The Difference: Living Well vs. Doing Well

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(Credit: h.koppdelaney)

“From all your herds, a cup or two of milk,
From all your granaries, a loaf of bread,
In all your palace, only half a bed:
Can man use more? And do you own the rest?”

– Ancient Sanskrit poem

Total post read time: 5 minutes.

Living well is quite different from “doing well.”

In the quest to get ahead — destination often unknown — it’s easy to have life pass you by while you’re focused on other things. This post is intended as a reminder and a manifesto: keep it simple.

This is written by Rolf Potts, author of my perennial favorite and heavily highlighted Vagabonding. In the below piece, I’ve bolded some particular parts that have had an impact on my life.

Enter Rolf.

###

In March of 1989, the Exxon Valdez struck a reef off the coast of Alaska, resulting in the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Initially viewed as an ecological disaster, this catastrophe did wonders to raise environmental awareness among average Americans. As television images of oil-choked sea otters and dying shore birds were beamed across the country, pop-environmentalism grew into a national craze.

Instead of conserving more and consuming less, however, many Americans sought to save the earth by purchasing “environmental” products. Energy-efficient home appliances flew off the shelves, health food sales boomed, and reusable canvas shopping bags became vogue in strip malls from Jacksonville to Jackson Hole. Credit card companies began to earmark a small percentage of profits for conservation groups, thus encouraging consumers to “help the environment” by striking off on idealistic shopping binges.

Such shopping sprees and health food purchases did absolutely nothing to improve the state of the planet, of course — but most people managed to feel a little better about the situation without having to make any serious lifestyle changes.

This notion — that material investment is somehow more important to life than personal investment — is exactly what leads so many of us to believe we could never afford to go vagabonding. The more our life options get paraded around as consumer options, the more we forget that there’s a difference between the two. Thus, having convinced ourselves that buying things is the only way to play an active role in the world, we fatalistically conclude that we’ll never be rich enough to purchase a long-term travel experience.

Fortunately, the world need not be a consumer product. As with environmental integrity, long-term travel isn’t something you buy into: it’s something you give to yourself.

Indeed, the freedom to go vagabonding has never been determined by income level, but through simplicity — the conscious decision of how to use what income you have.

And, contrary to popular stereotypes, seeking simplicity doesn’t require that you become a monk, a subsistence forager, or a wild-eyed revolutionary. Nor does it mean that you must unconditionally avoid the role of consumer. Rather, simplicity merely requires a bit of personal sacrifice: an adjustment of your habits and routines within consumer society itself.

“Our crude civilization engenders a multitude of wants… Our forefathers forged chains of duty and habit, which bind us notwithstanding our boasted freedom, and we ourselves in desperation, add link to link, groaning and making medicinal laws for relief.”
— John Muir, Kindred and Related Spirits

At times, the biggest challenge in embracing simplicity will be the vague feeling of isolation that comes with it, since private sacrifice doesn’t garner much attention in the frenetic world of mass culture.

Jack Kerouac’s legacy as a cultural icon is a good example of this. Arguably the most famous American vagabonder of the 20th century, Kerouac vividly captured the epiphanies of hand-to-mouth travel in books like On the Road and Lonesome Traveler. In Dharma Bums, he wrote about the joy of living with people who blissfully ignore “the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that crap they didn’t really want…general junk you always see a week later in the garbage anyway, all of [it] impersonal in a system of work, produce, consume.”

Despite his observance of material simplicity, however, Kerouac found that his personal life – the life that had afforded him the freedom to travel – was soon overshadowed by a more fashionable (and marketable) public vision of his travel lifestyle. Convertible cars, jazz records, marijuana (and, later, Gap khakis), ultimately came to represent the mystical “It” that he and Neal Cassidy sought in On the Road. As his Beat cohort William S. Burroughs was to point out years after his death, part of Kerouac’s mystique became inseparable from the idea that he “opened a million coffee bars and sold a million pairs of Levi’s to both sexes.”

In some ways, of course, coffee bars, convertibles and marijuana are all part of what made travel appealing to Kerouac’s readers. That’s how marketing (intentional and otherwise) works. But these aren’t the things that made travel possible for Kerouac. What made travel possible was that he knew how neither self nor wealth can be measured in terms of what you consume or own. Even the downtrodden souls on the fringes of society, he observed, had something the rich didn’t: Time.

