Customer Reviews: Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel
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VINE VOICEon July 14, 2003
Rolf Potts' tome of vagabonding is an inspirational work rather than a practical guide. While the same practical information is contained in other books, this book shines in the area of travel philosophy. Travel is like a religion, where some people are incredibly fervent about it, while others just don't understand. This book makes you realize that long-term travel is not only possible, but desirable and worthwhile.
I particularly liked the section on working for travel. As a 9-to-5 worker planning a long-term trip, I needed the inspiration to keep going. I liked being told that working will actually make me appreciate travel more. After all, to afford travel, I have to be here anyway.
Throughout the book, there are great little excerpts from famous travellers, philosophers, and explorers, as well as anecdotes from ordinary travellers. Rolf has a particular liking for Walt Whitman, and I may just have to go pick up some Walt poetry now. The literary references in this book let you know that world travel and a simple life aren't new concepts.
The only problem I see with this book is that it may soon become dated with its references to specific websites.
The book is of a small and convenient size to take on the road.
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on June 23, 2003
The hardest part of world travel is acquiring the mindset that nothing else matters as much as the journey. Getting to a place where you reduce your consumption of unnecessary stuff, commit your time, and leave your daily routine behind takes a fair amount of work, and it also takes a major shift in priorities. Vagabonding serves as the kick-start that gets you to that mental place --the "I can do it, and I can do it soon" reply to the siren call of world travel.
This book is inspiring, clear, and helpful. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to roam, but thinks they don't have enough money or time. I also recommend it for those, like me, who have gone vagabonding before, know what it takes, and just need a nudge of renewal in order to get back out there again. Great book!
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on September 19, 2005
Potential buyers should first be aware this is really a book of philosophical musings by Potts and his favorite writers, though at least he has good taste in literature with his numerous quotations from Whitman and Thoreau. But those looking for "nuts and bolts" information on how to prepare for a RTW trip or other long term international travel should buy Rough Guide's "First Time Around the World" instead.

As an avid traveller, I do agree with much of what Potts has to say, especially about getting off the tourist track and experiencing other cultures more fully and realistically. But I also believe that Potts' writing, while very passionate, is often marred by a lack of humility. His intention is to "inspire" people to travel - a worthwhile aim. But his constant insistence that every person should immediately start saving money then quit their job and hit the road often comes off as overbearing and "know it all", without any sense of understanding for other people's situations or priorities - such as work and children.

Personally, I begin "vagabonding" through the United States, Asia and Latin America at 18. Now, at the ripe old age of 37, I still manage to travel every year, also my wife is from Ecuador so we go there quite often. But my career obligations make my trips shorter than they used to be. Hopefully Potts will gain some maturity over time and begin to recognize that his way isn't the only way. Otherwise the guy is a pretty good writer with an intense passion for travel and some intelligent things to say about it. Just remember this is a book of philosophy and opinions rather than useful factual info. So those looking for a guide to travel planning should look elsewhere.
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on October 21, 2005
If you have even the slightest desire to drop all responsability and run around globetrotting this piece will only encourage you.

And if you don't have the means to do so this book will torture you with temptation.

Potts doesn't offer lots of cost-saving tips, he instead shares his philosophy of working your life to fit international travel.

