vagabonding - noun.
(1) The act of leaving behind the orderly world to travel independently for an extended period of time.
(2) A privately meaningful manner of travel that emphasises creativity, adventure, awareness, simplicity, discovery, independence, realism, self-reliance, and the growth of the spirit.
(3) A deliberate way of living that makes freedom to travel possible.
I’ve just finished reading the book ‘Vagabonding’ by Rolf Potts which is a wonderful treatise on the art of long-term travel - the kind of which described in the definition above. It’s a book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time and it provides such a refreshing point of view in a world where, for most, global travel represents chasing landmarks to put on Instagram.
The key concept I think is that Potts encourages travellers to slow down and to wander. The goal is not to tick things off a TripAdvisor list, but rather to experience real life as a local and soak up the culture in which you are immersed.
In Potts’ words: “The value of your travels does not hinge on how many stamps you have in your passport when you get home - and the slow, nuanced experience of a single country Is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of forty countries."
Two more quotes which I really love:
“In this way, vagabonding is not just a process of discovering the world but a way of seeing - an attitude that prepares you to find the things you weren’t looking for.”
“Vagabonding is about not merely reallotting a portion of your life for travel but rediscovering the entire concept of time.”
If you look at travel this way, it differentiates the experience from the ‘escape’ that so much of global travel has become for us. Instead of merely escaping the stresses and hardships of home, travel can become a driver of personal growth. It can radically alter the way you look at your life - so that when you do return home, you are a changed person.
Travel is not for anyone else. It’s not for your Instagram. As anyone who has had the experience of returning home from an extended period of travel will tell you - your friends don’t care that much about the amazing epiphanies you encountered or the adventures you shared. Potts says it best: “Travel should always be a personally motivated undertaking. Try as you might, you simply can’t make the social rewards of travel match up to the private discoveries.” You’ve got to do it for yourself.
So for anyone who has the travel bug, I would highly recommend this book as a starting point. Make sure you know why you are wanting to travel before you do. Because, remember, you can’t escape the voices in your head just by moving to a beach hut in Bali.