This notion – the notion that “riches” don’t necessarily make you wealthy – is as old as society itself. The ancient Hindu Upanishads refer disdainfully to “that chain of possessions wherewith men bind themselves, and beneath which they sink”; ancient Hebrew scriptures declare that “whoever loves money never has money enough.” Jesus noted that it’s pointless for a man to “gain the whole world, yet lose his very self”, and the Buddha whimsically pointed out that seeking happiness in one’s material desires is as absurd as “suffering because a banana tree will not bear mangoes.”

Despite several millennia of such warnings, however, there is still an overwhelming social compulsion – an insanity of consensus, if you will – to get rich from life rather than live richly, to “do well” in the world instead of living well. And, in spite of the fact that America is famous for its unhappy rich people, most of us remain convinced that just a little more money will set life right. In this way, the messianic metaphor of modern life becomes the lottery – that outside chance that the right odds will come together to liberate us from financial worries once and for all.

“Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing…”
— Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road”

Fortunately, we were all born with winning tickets – and cashing them in is a simple matter of altering our cadence as we walk through the world. Vagabonding sage Ed Buryn knew as much: “By switching to a new game, which in this case involves vagabonding, time becomes the only possession and everyone is equally rich in it by biological inheritance. Money, of course, is still needed to survive, but time is what you need to live. So, save what little money you possess to meet basic survival requirements, but spend your time lavishly in order to create the life values that make the fire worth the candle. Dig?”

Dug. And the bonus to all of this is that – as you of sow your future with rich fields of time – you are also planting the seeds of personal growth that will gradually bloom as you travel into the world.

* * *

In a way, simplifying your life for vagabonding is easier than it sounds. This is because travel by its very nature demands simplicity. If you don’t believe this, just go home and try stuffing everything you own into a backpack. This will never work, because no matter how meagerly you live at home, you can’t match the scaled-down minimalism that travel requires. You can, however, set the process of reduction and simplification into motion while you’re still at home. This is useful on several levels: Not only does it help you to save up travel money, but it helps you realize how independent you are of your possessions and your routines. In this way, it prepares you mentally for the realities of the road, and makes travel a dynamic extension of the life-alterations you began at home.

“Travel can be a kind of monasticism on the move: On the road, we often live more simply, with no more possessions than we can carry, and surrendering ourselves to chance. This is what Camus meant when he said that “what gives value to travel is fear” — disruption, in other words, (or emancipation) from circumstance, and all the habits behind which we hide.
— Pico Iyer, “Why We Travel”

As with, say, giving up coffee, simplifying your life will require a somewhat difficult consumer withdrawal period. Fortunately, your impending travel experience will give you a very tangible and rewarding long-term goal that helps ease the discomfort. Over time, as you reap the sublime rewards of simplicity, you’ll begin to wonder how you ever put up with such a cluttered life in the first place.

On a basic level, there are three general methods to simplifying your life: stopping expansion, reining in your routine, and reducing clutter. The easiest part of this process is stopping expansion. This means that – in anticipation of vagabonding – you don’t add any new possessions to your life, regardless of how tempting they might seem. Naturally, this applies to things like cars and home entertainment systems, but this also applies to travel accessories. Indeed, one of the biggest mistakes people make in anticipation of vagabonding is to indulge in a vicarious travel buzz by investing in water filters, sleeping bags, and travel-boutique wardrobes. In reality, vagabonding runs smoothest on a bare minimum of gear – and even multi-year trips require little initial investment beyond sturdy footwear and a dependable travel bag or backpack.

While you’re curbing the material expansion of your life, you should also take pains to rein in the unnecessary expenses of your weekly routine. Simply put, this means living more humbly (even if you aren’t humble) and investing the difference into your travel fund. Instead of eating at restaurants, for instance, cook at home and pack a lunch to work or school. Instead of partying at nightclubs and going out to movies or pubs, entertain at home with friends or family. Wherever you see the chance to eliminate an expensive habit, take it. The money you save as a result will pay handsomely in travel time. In this way, I ate lot of baloney sandwiches (and missed out on a lot of grunge-era Seattle nightlife) while saving up for a vagabonding stint after college — but the ensuing eight months of freedom on the roads of North America more than made up for it.

“Very many people spend money in ways quite different from those that their natural tastes would enjoin, merely because the respect of their neighbors depends upon their possession of a good car and their ability to give good dinners. As a matter of fact, any man who can obviously afford a car but genuinely prefers travels or a good library will in the end be much more respected than if he behaved exactly like everyone else.”
— Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

Perhaps the most challenging step in keeping things simple is to reduce clutter – to downsize what you already own. As Thoreau observed, downsizing can be the most vital step in winning the freedom to change your life: “I have in my mind that seemingly wealthy, but most terribly impoverished class of all,” he wrote in Walden, “who have accumulated dross, but know not how to use it, or get rid of it, and thus have forged their own golden or sliver fetters.”