If you are struck with wanderlust after reading this book- remember you were warned
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on September 18, 2003
This book is essentially about the thought process behind taking time off from your regular life to discover and experience the world on your own terms. If you've been around the world a few times, you'll find it puts many of your fuzzy warm thoughts and ideals into words. If you haven't, it'll probably make you wonder why you haven't taken off already.
People who like to plan and be prepared should treat this as a companion to more nuts-and-bolts guides. Others may find this plenty since travel is all an adventure anyway. It depends on your personality and comfort with the unknown. The rarely expressed aspect of Potts' book, however, is the acknowledgement that both work and travel are admirable and that one complements the other. To travel, you must also be productive sometimes. But to be productive, you also have to continually learn and see other points of view. Traveling abroad on more than a one-week vacation makes this possible. An entertaining and inspiring read.
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on March 23, 2006
I LOVED this book. It truly captures everything I love about other travel and experiences cultures. Potts packs the book with practical travel tips for transportation, eating, sleeping and survival. He steers clear of politics completely and just gives the reader a no-nonsense guide to long-term travel from earning money to avoiding cultural misconceptions and wrong attitudes to interacting with locals to a guidebook or riding taxis. Other guides give you hundreds of unnecessary pages of crap and unwanted detail that you'll never need. Potts doesn't. There is no fluff or advertising to be found. He makes it clear that the learning experience itself is invaluable. Above all, Potts shows the reader how financially feasible long-term world travel really is. I read few books more than once, but this one will be read again and again until be becomes deeply creased, tattered and scribbled in unmercifully.
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on January 31, 2003
Rolf Potts does a valuable service to would-be vagabonders who haven't quite made up their minds to take the big leap and head off into the great wide world. I can imagine such a person, sitting in a cubicle watching their life tick by, quietly pondering the what-ifs of international travel, yearning for the freedom of the open road but not quite convinced to head out, hesitating...until they read Vagabonding. One quick read of this book and they'll be on the next flight to Bangkok or Cairo or wherever. Vagabonding isn't as much a nuts and bolts guide to backpacking as it is a shot of inspiration for potential travelers. I wish this book would have been written when I first began my travels several years ago. Regardless, it's an interesting read for novices and experienced travelers alike.
One drawback of this book is that it is written like a script for a formal debate, packed with quotes from travel writers and dreary-eyed idealists to justify the author's arguments. Potts is a good writer and experienced traveler; he doesn't need to shroud his writing in clouds of quotes from the likes of Whitman and Thoreau.
I look forward to reading Potts' future travel writing, especially after he ventures off the beaten tracks in the more remote parts of Africa and Latin America.
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on September 27, 2005
It's clear that Potts' agenda is to convince you to travel more. While he does largely dispel many of the imaginary barriers that prevent us from traveling more (primarily, the myth that you need a lot of money to travel), he's able to do this so well in part because he doesn't need societal acceptance or nurture long-term relationships as much as most people do. He admits that he generally likes to travel alone, and when he has social needs he finds short-term connections with fellow travelers will suffice.

All the same, he does a fabulous job of conveying how the American consumerist value system gives us an unhealthy preoccupation with material investment vs. personal investment, where "travel becomes just another accessory- a smooth-edged, encapsulated experience that we purchase the same way we buy clothing and furniture"- something we package into a two-week escape. Giving up this complicated and materialistic lifestyle can be as difficult as enduring coffee withdrawal, but the rewards of travel and self-discovery are worth it. His philosophy is well-supported by inspirational travel quotes from Thoreau, Twain, Pico Iyer, Ibn Batutta, and many others. Perhaps most inspirational of all, he calls up the Buddhist idea that we live in an eggshell and have few clues about what's in the world around us, then points out that vagabonding can help us get out of this shell and discover a broader view of the world.

I'd recommend this book to anyone, and while it's possible that you may not be the pure vagabond that Potts seems to be, this will definitely encourage you to travel more and help you make it happen. Whether you decide to quit your job and hit the road for the long haul, or just ask for a three-month sabbatical, this book will point you in the right direction and supply you with references to websites and books that will help make it a reality.
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on October 20, 2004
"Vagabonding" is a rarity: a how-to book that also happens to be captivating and compelling.

Potts offers a practical plan for taking time off to travel and learn; he mixes useful advice with a survey of travel philosophy and big-picture thoughts on why removing ourselves from our familiar surroundings encourages personal growth (and is simply a lot of fun, to boot).

As a "vagabonder" who's been living abroad for 2 years, I can tell you that Potts's proscriptive plan in right on the money; long-term traveling is truly transformative, and I couldn't imagine a better guide to taking the leap than "Vagabonding."
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on December 6, 2005
Some reviewers classified this book as elitist, but I definately didn't get that vibe. After browsing numerous travel guides, many of which I DID find patronizing, this one was a complete breath of fresh air. Mostly, I found it to be full of practical, logical advice and encouraging sidenotes. I think it is probably best suited to my demographic (single, or at least family-less young people) but would also be great for retirees who always wanted to travel. That is not to say that I wouldn't recomend it to people with families, but I do think that the kind of travel it is suggesting might be a little disruptive for kids who have friends, school, and sports (you know, all those average kid activities that are so much fun and not very condusive to long term absences, etc). At any rate, I think that everyone should at least browse through its pages (reading straight through is helpful but not necessary--another feature I loved) and most people should own it.
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