.

  1. There are ATMs all over the globe.
  2. Don’t forget to bring money for souvenirs, airport taxes, and visas.
  3. Pay off your debts and bills in advance.

General pointers for future vagabonds.

Don’t set limits.

What I find is that you can do almost anything or go almost anywhere, if you’re not in a hurry.

- Paul Theroux

Don’t book a room before you see it.

Keep a business card from hotel on you.

Bargain. The price you’re given should never be treated as the final price. It’s critical that you learn to bargain in a respectable manner.

Eating rule: If you can cook it, boil it, or peel it, you can eat it– otherwise forget it.

Sickness/crime. This is a huge fear for most of us. We’re all afraid of getting sick and robbed. Put it this way- it will happen. It happens at home so why wouldn’t it happen on the road? Just be humble and understand that this is apart of life. You don’t want to be walking around a rough neighbourhood in town with your Rolex watch flashing and your $300 shades shining, so why would you do it in a foreign land? If you get too exotic or carried away with your food then you might get sick as well.

A quick resource to look into health issues before you start to travel: Travel Health Online.

Never lose your temper. There will be times where merchants try to rip you off or try to sell you crap. There’s nothing you can do about it. A firm smile and a “no thanks” should be enough. Don’t be an asshole about it.

Bring photos of your family. Show the locals that you too come from a strong upbringing.

English is common around the world. Young kids and experience travelers will at least know basic English phrases. The problem is that most don’t understand heard conversation. So be patient. Learn some phrases as a sign of courtesy.

Let the adventure find you. You don’t have a boss breathing down your neck. As you slowly attempt to become a vagabond you must learn to go with the flow.

Remember this: Good judgment can come from bad experiences. Good experiences can come from bad judgment.

The long run:

Becoming a Vagabond

Remember to keep it real. This is the only way that you’ll survive in the long run on the road. Pretending to be too cool for school might work out at the local bar, but such an pretentious attitude will not get you anywhere while traveling the world. It will only interfere with your experiences. Keep an open mind and just go with the flow.

Don’t confuse vagabonding with a vacation. When you go away for a one week trip the goal is often to escape. While vagabonding, you’re rediscovering reality itself. Instead of always trying to escape, the goal should be to embrace the moment and to enjoy every facet of your travels.

World views. You might have to sometimes mute your instant reaction to judge the views of someone else while traveling the world for a longer period of time. Just because you’re open to something it doesn’t mean that others are. Keep in mind that everyone you meet was raised in a different way by their family and society. Some cultures will emphasize an afternoon siesta. There will also be cultures that move faster than were used to in North America. Every culture is different and follows a different set of internal policies. Enjoy it but don’t judge it.

Switch up transportation methods. Taking the bus everywhere or flying to every destination can hurt you financially and it can become redundant. This is why it’s important to switch up your transportation modes when on an extended travel mission. You might even find the journey to be more fun than the final arrival.

People say you have to travel to see the world. Sometimes I think that if you just stay in one place and keep your eyes open, you’re going to see just about all that you can handle.

- Paul Aster.

Finding long-term work. You won’t make a fortune in your travel jobs you might end up making a profit or at least breaking even on your travels. You can also travel for free. I know personally that when I was researching ESL jobs in Asian countries, most places were offering to fly you in and out as part of the deal. Not a bad arrangement. You could also learn a thing or two about humility. Serving drinks at an upscale bar or handing out flyers in a poor area can really teach you a lot about human interactions. Teaching Korean kids how to speak English can also really test your patience.

A few more options for finding work overseas: The Frontier Club, Idealist, and Escape Artist.

On routines. You will lose all standard procedures and routines when traveling. This can be really exciting. You’re going to have to find a new grocery store, gym, and laundromat just to name a few things. You won’t have a standard routine any longer. You could find yourself doing laundry in a hotel sink or at a 24-hour laundromat at 4 in the morning. I’m looking forward to this sort of break from normal routine.

Spirituality. Don’t search for instant spiritual gratification. A major part of long term travel will often involve some sort of spiritual aspect. When you do go on a spiritual journey you should remember not to expect instant results.

Coming home. This can be the most difficult part. Deciding when to go home will not be easy. It might come out of necessity (running out money or an emergency). You might get fed up with traveling. Either way you’re bound to venture back home at one point. This will be another experience in itself. How will you assimilate back into every day life?

If you want to learn more about the art of long term travel and becoming a vagabond, pick up your copy of Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel.

(photo credit: John_Brennan, vividlmageinc, phan ly)

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Greg Go / Wise Bread

One thing that surprised me was Nora “The Professional Hobo” Dunn’s breakdown of how much it cost her to vagabond. She only spent $17,000 a year to travel the world!

Here’s her month-by-month breakdown on where the $17k went:
http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2012/01/my-cost-of-full-time-travel-in-2011/

Here are her tips for how she did it:
http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-travel-full-time-for-17000-a-year-or-less

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2 eemusings

I got this book out from the library just this week. I can’t say there was anything groundbreaking – I’ve been reading up a lot on long-term travel lately – but it definitely was inspiring.

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