Rolf Potts Q&A: The Art of Long-term World Travel… and Travel Writing

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rolf potts
Rolf Potts is one of my favorite writers, and his book — Vagabonding — was one of only four books I recommended as “fundamental” in The 4-Hour Workweek. It was also one of two books, the other being Walden; Or, Life in the Woods, that I took with me during my 15+-month mini-retirement that began in 2004.

He interviewed me for Yahoo! Travel almost a year and a half ago, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to interview him about his long-awaited new book and the art of travel writing.

Have you ever wondered what it really takes to pull the trigger and embark on long-term world travel?
Have you ever fantasized about getting paid to do it?

Let Rolf give us a look at both…

Is Marco Polo Didn’t Go There a sequel of sorts to Vagabonding?

It is in a sense a sequel — as well as a prequel, of sorts — but it has a different approach than Vagabonding. Vagabonding is at heart a philosophical book about seeing time as wealth and using travel to actualize that wealth. Marco Polo Didn’t Go There is indirectly philosophical; it’s a collection of stories from the road — a showcase of the type of travel experiences that vagabonding has provided for me over the past decade.

So your new book might be considered “vagabonding in practice”?

In a sense, yes. That said, many of the stories are misadventures by conventional definition. In the pages of the new book, I’m always getting into trouble, or falling in with the wrong people, or getting lost somehow. But that’s how travel stories work. People quickly tire of hearing stories about your perfectly blissful days on the road. They want to hear about the times when things went wrong — when you were challenged in unexpected ways. So the new book is skewed toward my more harrowing and/or wacky adventures.

This book is also an examination of my working life as a travel writer. This is communicated in many ways throughout the book, but perhaps most vividly in the endnotes to each story, which comment on the ragged reality that lurks behind a seemingly self-contained travel tale. I like to think of these endnotes as the DVD-style “commentary track” to the book.

[Note from Tim: this "commentary track" is perhaps my favorite feature of all, as it explains the "making of" a first-class world traveler and all the real logistical and cultural challenges that presents. Highly recommended if you have any travel coming up.]

Misadventures aside, how might readers seek out the kinds of travel experiences you describe in the book? That is, how might your average traveler get out of the tourist-circuit rut and find interesting, life-affecting experiences?

The most important thing in seeking richer travel experiences is learning how to slow down. This can be hard to do, since as Americans we tend to micromanage everything to make things more efficient back home.

Travel isn’t about efficiency. It’s about leaving yourself open to new experiences. You can’t do this when you’re racing around on a strict itinerary. If you examine the truly life-affecting experiences I describe in my new book, you’ll find that they most all happened by accident. If you aren’t open to the unexpected — if you aren’t willing to get lost from time to time — you’ll be selling your travels short.

[Suggestion from Tim: reread the previous paragraph substituting "travel" and "travels" with "life".]

As for the tourist-circuit, slowing your travels down will automatically lead you off the tourist trail. When you aren’t racing from “attraction” to “attraction,” you’ll quickly discover that the best experiences come from the diversions along the way.

How has technology changed the way people travel? Any advice or warnings about using this technology on the road?

In 1994 I took an 8-month vagabonding journey around North America, and there were times when I was out of touch with friends and family for weeks. Nobody was on email back then, and making a long-distance call required a fist-full of quarters and a pay phone. Now, with high-speed Internet and the ubiquity of cell phones, you can never be out of touch. I never called my sister when I was traveling America in ’94, but just last month I was traveling Africa with an AT&T BlackJack and I needed to ask her a question, so I gave her a holler from Lokichokio, Kenya. Even for Kenyans, Lokichokio is the middle of nowhere, but calling her was not a problem. I just punched in her number and got her on the second ring.

The downside is that this kind of communication can easily become one big umbilical cord that ties you to home when you should be experiencing your travel surroundings. Was calling my sister from Kenya really all that urgent and necessary? Probably not. And in a sense I was probably less “in the moment” in Lokichokio than I should have been.

Ideally, you should only check email just one or two times a week when you travel, and use the cell phone only for emergencies or hooking up with local friends as you go. What’s the pleasure in going to Tahiti or Rio or Geneva if you spend most of your time attached to your phone or laptop, sending messages home?

By definition, being a travel writer means you’ve been working from a mobile office for ten years. What advice might you give to people looking manage their work from remote locations as they travel?

