Rolf Potts makes a compelling case for why you would want to become a ‘homeless person’ and travel for the rest of your life, and then hands you the formula for doing so. Reader discretion is advised, Potts has a knack for convincing people to leave their 9-5 jobs.
A good traveler has no fixed plan, and is not intent on arriving.
-Laozi, the Way of Life
- Too many of us want to get rich from life rather than live richly, to ‘do well’ in the world instead of living well.
- For the first time vagabonder, preparation is a necessity. The key is to strike the balance between knowing what’s out there and being optimistically ignorant.
- Vagabonding is not like bulk shopping. 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 40 countries.
- If there’s one key concept to remember amid the excitement of your first days on the road, it’s this: Slow Down. At home, you’re conditioned to get to the point and get things done, to favour goals and efficiency over moment-by-moment distinction. On the road, you learn to improvise your days, take a second look at everything you see, and not obsess over your schedule.
- Tourist attractions are defined by their collective popularity, and that very popularity tends to devalue the individual experience of such attractions.
- Don’t set limits on what you can or can’t do. Don’t set limits on what is or isn’t worth of your time. Dare yourself to ‘play games’ with your day: watch, wait, listen, allow things to happen.
- People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.
- Good people keep walking whatever happens, they do not speak vain words and are the same in good fortune and bad.
- Health needs and immunisation requirements.
- Passport and visa details.
- Safety issues and travel advisories.
- Insurance and emergency communication needs.
- Concerns about food, lodging and transportation.
- Pack a dozen visa sized photos.
- Companions: avoid compulsive whiners, chronic pessimists, mindless bleeding hearts and self-conscious hipsters, since these type of people have a way of turning travel into a tiresome farce.
- In your mental as well as your practical preparations, you should always be ready to go it alone – even if you don’t think you’ll have to.
- What to pack: guidebook, pair of sandals, hygiene items, relevant medicines, disposable earplugs, small gift items for future hosts. Few changes of simple functional clothes, one somewhat nice outfit. Pocket knife, small flashlight, pair of sunglasses, day pack, inexpensive camera. A sturdy pair of boots or walking shoes. A small, strong padlock. Bring nothing unless you’re certain you’ll use it on a frequent basis.
- Money? ATMs, traveler cards. Carry a copy of your travel card numbers separately, store these numbers (and emergency contacts) online or in emails. Hide passport and money under your clothing. Set aside a few hundred dollars as emergency funds.
- Before you leave, pay all bills and settle all debts. Entrust financial dealings to your family or close friends. Give them backup copies of your ID and passport info. Leave clear instructions.
- On the road, keep a journal and make a new entry every day. Be as brief or as rambling as you want.
- Allot a certain time each week to run your errands. This will keep such tasks from continually interrupting your more interesting travel pursuits
- When changing currency, always count the money before you leave the bank or exchange counter.
- Bring a universal stopper (plug) for the sink and a drying line to wash your clothes.
- Never check into a room without asking to see it first. Check water, electricity, and door locks.
- When you leave your accommodation for the day, take a business card with you.
- Bargaining: Nearly everything is negotiable (except restaurants and buses). Let the merchant make the first and second lower offer and never offer a price on an item you’re not committed to buying.
- Taxi: clarify that your bag doesn’t count as a ‘passenger’, that the fixed price is not per person but for everyone, don’t leave stuff in trunk unless you have to.
- Learn the language: hello, please, thank you, yes, no, one to ten, one hundred, one thousand, how much? Where is it? No problem! Hotel, bus station, restaurant, toilet, good, bad, drink.
- Eats: If you can cook it, boil it or peel it, you can eat it, otherwise, forget it. Look for places with lots of customers (sign of tasty eats) and healthy-looking employees.
- Scams: Embrace and learn from it, it’s all part of the experience.