Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts
|Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts|
|Reviewer: Magda Healey|
|Summary: An extremely inspirational if occasionally annoying starting point for all those who contemplate - but might be a bit afraid of - a stint of long-term, low-resource travel.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: January 2003|
|Publisher: Villard Books|
Rolf Potts is a travel writer as well as a bit of a backpacker guru and his book distils his experiences in, exactly as the title suggests, an uncommon guide to long-term travel. The operative word here is uncommon, as Vagabonding is not really a guide as we know them, more of a pep-talk combined with a resource list.
Potts concentrates on the philosophy and attitudes, showing not so much how to do it (it being the long-term travel or vagabonding of the title) but rather that it is possible.
The book is divided into several chapters: preparation (mostly mental), planning, funding, packing and dealing with experiences on the road (with a focus on attitudes). Each chapter provides a general inspirational essay, as well as a selection of more practical tips, and a list of further resources. The chapters are interspersed with vagabonding profiles of travellers old and new (mostly old), vagabonding voices young and old (mostly young) and masses of quotations (with a particular penchant for Whitman, Thoreau and holy texts of the Far East).
If it all sounds a little bit too preachy and patronising in the most infuriatingly American way, don't give up on Potts yet: despite the fact that it's easy to form such a first impression, Vagabonding is actually better than it appears on the first glance.
Yes, it does preach a particular philosophy: minimalist attitude to material possessions and comforts, an individualistic, experiential approach to travel, a typically non-judgemental Western relativism regarding the values of other cultures. But considering that the book is clearly written for an American market, all that is probably needed. Once you get used to the cool dude travelling the Dharma road style, you will find a lot of well-grounded common sense as well as Potts' genuine ability to inspire confidence and belief in the possibility of the vagabonding venture.
The practical tips are basic, to the point of stating the obvious, so will be mainly of use only to those who have little experience of truly independent travel.
The resource lists are much more useful, but more so to those that are based in the US or Canada; the book has been written for an American market and thus only presents very few UK or European resources (e.g. VSO doesn't get mentioned in the section on volunteering and Ryanair doesn't get a mention in the cheap air travel chapter).
Potts recognises the fact that not all vagabonders are single under-30-year-olds and even has a little sub-section on senior vagabonding and travel with children. However, in reality, a lot of his advice still mostly applies to single and childless travellers. He deals at length with work-related issues: how to organise your work life for travel, resigning from work without burning bridges and taking sabbaticals. He says nothing about travelling as a couple (nor about leaving your partner or spouse behind) and very little about dealing with practical and emotional aspects of other family commitments. The list of resources for travelling with children is, as far as I checked, the most slapdash of them all, with a couple of Internet boards and a book or two about rich people who went on a pre-booked world tour orchestrated from a fancy pad in an affluent neighbourhood.
Still, anybody contemplating first-time vagabonding, but is a bit afraid and a bit unsure, Potts' book will reassure and encourage. Anybody more experienced will be reminded of the wonder and exhilaration of travel.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts at Amazon.com.
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