No, I did not spell the title wrong. I made up the word to describe a new philosophy of travel.

The real word is Vagabonding. Vagabonding has a new guru. His name is Rolf Potts. In his book, called not surprisingly Vagabonding, he defines vagabonding as “The act of leaving behind the orderly world to travel independently for an extended period of time.” And “A deliberate way of living that makes freedom to travel possible”.

The book does a fine job of advocating vagabonding as an alternative to taking vacations. When Potts is talking “extended periods of time” he means six months, or two years.

“A deliberate way of living that makes freedom to travel possible” basically means not spending a dime you do not have to when you are home, and working jobs that you can drop like a bad habit when you have saved up enough to head off for Timbuktu and beyond. He does not discuss personal relationships that might develop whole gathering your travel loot. He also assumes you have no desire to own a pet. He assumes you can live a life that has no ongoing debt. These things among others are what a cage is to a bird.

Potts does a very good job of instructing the potential vagabonder to not put off your dream. Even if you cannot take off on your journey today, this is the time to start preparing for it. Saving money by doing things like cutting off your cable service and divesting yourself of the silly luxuries you might find indispensible right now.

If studying a map, and reading, gives you goose bumps, you are a potential vagabonder. Potts tells us that vagabonding starts now and it starts in the conscience refusal to relegate your dreams to “later”. If you do, later will never arrive. The day you decide you do not need a new car, or that a less expensive beer will give you the same buzz as the expensive six pack, you have begun to vagabond.

I was one of those who said later. I did my fair share of traveling, and touring in my younger years, but I always had that cage to fly home to.

Now circumstances, good fortune, and love have made a new type of lifestyle available to me.

I have named it Vagabounding.

Instead of setting off with a back pack and no set itinerary, like a vagabonder, I leave home knowing I will be back in ten days or two weeks and immediately start preparing for the next excursion. This is vagabounding.

A perusal of my blogs for the last 15 months ( will show that my travels have a center point like the jeweled bearing on a compass. My bar needle is not directionally motivated any magnetic pole, it is determined by curiosity and desire. Many times this desire is a life-long wish to see a particular site. This has led me to the pyramids of Egypt and the Taj Mahal, and to experience Kathmandu. Most recently one of these life-long wishes led me to a photo safari in Kenya. Vagabounding keeps the compass needle spinning and instead of pointing north, it always points home.

My jewel bearing, my home, is a place called Sharjah. The American University of Sharjah employs my wife and is very generous with vacation time, very generous. I won’t even tell you how generous for fear that you will stop reading because you do not like fiction. They are very generous in many other ways as well. In short, we have no bills. We pay for nothing but food. We do not own a car. We do not have a pet. Our next door neighbor loves it when we are gone because he can pick up our newspaper. We could travel for extended periods of time, except that would mean the end of the employment. I could take off by myself and go vagabonding, except that my wife pointed out to me in no uncertain terms “that would not be fair.” Besides having her along makes each destination even more enjoyable.

So I vagabound. Sharjah is in the Middle East, next door to Dubai. This is the cross roads of the world and air travel from here to Europe, Africa and Asia is amazingly inexpensive.

Let me further define the term vagabounder.

A vagabounder is a person who bounds back and forth from home to a desired destination and back. Then he chooses another and does it again. It is like the instructions on a bottle of shampoo. Travel, rinse, repeat.

A vagabounder is not defined by use of luggage or a backpack. Traveling light is always good, but do not try to be someone you are not. A baby boomer carrying a backpack is a bit off the point.

A vagabounder might be confused with a tourist or a traveler, when in reality he is neither.

A vagabounder is defined however by a destination and a purpose for the trip.

Taking a week to zip off to India to see the Taj, or Rome to see the Vatican is a perfect example. A vagabonder would encounter these items in the middle of a long excursion simply because “they are there.” A vagabounder makes it the sole reason for the trip.

Obviously being a vagabounder is a rare privilege. A person must be independently wealthy or like me, have a marvelous spouse with an incredible job. A vagabounder could be a self employed professional with the forethought to schedule a lot of travel time. Another type of vagabounder could be a person who travels for work extensively, gets a whole lot of frequent flyer miles, and is smart enough to arrange his business travel at or near places he wants to see. I used to work with a person like that. He saw the Great Wall, skied the Alps and more all on weekends after business meetings.

The accommodations a vagabounder chooses can be hostels to five star hotels. Vagabonders on the road for a year or two tend to stay in hostels so that maybe they can extend that stay another few months. I say hooray for them!

Vagabonders tend to make more travel buddies than vagabounders.  They can hook up on the road and move on together. They trade travel trips about places if going opposite directions. Again, hooray! That makes the travel experience even better.

In Rolf Potts book, he talks about vagabonders making acquaintances with locals easier than a tourist does. For the most part that is true. But a vagabounder can also make those friendships if desired. Maybe he will not find himself working with tea pickers in Thailand out of the desire to stretch the travel budget and therefore making dear friends. But he can still take a day to visit with the chief’s son in a Masai village and trade baubles. The difference is the vagabounder sets out to do something like that and the vagabonder stumbles upon the chance. Both are great.

One thing both should do is write about it. Use this forum, your own blog,a post card home or maybe just give tips on a bathroom wall. Just be sure to share.

Thanks for reading. Go book a trip. May I suggest……

Please share this with your friends and make a comment.

About forrestwalker

An expat living overseas, traveling with my wife extensively and sharing the experiences with you!.

Posted on June 27, 2011, in Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I actually really really enjoyed reading this. I’ve always wanted to vagabond, leave everything and just go away, to Alaska specifically. It’s my dream. I don’t mind vagabounding instead now, it seems more realistic, and doable. Thank you! 🙂

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