Vagabonding is one of the two books that Tim Ferriss continually recommends. For that reason, I wanted to be sure this was one of the books on my 52-book reading list. It also may be one of the reasons the book was a bit of a let down. It’s like the movie that receives all the awards and recommendations. There is almost too much anticipation to it. That’s what Vagabonding was like for me. Maybe if I reread it in a year or so, it will have more of an impact. I can see how this book had a big impact on Tim Ferriss. If I had read it in my early 20s, it probably would have impacted me as well. I talk a lot on this site about part of the power of a book being in reading it at the right time in your life. This must have been the perfect book at the perfect time in Tim’s life.
Vagabonding is a term the author Rolf puts forward as a way of life, especially in relation to long-term world travel. The book provides a general vagabonding philosophy as well as very practical tips with sources for further exploration. The Vagabonding philosophy reminds me of the scene in Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams’ character asks Matt Damon if he’s actually smelled the air in the Sistine Chapel or if he has just read about it.
One way in which I was challenged by Vagabonding was to apply the vagabonding mindset to every day life. When I travel, all of my senses are opened up in the extreme. I pay more attention to people, sights, smells, and sound as everything is a new experience. But I’m not that way when I’m at home. I’m less likely to strike up a conversation with someone out of the blue or care as much about the local history. Vagabonding to me is a general curiosity of the world around me. It’s easy to have this while traveling, but I want to have this each day of my life. I want to be curious of the people around me, the history, the sights, the smells. I don’t want the commonplace to dull my senses.
People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home. – Dagobert Runes
One of the most valuable parts of Vagabonding is the challenge to rethink travel. Most people wait to travel until money is available or until work has subsided in later retirement years. Rolf encourages the reader to go now. You most likely have enough money and there’s no reason to wait until your health is poor to begin traveling. He also draws clear distinctions between tourism travel and vagabonding travel. Tourism seeks a set experience within set parameters. Vagabonding seeks a unique experience within open parameters:
A vacation, after all, merely rewards work. Vagabonding justifies it.
I also like how Rolf encourages the reader to find inspiration from a variety of sources in terms of deciding on travel locations. For me, I wanted to travel to Scotland because of the movie Braveheart. I wanted to travel to Oxford to see where C.S. Lewis had taught and hung out.
Overall, this is a great, quick read for those who’d like to travel as well as a reminder for seasoned travelers on the purpose of travel.