Vagabonding Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Vagabonding will change your relationship with money and travel by showing you that long-term life on the road isn’t reserved for rich people and hippies, and will give you the tools you need to start living a life of adventure, simplicity and content.

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Vagabonding Summary

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Vagabonding has been thrown at me multiple times, from multiple angles – but behind most pitches was Tim Ferriss, who keeps on raving about this book and even lent himself to writing a new foreword. It was the first book he picked for his book club in 2013, and is supposed to be the best guide to long-term travel out there.

2012 through 2013 I spent about 4 months on the road in total and can at least somewhat relate to a vagabonding life – it’s fun! Right now I’m not in the place to pick up this book and start planning a big trip, but I thought a peek can’t hurt.

Author Rolf Potts is an American travel writer and essayist, spending most of his time on the road. Vagabonding’s been a great hit, has sold well over 100,000 copies and has been translated to several languages.

Since most people are probably not vagabonds right now, I thought I’d start with the 3 lessons from the book most crucial to getting in the right mindset, taking your first steps, and seeing if vagabonding is for you:

  1. You must change your attitude towards money.
  2. Adopt the mindset of vagabonding long before you start.
  3. Start with simplifying material possessions in 3 steps.

Think long-term travel is just for gypsies? You’re about to learn something new!

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Lesson 1: Your relationship with money has to change.

Are you independent? Most likely, you’ll answer this with a resounding no. The majority of people depends on things. We depend on our location, because our job is there. We depend on our job, because it’s where our money comes from.

Especially when it comes to financial independence, we only see it as this rare reality for the two extreme ends of the spectrum: those who have absolutely nothing, and those who are rich beyond their dreams.

But long-term travel is a dream that’s accessible to anyone in 2016. Just think of Charlie Sheen in Wall Street. Even in the 80’s, his idea that he had to make a ton of money to live his dream of riding a motorcycle across China was ridiculous. He probably made enough money to do that in a week. Heck, you could clean dishes for six months and have enough for a plane ticket, an old motorcycle and a few weeks worth of food.

Our relationship with money makes us see travel as a luxury, which is why we think of “a vacation” just like we think of a new car or an expensive TV – it costs a ton of money and is a one-time thing.

But tightly packed, stressful, calculated flat fee holiday cruises with a fixed budgets provide none of the rich experiences travel is really about. If you think there might be a vagabond inside you, the first thing that’ll have to change is your relationship with money.

Here’s how.

Lesson 2: Vagabonding is really a mindset you have to adopt long before you reach the airport.

If you’re like most people, you work to make a living, and then reward yourself occasionally with a vacation. Vagabonds, however, work only to travel.

They travel solely for the sake of traveling, and therefore earning money is part of their mission to earn the freedom to do just that. So vagabonding doesn’t start with picking a departure date at the travel agent or arriving at the check-in counter at the airport.

It starts with saving money, poring over maps, figuring out your destination and your why and finally stopping to make excuses and putting off your journey.

Vagabonds are like children in many regards, they look, they learn, they encounter their fears and change their habits on the go. This attitude isn’t something you’re handed with your passport at the security check. You’ll have to develop it over time, and planning your journey is a big part of that.

And unless you’re a trustafarian, who never has to worry and just travels as a distraction from their real life with their parents’ money, you’ll have to save some money and think about what lies ahead, so get started on just that.

Lesson 3: Start with simplifying material possessions in 3 steps.

Here are some actionable things you can do as soon as today to develop a vagabonding mindset. They all relate to simplifying your material possessions, because simplicity is a core concept any vagabond must embrace. After all, you can’t take your entire apartment with you, things just slow you down.

  1. Stop expanding. Don’t buy more stuff. That’s it. Nope, not even travel accessories. Do you know how many travel shops there are in the world? Millions! Every airport sells water filters, batteries and plug adapters now, there’s no need to get it all before even stepping on the plane. A pair of good shoes and a durable backpack will get you almost anywhere these days.
  2. Start saving. Don’t eat out so much. Cook at home. Bring lunch to work. Eat only Ramen noodles for a week. Cut back a bit on luxuries and put some money into a travel fund.
  3. Reduce. Now it’s time to sell those old video games at a garage sale. Less stuff to pack and more money in your travel fund, it’s a win-win!

As you’re planning you’ll see that every dollar saved now will pay off 3x later. For example, for the price of two take-out pizzas in America, you can eat delicious food for almost a week in India!

Once you’re done with those three steps, try to put everything you own into your backpack and see how you fare. Depending on how much is left over, it might be time to start the second round 🙂

Vagabonding Review

I just hope this got you into the travel mindset a bit. That’s all. If it did and your wanderlust spirit is awakening, take a look at the summary of Vagabonding, it holds quite the assortment of good tips.

The audiobook is supposed to be really great as well. Can’t wait to pick this up when it’s time 🙂

Who would I recommend the Vagabonding summary to?

The 17 year old, who wonders how to fill the gap time she has between high school and college, the 34 year old freelancer, who’s not bound to any location for his work, but still doesn’t travel, and anyone who’s never been away from home for more than a week.

Last Updated on July 29, 2022

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Niklas Göke

Niklas Göke is an author and writer whose work has attracted tens of millions of readers to date. He is also the founder and CEO of Four Minute Books, a collection of over 1,000 free book summaries teaching readers 3 valuable lessons in just 4 minutes each. Born and raised in Germany, Nik also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration & Engineering from KIT Karlsruhe and a Master’s Degree in Management & Technology from the Technical University of Munich. He lives in Munich and enjoys a great slice of salami pizza almost as much as reading — or writing — the next book — or book summary, of course!