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Life Lessons from Vagabonding


Vagabonding-n. (1) The act of leaving behind the orderly world to travel independently for an extended period of time. (2) A privately meaningful manner of travel that emphasizes creativity, adventure, awareness, simplicity, discovery, independence, realism, self reliance and the growth of spirit. (3) A deliberate way of living that makes freedom to travel possible. – Vagabonding, An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long Term World Travel by Rolf Potts 

Sometimes I read a book knowing I have no desire to do the thing the book promotes. For example, I do not want to climb Mt. Everest, ever, but I loved Into Thin Air, Left For Dead, and Dark Summit. My desire to have all ten fingers and toes intact and attached to my hands and feet overrides my need to impress people with my climbing skills. I like my nose and cheeks freckled, hell, even wrinkled and age spotted, not blackened by frostbite. I like chilling in my non-adventurous living room, watching Friends reruns on my old broken couch, not dying at 29,000 feet above sea level. No “I’m at the peak and I achieved my dream but I can’t get down and I’m gonna die up here” for me. So while I never want to even go to base camp, I love to read about other people who are crazy enough to attempt to climb Everest, cramp-on over crevasse over ass over teakettle over, “hey man, we see you stuck in that 50-foot long fissure but sucks to be you but we want to reach the summit so we’re just gonna leave you here.” If this crazy thought ever occurs to me: climb that really big mountain because it’s there, I’ll just re-read Left For Dead and say to myself: or I could learn to knit. I’m sure Jon Krakauer thinks that only people who want to be more outdoorsy or who want to conquer the seven summits read his books. He probably has no idea that for people like me, reading about someone who briefly lives and ultimately dies in an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness kills the desire for extreme adventure faster than a Holiday fogger on a colony of countertop ants.

 Why did I read Vagabonding then? I really want to be that well-traveled girl. The book is about how you can save your money, quit your really good job, and then travel around the world for months or even years at a time. A perfect read for me, the girl who has never gotten her passport, not even “just in case.” I’d really love to travel like that, but the problem is I am way to practical. What about insurance? What about the mortgage? Potts says you should let people live in your house while you’re gone, that way they can pay your mortgage for you. But what if they read my journals?  What if they have sex on the kitchen floor? No. No. No. So I have decided to apply Potts’ ideas to my day-to-day life. 

Rule #1: Travel Light. Phew, you got that right Rolf. Do you have any idea how much crap I have in my garage that I don’t need? I am almost ready to get rid of box of the 20 issues of Los Angeles Times my Grandma saved for me from the 1984 Summer Olympics. Almost. My shower has about 30 naked Barbies in it, all staring at me while I bathe and probably using my expensive face wash while I’m at work. I’ve seen Toy Story, I know how it works. Potts says that while you travel you should not follow the rules of home, which reward you for following set routines and protocols. I’m right there with you Rolf. Like in a different shower, I would not have to share space with a bunch plastic chicks who have way better bodies than I do. I mean, that would be a real relief, if only for a few days. 

Rule #2: Plan Little. Ya, that is a cool idea. I mean, if I was not so anal I’m sure I’d enjoy the go-with-the-flow type of life. I don’t really need to plan things, I just need to know what the plan is. You see the difference right? I think that puts me on a slightly lower level of anal. I’m not OCD, I just like to know what’s going on. I’m just not sure if someone who writes her grocery list to coincide with the layout of the store can NOT plan. But it would be nice to “be flex,” as my brother says. I can do it, it will just require more alcohol than I normally consume. 

Rule #3: Slow Down. Hmmm. But then how will I get all my stuff done? I have no words of wisdom on slowing down. I don’t really have time for that. 

What I really got out of this book is that I want to read more books about traveling so I can feel like I am well traveled. This is a great book, especially if you have a passport. Seriously, I do think world travel is in my future, and Vagabonding is a great motivator. 

Here is my favorite quote from the book: “Don’t set limits. Don’t set limits on what you can or can’t do. Don’t set limits on what is or isn’t worthy of your time.”

 Oh, and this one rocks: “Listen. We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.” – Kurt Vonnegut 

So let’s all go fart around some, before summer is over! 

Books I want to read, after reading Vagabonding:

 Travel by Michael Crichton

Abroad by Paul Fussell

The Art of Pilgrimage by Phil Cousineau

The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho

To the Ends of the Earth by Paul Theroux

Kindred and Related Spirits by John Muir

Why We Travel by Pico Iyer

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

 And re-read:

 Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Nataie permalink
    07/19/2010 2:27 pm

    Wow, I knew that I loved to just talk to you for your funny comments, and facial expressions! I have NEVER read anything that you have written before. It is awesome, I can totally feel like I am just sitting down with a cup of coffee over banana pancakes and talking to you! Your writting is sooooo funny, free, and charasmatic. I love it! I wish you would just write a book already!

    I have no desire whatsoever to even think about climbing Everest, but I like that when I read your stuff I can imagine at least pretending to want to do it! haha!

    Love ya,

  2. 07/19/2010 3:52 pm

    Thanks Nataie – let’s just read about Everest and live longer huh?! I know, I know, in all my spare time I will write the book!

  3. 07/19/2010 6:18 pm

    Love Pico Iyer, love Theroux–you gave me some more authors to add to my list. Thanks, Tammy!

  4. 07/19/2010 10:32 pm

    Hey you,
    Great to hear from you again. Thanks for the alert on spacebook.
    Happy travels.

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