Song of The Open Road

DSC_0209I immensely enjoyed the audiobook version of Rolf Potts’ Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, though I must be honest and say that I probably didn’t NEED the book, as I find myself living with a natural-born vagabonder who has been living this way since he was 15 years old.

But if you’re new to the experience, feel an attraction to the idea of incorporating travel into your life as something intrinsically part of that life, and not just spending a load of money to go for a short, predictable, industry-designed tour, then this book will show you where, and, more importantly, how to start.

Most people think that traveling for extended periods of time is only for the extremely rich, or the extremely irresponsible and feral. But travel as a way of life is an ancient and honourable way of discovering how to become fully human, and discovering oneself as well. And it’s really not as difficult as you’d think. The same measures that a vagabonder takes in order to SAVE money are the very things that also provide that traveler with the most amazing experiences and a more in-depth, satisfying, life-changing encounter with that country. A willingness to eat where the locals do, travel side by side with them in buses or on ferries, stay in locals’ homes, accept invitations to local events, and learn the language of your host country, will give you something that a 10-day holiday by the pool of a hotel catering to foreigners and hanging out with tourists from your own country, can never provide.

Kris and I saved money for just two years…he, working as a boat carpenter for the local fishing industry, I as a salesgirl in an art shop. Okay, we have the boat, which is probably the ultimate way to vagabond because the biggest expenses you will encounter on your travels will always be 1) transportation and 2) accommodation. With our home-built, no-engine, no-electronics, super-basic sailboat, we have cut both those expenses to a fraction of what it would cost to fly around countries, stay in hostels (which, even though cheaper than hotels, can vary greatly from country to country in price, and will eventually take up a lot of your budget), or buy gallons of fuel for a more conventional sailboat.

We don’t have a lot of money, but that’s okay because when we are running low we can look for work, or just decide to head home. There are no iron-clad schedules to follow…we like a country, we stay as long as we can. We don’t like the country, we leave the next week. That said, you’d be amazed at how cheaply you can live in other countries, if you live almost like the locals. In Brazil, we were spending an average of US$2,000 a month. For two people. In Guyana, that’s gone down to an amazing US$600 per month. Either way, both places cost much less than it costs us to live back in Australia, AND we are getting the experiences of a different culture, learning new languages, making friends, and tucking away inspiration for a whole new body of art and creativity for when we return home.

So if traveling and experiencing a new culture at the grassroots level—their food, home life, environs, people, language—gives you a little buzz and thrill of excitement, know that it’s MUCH easier than you think. There’s no need to commit to a period of time, and two months is as legitimate a vagabonding stint as two years. I RECOMMEND this book! It’s inspiring, it’s practical, it’s a better book to have than any Lonely Planet guide, which only leads you down the well-trodden paths, to boringly safe and touristy places, to have uniform experiences like everyone else.

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9 thoughts on “Song of The Open Road

  1. Thanks Nat Love, for the recommendation. I just downloaded the audio book and will definitely enjoy listening to it tonight… !
    Love and hugs! Abrazo for Kris!

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  2. I like what you wrote and it made me start thinking. (is this correct english??)
    As I’m not planning to go on a big journey, I thought that it might be a good idea to try some “vagabonding” in my ordinary life. There must be lots of things/people/locations/nature at my hometown and around it that I don’t know. Maybe I should give that a try. (I hope this makes sense 🙂 )

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    1. Hi, it actually makes perfect sense, and if we could only be more aware of the present moment, more people would take the time to immerse themselves in their environments. There’s actually so much that we miss in our own hometowns, because we take it for granted that they have always been there, and will always be there, but you’re right, exploring your own place as though you were seeing it for the first time is probably a great way to fall in love with where you live, all over again, and really get the feel for the place into your bones. I certainly failed to explore the places where I lived, and now that I don’t live in those places anymore (some of them were spectacular places, tourists paid lots of money to come to El Nido, Palawan), I find myself wishing I’d gotten to know the locale more intimately, more thoroughly, unearthed more of its secrets, recorded more of its little gems, collected its stories in a focussed way. Sometimes we have to go halfway around the world to appreciate what we left back home.
      “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T. S. Eliot

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