Be a minimalist. Reduce clutter. Obviously travel by its very nature is going to do this, since you can’t pack everything you’d keep in your home office. But this should apply to your travel office as well. For example, get a cheap laptop, and use it only for your work. Save your important information into Google documents (or something similar) in case the laptop gets lost or stolen or your pack falls in a river. Don’t use the laptop to surf news online; go to the local newsstand instead. Don’t use the laptop to watch DVDs or listen to music; go to a local cinema or nightclub instead.

This is not just a matter of travel aesthetics or cultural appreciation — it’s a matter of breaking bad habits. Back home we use our work technology to fart around and pass the day. Nobody should travel around the world just to sit in front of a laptop and fart around.

Travel writing as a profession would seem to be a glamorous undertaking. Is it as cool of a job as it sounds?

Absolutely — but not in the way you might think. There are better ways to travel than wandering around and taking notes and spending long stretches of time in your hotel doing typing prose. There are better ways to make money. There are better ways to get into adventures. Just read the endnotes to my new book and you’ll see the limitations and contradictions involved when you go to a place and try to write about it.

So the best part about my job isn’t that it enables me to travel; it comes in the work itself. It comes when I experience an amazing place or a memorable encounter and I’m later able to write something true about that experience — something that communicates the richness and complexity and possibility of being alive.

How did you start your travel writing career?

My writing aspirations can be traced back to about age 13, when I started writing horror stories in the style of Stephen King. This horror-writing phase didn’t last long, but it helped winnow the creative urge, and familiarize me with the basics of putting a prose narrative together. Later I became involved with my high school newspaper, and I wrote a humor column for my campus newspaper in college. After college, I traveled the United States for eight months, living out of a VW van. Fancying myself a kind of new Jack Kerouac, I tried to write a book about this travel experience, but that ultimately failed when I couldn’t interest any agents or editors. Out of money and not sure what to do next, I went to Korea to teach English for a couple years.

In Korea, I learned how to live within another culture, and I became a more seasoned, instinctive traveler. I also learned from the shortcomings of my failed USA travel book, and sharpened my writing, keeping in mind the narrative needs of my readers. During my second year in Korea, I rewrote one of my USA book chapters (about Las Vegas) and sold it to Salon.com’s travel section. Encouraged by this small success, I strengthened my relationship with my Salon editor by writing some travel stories about Korea. He published about five of them.

At this point, I’d saved a lot of money from teaching, and I’d planned on traveling through Asia and Europe for over a year. Since I had an editorial contact at Salon, I decided to pitch him with a travel column idea. He wasn’t sure about this idea at first, so I hit the road on my trip and continued to write stories. It just so happened that Leonardo DiCaprio was shooting the travel-oriented movie “The Beach” in Thailand, so I decided to try and sneak onto the set of the movie as an experiment about the motivations and idiosyncrasies of travel. My attempt to sneak onto the movie set failed, but the resulting story, “Storming ‘The Beach’”, made the cover of Salon and landed in the 2000 edition of The Best American Travel Writing [From Tim: Read this for a flavor of Rolf. You'll thank me.].

I got the travel column at Salon, and that turned out to be a big turning point in my career, as it raised my exposure one-hundred-fold. Editors of glossy magazines like Condé Nast Traveler invited me to write for them, and I’ve been freelancing for various travel venues — National Geographic Traveler, Outside, Slate, Islands, the San Francisco Chronicle, etc. — ever since. My book, Vagabonding, came out in 2003. I’ve also maintained an author website since 1998, and a blog since 2002, and both have been good for promoting and showcasing my work.

These days, travel is still the core of my work, though I occasionally write literary criticism, interviews, and other types of writing. I’d say travel writing is 80% of what I do.

Any warnings for aspiring travel writers?

Only get into travel journalism if you really love to travel and write. If you think it’s a good pretext for getting to travel, think again: you can travel just as much by saving up money from another, better-paying job, and just taking off to go vagabonding. So only pursue travel writing because you love to write as well. If that admonition hasn’t scared you off, I’ll advise you to write as much as possible, work on your narrative voice (because a vivid or funny voice can make all the difference), do some publication internships, get out there and work on your travel expertise, and — most of all — have fun!

Even if your travels don’t lead to a full-time career, they are a reward in and of themselves.