How you reduce your “dross” in anticipation of travel will depend on your situation. If you’re young, odds are you haven’t accumulated enough to hold you down (which, incidentally, is a big reason why so many vagabonders tend to be young). If you’re not-so-young, you can re-create the carefree conditions of youth by jettisoning the things that aren’t necessary to your basic well-being. For much of what you own, garage sales and on-line auctions can do wonders to unclutter your life (and score you an extra bit of cash to boot). Homeowners can win their travel freedom by renting out their houses; those who rent accommodation can sell, store, or lend out the things that might bind them to one place.

An additional consideration in life-simplification is debt. As Laurel Lee wryly observed in Godspeed, “cities are full of those who have been caught in monthly payments for avocado green furniture sets.” Thus, if at all possible, don’t let avocado green furniture sets (or any other seemingly innocuous indulgence) dictate the course of your life by forcing you into ongoing cycles of production and consumption. If you’re already in debt, work your way out of it – and stay out. If you have a mortgage or other long-term debt, devise a situation (such as property rental) that allows you to be independent of its obligations for long periods of time. Being free from debt’s burdens simply gives you more vagabonding options.

And, for that matter, more life options.

* * *

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self Reliance”

As you simplify your life and look forward to spending your new wealth of time, you’re likely to get a curious reaction from your friends and family. On one level, they will express enthusiasm for your impending adventures. But on another level, they might take your growing freedom as a subtle criticism of their own way of life. Because your fresh worldview might appear to call their own values into question (or, at least, force them to consider those values in a new light), they will tend to write you off as irresponsible and self-indulgent. Let them. As I’ve said before, vagabonding is not an ideology, a balm for societal ills, nor a token of social status. Vagabonding is, was, and always will be a private undertaking – and its goal is not to improve your life in relation to your neighbors, but in relation to yourself. Thus, if your neighbors consider your travels foolish, don’t waste your time trying to convince them otherwise. Instead, the only sensible reply is to quietly enrich your life with the myriad opportunities that vagabonding provides.

Interestingly, some of the harshest responses I’ve received in reaction to my vagabonding life have come while traveling. Once, at Armageddon (the site in Israel; not the battle at the end of the world), I met an American aeronautical engineer who was so tickled he had negotiated 5 days of free time into a Tel Aviv consulting trip that he spoke of little else as we walked through the ruined city. When I eventually mentioned that I’d been traveling around Asia for the past 18 months, he looked at me like I’d slapped him. “You must be filthy rich,” he said acidly. “Or maybe,” he added, giving me the once-over, “your mommy and daddy are.”

I tried to explain how two years of teaching English in Korea had funded my freedom, but the engineer would have none of it. Somehow, he couldn’t accept that two years of any kind of honest work could have funded 18 months (and counting) of travel. He didn’t even bother sticking around for the real kicker: In those 18 months of travel, my day-to-day costs were significantly cheaper than day-to-day life would have cost me back in the United States.

The secret to my extraordinary thrift was neither secret nor extraordinary: I had tapped into that vast well of free time simply by forgoing a few comforts as I traveled. Instead of luxury hotels, I slept in clean, basic hostels and guesthouses. Instead of flying from place to place, I took local buses, trains, and share-taxis. Instead of dining at fancy restaurants, I ate food from street-vendors and local cafeterias. Occasionally, I traveled on foot, slept out under the stars, and dined for free at the stubborn insistence of local hosts.

In what ultimately amounted to over two years of travel in Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, my lodging averaged out to just under $5 a night, my meals cost well under $1 a plate, and my total expenses rarely exceeded $1000 a month.

“When I was very young a big financier once asked me what I would like to do, and I said, ‘To travel.’ ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘it is very expensive; one must have a lot of money to do that.’ He was wrong. For there are two kinds of travelers; the Comfortable Voyager, round whom a cloud of voracious expenses hums all the time, and the man who shifts for himself and enjoys the little discomforts as a change from life’s routine.”
— Ralph Bagnold, Libyan Sands

Granted, I have simple tastes – and I didn’t linger long in expensive places – but there was nothing exceptional in the way I traveled. In fact, entire multi-national backpacker circuits (not to mention budget guidebook publishing empires) have been created by the simple abundance of such travel bargains in the developing world. For what it costs to fill your gas-tank back home, for example you can take a train from one end of China to the other. For the cost of a home-delivered pepperoni pizza, you can eat great meals for a week in Brazil. And, for a month’s rent in any major American city, you can spend a year in a beach hut in Indonesia. Moreover, even the industrialized parts of the world host enough hostel networks, bulk transportation discounts, and camping opportunities make long-term travel affordable.

