At the suggestion of a few friends I just read Vagabonding: an uncommon guide to the art of long-term world travel by Rolf Potts. I’m actually kind of shocked I wasn’t familiar it before because it’s echoing quite a bit of my own philosophy, or at least the philosophy I like to think I have, as well as giving me a bit to strive for. I’ve spent a good chunk of the last 2 years traveling around the world and it’s safe to say this has lead to some of the best times in my entire life. If nothing else the overall experience of regularly traveling for longer periods of time has been enlightening, entertaining, adventuresome, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. In fact I actively want to trade things I have to allow me to do more of it. There’s something about being out in the world that helps you understand yourself in ways you didn’t know you could.
I’ve been a “collector” for much of my life and have spent a lot of time & money trying to convince myself that things would make me happy. If I had one more band t-shirt, or that extra limited color vinyl of that bands 7″, or one more tiki mug, or a complete set of these rare Japanese toys, or the store exclusive of that artist figure, or whatever then I would finally be content. In each case when I got those items and they didn’t turn out to be the solution to all my problems I decided I must have been chasing the wrong thing and just moved on to something else. Towards the end of my Jumbo Machinder obsession I realized that the thrill of the hunt was much more rewarding than crossing the finish line, so to speak. This is a topic I’ve talked about before and for the last few years I’ve been trying to shift my life more towards the experiences, and trying to get away from the stuff. More often than not travel is a crucial part of those experiences that I feel are actually rewarding.
I don’t want to give the impression this is a strictly solo journey, as Potts mentions in the book finding the right person to travel with can add considerably to your experience and I’m lucky to have someone like Tara who shares dreams of visiting and learning from new places as well. Of course knowing that you can get by on your own does wonders too.
Over the last few years I’ve had people ask me about my travel schedule and wonder out loud how I can do it because for them a similar trip, say to Japan or several countries around Europe would take years of planning and saving. I think that’s exactly the kind of thinking that keeps people from doing it. If you think about it long enough you can reason your way out of anything. It’s the wrong time of year, you’ll have more vacation days next year, you don’t have the right clothes for the weather there, you want to brush up on the language a bit more before you get there, blah blah blah. What I’ve found to be the best way to travel is really to throw as much caution to the wind as you possible and just go.
Trusting that things will work out and diving in head first is a huge eyeopener to how much time and effort over planning takes up. Some of my favorite trips ever were started with a discount airfare trip to some location and back, with no specific plans in between. I looked at them as in and out points. Once I got there I figured out how long to stay there, where to go in the meantime, and in many cases where to stay while there. Realizing you can make it up as you go and get by just as well, if not even better is something you have to do to understand. If you are anything like me, it might turn out to be one of your favorite things. But warning, it’s addictive!
The thing I’m getting at here is that the secret to all of this is just doing it. If you try to think of a reason why you can’t you won’t have any trouble coming up with a decent sized list but if you don’t assume you can’t out of the gate and just go for it, what’s the worst that can happen? If you want more details on how this is all really possible then I’d highly recommend grabbing a copy of Vagabonding and spending a day or two reading it. It’s under 200 pages, a good number of which you can skip because they are just lists of resources for later on. Might I suggest a good time to read it is on a flight somewhere you haven’t been yet?
Bonus points: Go Gatehopping.