—-

You can see Rolf Potts at one of 20 cities nationwide as he celebrates the release of Marco Polo Didn’t Go There through mid-November.

###

Odds and Ends:

-Check out Weebly.com for simple website creation. I create the following homepage mock-up in 10 minutes: Timothy Ferriss homepage mock-up.

-Good article on digital connection vs. recluse-like behavior (me):
Timothy Ferriss vs. Gary Vaynerchuck

-Haven’t tried Twitter yet? See how I use it — against being called a heretic — here: Timothy Ferriss on Twitter.

Posted on: September 15, 2008.

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53 comments on “Rolf Potts Q&A: The Art of Long-term World Travel… and Travel Writing

  1. You are so right. Traveling is about the experiences and slowing down. We do not need to be the most efficient people when we are traveling. I know we think that sometimes we only have so much time to travel but slowing down can just make our experiences that much better.

    Like

  2. I love this blog post. Traveling is a wonderful thing for me and I know it is for you. You travel all the time and I love to hear about your experiences and everything you get to do. I think I would like this kind of writing considering I love reading your blog and how inspiring it is.

    My problem when I travel is that I do try to become efficient and not just relax and take everything in. The next time I go on a trip I am going to take everything slow and when my time is up I will just go home.

    Like

  3. Tim,

    The timing could not have been better. I just wrapped up his first book when I was in Nicaragua. Awesome book and interesting interview. What I really enjoyed about this interview was the simple and genuine answers Rolf had. I am always amazed at how following your passions seems to yield the best returns.

    Great Post,

    Jose Castro-Frenzel

    Like

  4. Sorry, meant to finish my last post by saying that both the picture in your post and my picture were taken on the DMZ, in the little negotiating rooms they have that flank the boarder between North and South Korea. It’s a really intense scene up there with the guards all standing around like that, guarding a boarder separating two countries after a war that never officially ended.

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  5. I saw your book recommendations and read Vagabonding. Great read, very dreamy. Interesting post, I’ll definitely pick up a copy of Marco Polo Didn’t Go There…

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  6. As far as a travel writing career, I think having to write about traveling could take away the flavor of travels. Traveling could become an adventure with many to do lists instead of being spotaneous fun.
    That’s exactly what happened to me during my couple month gig as a food critic. All the fancy restaurants I was reviewing lost a bit of their flavor…
    I’d say don’t do it unless you’re a reporting aficionado…

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  7. Matt, what year did you visit the Panmunjom DMZ? That photo was of me was taken almost exactly ten years ago. Visiting that little room (half in South Korea, half in North Korea) is an iconic and essential experience for anyone who travels to Korea! Very surreal.

    Jose, Anna, glad to hear you enjoyed Vagabonding! I think you’ll get a kick out of the new book as well.

    Happy travels to all of you!

    Like

  8. Great post on travel – interested in reading his book as well.

    Side note: I have reread 4HWW for the third time, defined a product, tested the marketing, created it, and now am in the prep to launch phase.

    During this last week I discovered something: I am freaking out over the possibility of succeeding with it!

    Seems as if I am so programmed to be an employee that the reality of me not being one is downright terrifying. I discovered this by noticing a lot of bizarre behavior that I was displaying that was stalling the project, and then it hit me. If it works out everything is going to be different and I will no longer have this giant baggage, but like a man on the moon I am afraid to jump – really weird stuff.

    Any tips on navigating the mental part of all of this?

    Thanks a million either way.

    tt

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  9. Rolf Potts encouraged me to buy my first one-way ticket, which was one of my best decisions. I loved Vagabonding!

    btw, I like Walden, but I took The Alchemist with me instead :)

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  10. Great questions and great distinctions.

    Roadtripping’s taught me a bunch about being a minimalist and I agree, it’s the way to go.

    >you can travel just as much by saving up money from another, better-paying job, and just taking off to go vagabonding
    Beautiful point and it applies to so many trade-offs in life. When passion and profit collide, great … but there’s more than one way to fund your passion, and more than one way to live your dream. Hail to the pragmatic vagabonder!

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  11. Tim

    Great interview. I read Vagabonding straight after 4HWW. Equally liberating read. So its excellent that you are able to interview him and pass on these insights.