Ultimately, you may well discover that vagabonding on the cheap becomes your favorite way to travel, even if given more expensive options. Indeed, not only does simplicity save you money and buy you time, it makes you more adventuresome, forces you into sincere contact with locals, and allows you the independence to follow your passions and curiosities down exciting new roads.

In this way, simplicity – both at home and on the road – affords you the time to seek renewed meaning in an oft-neglected commodity that can’t be bought at any price: life itself.

# # #

Resources for lifestyle simplicity

[Note from Tim: I took Walden with me, along with Vagabonding, when I traveled the world beginning in 2004. Less is More came a few months later, and I still reread it every six months or so.]

Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
The philosophical account of Thoreau’s experiment in anti-materialist living. An American literary classic for over 150 years.

Less Is More: The Art of Voluntary Poverty: An Anthology of Ancient and Modern Voices Raised in Praise of Simplicity, edited by Goldian Vandenbroeck (Inner Traditions, 1996)
Quotes and essays on the value of simplicity, from the likes of Socrates, Shakespeare, St. Francis, Benjamin Franklin, and Mohandas Gandhi — as well as the Bible, the Dhammapada, the Tao Te Ching, and the Bhagavad Gita.

Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence, by Joe Dominguez, Vicki Robin (Penguin USA, 2008)
A best-selling book that uses a nine-step process to demonstrate how most people are making a “dying” instead of a living. Practical pointers for achieving financial independence by altering your lifestyle.

Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich, by Duane Elgin (Quill, 1993)

First published in 1981, this is a popular reference and inspiration for those looking to live a simpler life. Strongly themed toward environmental sustainability.

The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living, by Janet Luhrs (Broadway Books, 1997)
Luhrs is the founder and publisher of The Simple Living Journal (and the companion website). Book contains tips for living fully and well through simplicity.

Budgeting and money management

The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Living on a Budget, by Peter J. Sander, Jennifer Basye Sander (Alpha Books, 2005)
A concise guide to planning and abiding by a day-to-day budget.

The Budget Kit: The Common Cents Money Management Workbook, by Judy Lawrence (Kaplan, 2008)
Easy-to-use tips for managing your finances and getting the most out of your income.

The Complete Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift As a Viable Alternative Lifestyle by Amy Dacyczyn (Random House, 1999)
Nine hundred pages of compiled tips for frugal living.

How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously, by Jerrold Mundis (Bantam, 2003)
This book helps you get out of debt, stay out of debt, and live prosperously.

Generation Debt: Take Control of Your Money, Carmen Wong Ulrich (Business Plus, 2006)
Personal financial advice for young adults.

The Dollar Stretcher
An online resource for saving money in day-to-day life. Weekly columns on thrift and simplicity.

Get Rich Slowly
A detailed blog with personal finance tips.

Vagabonding for seniors

Exploritas

The world’s largest educational and travel organization for adults 55 and over. Offers 10,000 programs a year in over 100 countries. A good way for traveling seniors to get a taste of other cultures before striking off on their own.

State Department Travel Tips for Older Americans
Posted online, this tip sheet is a useful primer for older independent travelers. Topics covered include trip preparation, passport and visas, health, money and valuables, safety precautions, and shopping.

Transitions Abroad’s Best Senior Travel Websites
Extensive rundown of links, resources and articles about senior travel.

Lonely Planet’s older travelers’ forum
An online message board for senior travelers.

AARP Travel
Products, services and discounts for travelers aged 50 and over.

Boomeropia
Online travel resources for Baby Boomers.

Vagabonding with children

Lonely Planet Travel With Children, by Cathy Lanigan (Lonely Planet, 2002)

A practical guide to the challenges and joys of traveling with children, including trip preparation and kid-friendly destinations.

Gutsy Mamas: Travel Tips and Wisdom for Mothers on the Road, by Marybeth Bond (Travelers’ Tales, 1997)
Inspirational and informative advice on staying healthy on the road, traveling to third world countries (and close to home), and keeping children of all ages entertained and adults energized.

Your Child Abroad: A Travel Health Guide, by Jane Wilson-Howarth, Matthew Ellis. (Bradt Publications, 2005)
Accessible and practical health information for parents traveling with children to far-flung areas of the world.

