I worry I approached this book with a fair amount of prejudice. For one, I don’t like self-help books and this one sort of falls into that category. For another, Sean is obsessed with Tim Ferris, and I tend to roll my eyes heartily every time he starts a sentence with “Tim Ferris said…” or “according to Tim Ferris’ five bullet Friday…” because, dear, the man does not walk on water. But after several conversations that worked their way back to “you really should look at Vagabonding for the blog, Tim Ferris loves that book” I caved, bought it, and finally read it on my 20-hour trip to Denver. And, obviously, I have thoughts.
Vagabonding is Rolf Potts guide to long-term world travel. It was initially published in 2002, but my copy has been updated and is from 2016. It basically outlines tips and tricks for making long-term world travel a reality, starting with the significant mentality shift that goes into making that decision. Each part of the book has Rolf’s personal anecdote, a tips sheet with additional resources, vagabonding voices, and a profile of a particular vagabond. It comes off maybe slightly preachy, but not so much that it’s off-putting for me (and I’m easily off-put by such style of writing usually).
For me, I think this book would be more relevant if I wasn’t already halfway into the Vagabond lifestyle. If Sean and I weren’t immersed in the Foreign Service, I think we would take the book to heart and figure out a way to travel the world in a sustainable, long-lasting way. But since we already live the half-expat life (we aren’t truly expats if I’m honest, our commissary, consumables, and mail are cheating), I don’t feel the need to rid myself of worldly possessions and become a nomad. Instead, my worldly possessions come with me – which is both awesome and infuriating – and I’m able to see parts of the world I wouldn’t otherwise. It’s the best of both worlds, really.
While perhaps this book wasn’t exactly relevant to me personally, I do think it’s a great starting point for anyone looking to explore life abroad for an extended period. I like how he included the last section about returning home because that can be one of the most challenging and shell-shocking experiences. I’m currently in Denver and back in the U.S. for the first time in 11 months, and it’s quite an experience. Everyone speaks English, grocery stores are stocked, restaurants are fast, and portions are enormous. Thank goodness my next five days of my life are extremely structured or else I may wander over to Target and TJ Maxx and buy all the things.
Reverse culture shock is real, people.