    Now if I could just interview you for my Social Media Success Stories series…

    Cheers

    Craig

    Like

  12. First of all, we differentiate our travels by whether it is a “vacation” or a “trip”. A trip is a travel that likely requires a vacation afterwards to recover from. On a trip you rush from one restful activity to another. On a vacation you just sorta chill. While it can be restful, London isn’t a place for a vacation, whereas Bora Bora isn’t really a place to go on a trip.

    Our second deviation from the norm is our nebulous metric on how we figure out whether the trip or vacation was a success. We use “How many people will recall us after we leave?” (hopefully fondly). If you don’t leave a trail of people with smiles on their faces, you haven’t truly traveled. I’d be willing to bet that Peter, the door man at the Four Seasons Mayfair in London, would remember us by sight inspite of the fact that its been five years. Same with the Macedonian guy that works at the Hotel Nizza in Dusseldorf, when we got locked out of our hotel after midnight in the rain. Slow down and really savor the culture and the locals.

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  13. Tim and Rolf, you are the two people on this planet that made me realize there are other commodities than money. After I had brushed up my money making skills in various ways, it was enlightening (to say the least) to realize that time is wealth. Nothing has been the same since. I can’t describe how liberating it has been to combine income with time and travel. Life is 20 times better now. Thanks a million!!! Jaakko

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  14. Anna and J.D. touch on an interesting point. Despite the glamour associated with travel writing, it typically ends up being more about the writing than the travel. Unless you really love to write (and of course I do), travel writing isn’t necessarily the best way to see the world. And that should be encouraging, actually, since it means that truly experiencing the world is more a matter of attitude and openness than job description.

    Like

  15. Rolf,

    I visited Panmunjom in 2003. I was in the US Army at the time, stationed in Uijongbu. My whole experience there was very rewarding and my favorite thing to do was to get lost while walking around the various networks of alleys and roads around Seoul. And yes, touring the DMZ is a VERY surreal experience.

    Congrats on the book and god speed.

    Matt

    Like

  16. This guy is funny while giving tips for how to have an adventure!

    “Andrew MacDonald’s Italian leather screenplay binder, I’m afraid, was too heavy and will have to stay behind. ” lol !

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  17. Hey Rolf ~ Just read Storming the Beach. Brilliant! Good fun.

    Reminds me of getting smuggled into secure locations in England. I was 18 and had befriended a few of the Queen’s Horse Guards through my local pub. They snuck me into a variety of military establishments that I shouldn’t have had access to. After a couple of weeks, they all got arrested in a pub fight and those particular adventures came to an end.

    For me, it was accidental. I hadn’t set out to gain entry to forbidden places. Though if I do in the future, I suppose I will attempt to deliberately befriend military personnel. Seems like a sensible thing to do when traveling in a foreign country anyway, just to be marginally accounted for in case of an emergency.

    As you and Tim have noted – being open to new experiences is what it’s all about, though I think it requires a tremendous preparedness and trust in oneself. You never know how a new experience might leave an unexpected, irrevocably lasting impression – which is not always a desirable thing. Minimizing uncontrollable variables while still executing plans is key – just like you’ve described!

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  18. Thanks Tim, I am officially canceling Travel Writer from my list of Jobs that will help me see the world. I really enjoyed this article, I will just have to try a few of the other things on my list. I also really appreciate the Laptop advise.

    Cheers,

    -Tabs

    Like

  19. Rolf Potts’ “Storming the Beach” was totally awesome.

    I’ve had my brushes with the Hollywood crowd. Back in the day, I delivered equipment to an Academy Awards show. Backstage I was standing next to Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra and Robert Holden as they shot the shit leaning on stage backdrops in their tuxedos.

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  20. There is no question about it- Rolph is the man when it comes to long term travel. Whether your a jet setter (my niche), a back packer or a vagabonder his words ring true. Great advice from two really smart guys!
    Best,
    Rob

    Like

  21. Glad you all liked “Storming ‘The Beach’” — it appears as the first chapter in my new book (along with endnotes about what went into living and writing it), and it’s still an old favorite of mine.

    I’m loving the feedback, here: It’s great to see so many people thinking and striving toward making the most of life on this earth! Time is your truest form of wealth, so it’s good to think about spending it well…

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  22. I’m sold! I must finally buy Vagabonding… then this one. I’ve been doing the lost cost travel things for years (mainly to South America) and absolutely love reading about the experiences of others.

