Travel Tip Thursday is a writing prompt where we get to write about places we visit and give tips for others. Today, instead of writing about a place, I’m writing about a book, a guide to travel that I recently read in planning for next summer. There are a lot of tips in this book! And I also realized that the clock just stuck midnight and it's no longer Thursday!
Rolf Potts, Vagabonding: The Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel (New York: Villard, 2003), 203 pages, a few photos
When I came across this book, I was reluctant to buy it. I was afraid it was a how-to book on traveling. Thankfully, I was wrong. This was both an enjoyable book to read, with lots of tips, but it certainly isn’t a how-to book. Potts is well-read and is as much of a philosopher as a travel guru. This book is also more about philosophy than travel. Potts points out at the beginning of the book that if you feel the wanderlust to travel, one needs to have a different attitude on life and on money. He notes how people often think they need lots of money to travel, but points out that’s not the case with vagabonding. Instead of spending lots of money, the vagabond travels slowly, meeting and interacting with people and cultures along the way. Time is as important as money. Many vagabonds work while they travel (Potts started out teaching English in Korea). Others work a few years, living simply and saving, so they can have a period of time to travel. But, as Potts points out, such travel has rewards. If we can handle money differently and utilize what time we all have, we can learn what other people think and how they feel and get to see the world in a fresh way, not through the biases of the news media (who is more interested in getting our attention than accurately reporting the news according to Potts). To travel in such a manner is to gain an education.
Potts writing is sprinkled with quotes of vagabonds: John Muir, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Lao Tzu, Aristotle, Jesus, Bernard Russell, among many others. He also features and quotes many modern day vagabonds, mostly unknown travelers. Although this is not a “how-to” book, there is much practical advice. When writing about what to carry, he begins by saying (seriously), “as little as possible.” He discusses the good and the bad of guide books (noting that in Vietnam, he’s found the places mentioned in various guides often give the poorest service because they are guaranteed clients just from having been recommended in the guidebooks. He writes about receiving and showing hospitality, about how our preconceived ideas about a place may be wrong or taint our experience, and how we need to take ourselves less seriously. Potts gives insights and tips on how to deal with unfamiliar cultures. He talks about a need for such travel not to be too structured and practical tips about packing (take old and discard along the way) and washing while on the journey. I recommend this book.
A few quotes:
“Travel by its various nature demands simplicity.” (32)
Only a few centuries ago, humility was not een an option for travelers; it was a survival necessity. (112)
“if you can find joy in insults—if you can learn to laugh at what would otherwise have made you angry—the world is indeed ‘all yours’ as a cross-cultural traveler.” (114)
“Cling too fiercely to your ideologies and you’ll miss the subtle realities that politics can’t address. You’ll also miss the chance to learn from people who don’t share your worldview.” (161-162)
I'll look for this one when I hit the bookstore tomorrow. Thanks for the tip.ReplyDelete
I like that last quote. I think there is much to learn from other cultures. This book sounds like a good read.ReplyDelete
Seems quite a lot of travelers are also philosophers. somehow it goes together.ReplyDelete
nice. going to find this one...because it speaks to me very much...ReplyDelete
What I've found about other cultures is that you can live there for a while, but you are forever an outsider to those for whom it is home. Meanwhile, having seen your own culture from outside, you become a little of an outsider there, too. I can see how that would drive someone to being philosophical.ReplyDelete
in my very limited travel experience, I have found that it is the simplest and most humble places that provide the most fun and service.ReplyDelete
Randall, let me know if it lives up to my recommendation!ReplyDelete
Lynn, he has some good quotes!
Charles, yep, I agree
Brian, let me know what you think.
Ron, you don't have to go outside the US to be an outsider--I don't know that I'll ever be a true insider where I am currently living
Just because, very true!
This book sounds interesting! I know what you mean about some travel books...and I stumbled across a great one a while back, which was written in such an eye opening way and not at all what I first expected it to be. A male friend had read it and said I enjoy it, and I did. "Nothing to Declare" by Mary Morris, memoirs of a woman traveling alone......kind of surprisingly different....I like knowing about the off the beaten track of things and places and she does write about that....she didn't even travel to a place a I want to go...but she writes about it well!ReplyDelete
That's my favorite kind of travel. I've thought about taking temp assignments in different cities, living in the tent...one day...ReplyDelete
This is fascinating! I like the idea that his advice comes from actual experience and that will help you immensely!ReplyDelete
I will definitely get this book. It sounds great and it's hard to find good travel books. Thanks for the insight!ReplyDelete
Karen, "Nothing to Declare" sounds interesting.ReplyDelete
Jen, You're free enough that you can do that!
Michael, I hope so!
Climber, gee, with all you wanting to buy it, I should ask for commissions!
Wow-you are putting up too many Must Reads! Glad it's winter still!ReplyDelete
Sounds like a great book.ReplyDelete
It gets fun to use someone elses experiences to look where to go. I laughed using a guide from public television and seeing everyone getting their copy put each day, since we all were at the recommneded hotel.I used a few of the authors he liked to search for their finds.ReplyDelete
I have the travel bug...but not the travel as a vagabond bug.ReplyDelete
Great travel blog. I appreciate the comments and advice of someone who actually experienced this form of travelling and can write from what he has been through. Sounds absolutely fascinating. Thanks!ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for this information. It's so nice to have all this sharing, so useful and inspiring. I really appreciate the time and your effort you put to it. Great work, well done indeed!ReplyDelete
Potts points out at the beginning of the book that if you feel the wanderlust to travel, one needs to have a different attitude on life and on money. He notes how people often think they need lots of money to travel, but points out that’s not the case with vagabonding. Instead of spending lots of money, the vagabond travels slowly, meeting and interacting with people and cultures along the way. Time is as important as money.ReplyDelete
Potts gives insights and tips on how to deal with unfamiliar cultures. He talks about a need for such travel not to be too structured and practical tips about packing (take old and discard along the way) and washing while on the journey.ReplyDelete
Newport Beach: I have taken his advice and currently in Singapore, having spent the last two weeks in Indonesia and here so I can head off on the train into Malaysia tomorrow. Check out my blog for the summer: www.jeff-ridingrails.blogspot.comReplyDelete
He writes about receiving and showing hospitalityReplyDelete
I have never gone vagabonding, that is, roaming over a number of countries. I have always picked a country and concentrated on its history and culture and stayed there for several weeks or months. I think otherwise I would feel as if I were just passing through. For the same reason, I have never been interested in RTW travel.ReplyDelete
Just different tastes, I suppose. I would never find fault with anyone who did it the other way. The world is big enough for all of us.