    I agree with Rolf 100% that it is more fun, and more educational to read about the stories that challenged you… the ones that didn’t go as planned.

    Man, I can tell a few of them myslef. Thats what happens when you’re less than discriminatory in Rio de Janeiro with the women you choose..lol

    I find it incredible hard to travel write. I get lost in the moment when i’m away.. and it really isn’t until months or sometimes years later that I am able to make sense of the experiences.

    If its in the book… don’t tell me.. but where is one place a 30 year old guys must visit before he gets married (besides Rio)

    thanks…. looking forward to reading the book!

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  23. Rolf – You are all over my media streams. I see you are also attending the BootsnAll party. Sorry if this was mentioned early, I got impatient with the comment reading.

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  24. Hola Timoteo,

    I am enjoying your book, very fascinating…makes perfect sense to me (am going for a second read of your book right now). At 23, having started my own business a couple of years ago, it helps to understand that I don’t have to slave myself to 8-10 hours a day to be successful and keep to my passions. Your book does raise the bar (You’re a modern day Peter F. Drucker). Anyway, I am redeveloping a new company in the Real Estate Financing Sector with your concepts. Meanwhile, I picked up aviation classes to private pilot in 09, I start sport fencing tomorrow (that will be interesting) and in the morning I am to assist with a food drive. Thanks for being a blessing and a constant reminder that life is not all about redundant work…

    It’s a pleasure knowing you, have a great week.

    Buenas Noches,

    - Dynasty

    P.s. – about 2 years ago I had three palm pilots and I was addicted to feeling connected to information sources. With the constant travels I made, I misplaced or lost my phones so I had back ups and one for an assistant. Today, I don’t even own a cell phone and am sober free (from the cellular usage) for over a year. I get weird looks and strange remarks from people all the time about that habit. It’s been a liberating experience with the aid of your book. Adiós!

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  25. Hi All,

    Thanks so much for the great comments, kind words, and participation! You all make this blog so much fun for me.

    @Doc,

    The easiest way to reply to any of my questions on Twitter is to just put out a “tweet” yourself on Twitter with “@tferriss” in the beginning. That ensures that I will see it.

    G’night,

    Tim

    Like

  26. After reading this and reflecting my last vacation, I should have slowed down. I visited a lot of places in seven days but honestly there was no impact of such a beautiful place. It’s like eating you have to chew to enjoy the taste. My trip was a hugh gulp. Man I am glad I read this. Great stuff

    Like

  27. funny, about 6 months ago when i decided i was going to travel the world while working online I bought 4hww and Vegabonding from amazon on the same day. Very inspiring books, I leave in two months, first stop Guilin China.

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  28. Hi Tim,

    My name is Ori Kalmus and I will be attending the 2008 Blog World Expo in Las Vegas this weekend as a finalist in the competition to be the new Blogospondent for Southwest Airlines. My final project for this competition will have me compiling a 3-5 minute video on Las Vegas and the Blog Expo.
    I would really enjoy having a short interview with you this Friday or Saturday, just me and my Canon Camcorder, nothing special! I simply want to ask 2-3 questions which I will use in my video and that will be all. It can be as informal as standing on the side of an aisle at the expo, and I do not intend for it to take longer than 5 minutes.

    If you think this would be possible, please email me. Thank you and I look forward to hearing you speak at the Expo.

    Ori Kalmus

    Like

  29. I just got your new book Rolf, I am going to start reading it when I leave for Europe on the 13th of Oct. The timing was impeccable as it is nice to have some good reading material while on the road.

    Tim, thanks again for all the advices and so forth…….From Dallas…..

    Jose C. F.

    Like

  30. As a traveller, not semi-retired but instead working when I travel, I agree with the laptop advice, I just downsized again to a $800 12 inch Asus… which is just fast enough to get what I need done quick, and light to travel with – but I don’t stress about it getting lost.

    I use google calendar to schedule things like conference calls in the USA when I’m travelling in Europe – timezones the only thing to account for..

    And google docs and mail for my global inbox — with the obligatory vacation message ala Tim’s ”checking twice a day” as I’m not totally weaned off yet.

    Love the perspective from a writer too, I write and email but am not disciplined enough lately since the progression from ezine to blog… and the Vista laptop doesn’t enable with the modem in my LG phone, so I am offline much more than in the previous 5 years when out of the office.

    Loving the freedom,

    Mark

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  31. Great interview and as inspiring as ever. I’m just about to take off leading my mobile lifestyle after setting up my business and designing it to run without me. I set up a business helping companies and individuals turn knowledge into information products and passive income. I would have not done it without reading you book on a beach in Ibiza realising I had to do it!

    A question I have though is my business is still growing and I really do enjoy working on it. I know it will be on my mind while I’m away because I obviously want it to be more successful. Is there any planning advice you can offer before I go to do both to help me balance the two?

    A friend and me are going to live in Argentina. I’m sure doing a few hours of work (that I love) in the morning and having a full cultural experinec the rest of the time will be easy to balance? Or does it not happen like that?

    Thanks again Tim for a great blog!

    Like

  32. hi. 1st time user of a blog so pls forgive me if my question does relate to the topic, but i was not sure where/how to post a question in the correct place. Question relates to the book 4HWW – say you are running your own company and wish make some changes as per the book. You either employ some more people or delegae tasks that you were performing to existing staff so as you can free up more of your time for travel, sport…life etc. So now you are “working your 4 hour work week” and living the life that you have always wanted. What happens when your staff read the book or see their boss living this new life and they want to make those same changes? This is the only aspect in the book that I can’t get my head around. You could be half way around the world and your most trusted employee (who is being paid a high salary) decides to join you. What then? Does anyone have any comments/advice? Thanks.

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  33. What gets people reading out travel and “vagabonding” is that they are excited to read about something they wish that they could do or would do “if they had the chance.” It seems also that you have to brand yourself to the type of traveling and what people would expect. It might be said that one’s vagabonding may be anothers luxury cruise.
    Either way, the most important part is taking your time to really understand the culture and imerse yourself in it.

    Like

  34. Hi Guys,
    I am seeking some advise. My wife and I are currently on our first mini-retirement. I was calling it a mini-retirement long before I had ever picked up one of Tim’s books. It seems that everyone on earth has similar views, we all want to work less travel more.
    In order for us to take on our mini-retirement my wife and I had to work more, spend less and save more. We cut out many things we loved doing just to have that little bit more. However we are now having to eat into our mortgage to continue the lifestyle. This I am not happy about, but we have 2 months left before returning to the real world, so I can deal with it. Now my question for everyone is: ‘How can I earn an income while away traveling? What is the best option for someone who has a laptop and quite a bit of spare time?’
    I created [my site] while on this trip, fortunately the idea is sound, unfortunately the sales are not. As a result of this, I don’t want to spend more than an hour or two on the site a week. As such I am looking for further ideas, I am currently investigating drop-shipping. Ideally my goal would be to earn $200 US a day ($200 — our daily budget) from some kind of venture. I would be able to dedicate around around 4 hours a day if needed, though obviously the less the better. Can you guys, the NR, or NNR (nearly new rich) offer me some suggestions? And give a guy who currently needs a lot of help and a shove in the right direction?
    Thanks In Advance
    Jono

    Like

  35. Ahh, a wonderful post. My feet are itching for the open road!

    Thanks for sharing – i’ve always considered travel writing and enjoyed doing travel blogging during my trip. Great insights into the next step.

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  36. Tim, since reading both your book and Rolf’s Vagabonding, I’ve been inspired to spend a year+ living abroad in Southeast Asia, to (as Rolf puts it) *experience* life abroad (not just escape) while I still can as a 24-year-old with very few commitments.

    In a month, I’m finally leaving for Bangkok! I plan to put your geo-arbitrage advice into practice, and will continue to do some of my online consulting & development from a laptop while I travel, but I am curious what tips you have for staying in a foreign country for an extended period of time. Unless I find a job in Thailand, I believe I’ll be limited to just 60 days with an extended tourist visa that I’m getting in advance. I’m curious what your thoughts/tips are on visas and local jobs during an extended mini-vacation?

    Thanks for your time Tim; really appreciate everything you’ve shared on this blog!

    Like

  37. Thanks for the post – am definitely going to pick up a copy of Marco Polo Didn’t Go There!

    I have a couple of friends that travel frequently, though instead of writing about their travels, use photography as their medium. They have just self-published a book with their travel photos from Asia, and are working on their next one. They tend to be better at “slowing down” their trips than I am, and so have managed to capture things a little differently from the average tourist.

    Thought I would share – I find pictures just as inspiring as reading accounts of others’ travels. I hope you are inspired by my friends as much as I am!

    Like

  38. A perplexing question…..any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Hi Tim, Rolf, & Everyone,
    I need help making a decision….. I love learning, meeting new people, exploring new places, and experiencing life in all its fullness, and after reading Rolf Potts’ “Vagabonding” and Tim’s “4 Hour Work Week” books, I’ve wanted to take a round-the-world trip for over a year now. The perplexing part of choosing to do so is this: I’m 36 years old, have no committments or debt other than a 20K student loan, which I can delay payments on for a year and so it’s not a big deal in my eyes. Compounding the decision is the fact that I’m not sure where I want to go in life from here – this is a big factor. I don’t have the money saved to pay for a RTW trip, but can cash out my retirement (Traditional IRA) to pay for it. Yep, that means paying the taxes and the 10% penalty (which stinks), but the reason I’m considering doing so as opposed to just saving for the trip (which would take two years) is three fold:
    1. Age/time issue – I’m thinking about a relationship and family, and don’t want to wait much longer (bio click ticking, age, etc).
    2. Life direction change ? – I’m not sure where I want to go from here in my life. (Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m confused about this and yes I realize it affects the whole family idea too.) And I think a RTW experience may help guide me or provide some insights.
    3. I can replacement my retirement – Yes, I know, I know. Cashing out my Traditional IRA is a bad choice, but it’s also the age/time issue that I’m focused on. I’m young enough to replace the money and the two years I would spend saving money for the trip might be better invested in a different endeavor (i.e. a new path in life).

    I don’t know….maybe, I’m just over analyzing the situation. What does everyone think?

    thanks,
    Brian

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  39. Another very inspiring post. I just finished Vagabonding and am dieing to get back out there. Rolf and Tim, you two continue to do us all an unreal service. Thank you. I am off to write a review of Rolf’s book and start planning what’s next. Indonesia sounds like a great next stop.

    To Exploring,

    Scott

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  40. Tim!

    I’d first like to say that I read “The 4-Hour Work Week” while on vacation in San Diego this past February.. aside from encouraging me to quit a job that I’d been unhappy with for some time, it inspired me to consider a move to the west coast from Boston. Long story short – the goal is still there, but not much progress has been made in regard to my latter dream.. I don’t have any excuses, but I am working on living the life I know I want.

    Rolf!

    Your life truly inspires me. I’d like to consider myself a passionate writer as well as a passionate traveler, although you clearly have more than a hand up on me when it comes to both.. I only hope that after completing “Vagabonding” & “Marco Polo..”, I’ll finally have the courage to put my hands and my feet where my mouth is.. thank you!

    Best,
    Suz (a.k.a. Lil’ Boozie)
    “3 Troopin’ Travelers”

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  41. In late 2002 I was researching my first big backpacking trip around Africa (I had previously backpacked Europe but who hasn’t done that). I entered a contest on bootsnall.com (the best travel website I have ever found) that was promoting Rolf Potts’ first book “Vagabonding”. I won, got a free copy of the book and a round the world plane ticket through Airtreks. The book inspired me to continue my travels and since then I’ve been back to Africa, to Thailand, India 3 times, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica and most likely I’ll be living in China this time next year. It’s books like his and blogs like this that are expaninding young Americans’ realm of possibilities for a more non-traditional life after college. This in turn will create a more aware, worldly and understanding American society. I look forward to the day when Americans outnumber Australians at the hostels from Cape Town to Quito!

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  42. Nice take Rolf. Your view on slowing it down is a true one. I have an interesting dilemma…

    I have a job offer for $100K in a very stressful job. Seeing as I have no savings and little money in checking, I am very enticed by the position. In fact, it is a company that I have worked for before so I’m sure that I would excel in the position.

    On the flip side, I’m getting $1,000 every two weeks from unemployment, as I was laid off from Hewlett-Packard in November. Can one vagabond on $1,000 every two weeks? That said, I’m thinking I can work at this job for two years and have all the money in the world to vagabond with, while making money from automated income (thanks Tim) that I set up over those 2 years.

    Something to think about.

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  43. You are so right. Traveling is about the experiences and slowing down. We do not need to be the most efficient people when we are traveling. I know we think that sometimes we only have so much time to travel but slowing down can just make our experiences that much better.

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