One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind for a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children, by David Elliot Cohen (Simon & Schuster, 1999)

When David Elliot Cohen turned 40, he quit his job, sold his house and car and left to travel the world — with his wife and three kids (aged 8, 7, and 2) in tow. A first-hand account of how vagabonding exotic lands can be a family experience.

Take Your Kids to Europe: How to Travel Safely (and Sanely) in Europe with Your Children, by Cynthia Harriman (Globe Pequot, 2007)
A book of practical tips for traveling families traveling to Europe on limited budgets.

Adventuring With Children: An Inspirational Guide to World Travel and the Outdoors, by Nan Jeffrey (Avalon, 1995)
A classic book of advice on roaming the world with children, including preparation tips and adventurous family destinations.

Family Travel: The Farther You Go, the Closer You Get, by Laura Manske (Travelers’ Tales, 2000)
A collection of literary tales about family travel.

The Family Sabbatical Handbook: The Budget Guide To Living Abroad With Your Family, by Elisa Bernick (Intrepid Traveler, 2007)
Advice for families considering an expatriate stint abroad.

WorldTrek: A Family Odyssey, by Russell and Carla Fisher (Rainbow Books, 2007)
A family of four spends a year traveling the world.

Family Travel Forum
Online information on worldwide destinations for adults and children. Features discussion boards and advice for all manner of family travel issues.

Traveling Internationally With Your Kids
Online resources for traveling overseas with children. Features guidebook recommendations, trip preparation tips, and activity suggestions.

Delicious Baby
Ideas and stories about how to make travel fun for kids.

Families on the Road

For families who are on the road fulltime, on extended road trips, or are just dreaming about it.

Boostnall Traveling with Children forum
An online message board where family travelers can ask questions and share information.

Lonely Planet’s Kids to Go
Another useful online family-travel message board.

Pilgrims’ Progress

A Kiwi family with eight kids and a grandpa chronicle their pilgrimage from Singapore to London and beyond — overland all the way.

Traveling with Elliot
A blog documenting parent-child travel around the globe.

Six in the World
A family of six, ranging in age from 38 to 4, embarked on an 11-month round-the-world adventure in August 2006. This blog tracks their preparation, travels, and return to the US.

(A version of this post originally appeared as Chapter 3 in Vagabonding by Rolf Potts)

Posted on: May 12, 2010.

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208 comments on “The Difference: Living Well vs. Doing Well

  1. Thanks for posting this, Tim. I needed it, both as a reminder on the value of travel and to help move its financial support back to the top of the priority list. Everyone should start moving their 401k, SARSEP, and other investments into Vaga Bonds. JSJ

    Like

  2. Unconditional happiness. That’s what I’m all about. The ego loves stuff. The ego loves ANYTHING outside of itself, when all the happiness we really need is already available to us. Much like the Schwartz ring in the movie “Spaceballs”, the stuff we have is the key to our true selves, but we don’t really need the stuff. All the stuff does is open up a path to that unlimited joy that is in us all the time, but if we can learn to find a new way to get to that source, our lives will become exponentially incredible every time we look. Well, mine has anyway…

    Like

  3. This was a great post. I have been reflecting on these very points the last few days. I first read 4HWW a couple of years ago and made a plan to get outta my day job, did that but now find myself working as hard and worrying about it. I didn’t get the time back I wanted… These points will help me get back on track along with some self reflection and writing I think.

    Like

  4. Very inspiring. I’m already picturing a few items that I could do without. Thankfully, I go to school in a VERY cheap area of upstate NY. I may stay there after graduation and work virtually / locally and save up money to travel Europe and Asia.

    Like

  5. Tim F,

    Fabulous post. I’ve got no idea why you write about the subjects you do; whether it’s for other people’s benefit – to educate and open minds; or whether it’s to stimulate thoughtful conversation with like-minded people; or maybe it’s something completely different. Either way, I’m glad you do. Why? Because, once again, as I sit here reading one of your articles and the clever, informed, comments it has generated, I’m reminded (again) that going out to work to ‘earn a living’ (particularly in the manner I do) is so, so far from really ‘living’ that it is laughable. And for these (constant) wake-up reminders, I cannot thank you enough!

    Keep it up.

    Tim

    Like

  6. Help! Have you ever taken on the challenge to help a mother of three? I’ve read both of your books and don’t know what to do when I grow up. I was in real estate and real estate was my obsession (until my husband told me to take a new job). Obviously, there is no future career in real estate. I have taken on another job that I know is not exactly where I want to be but pays the bills. I need help. I can’t settle for average.

    I do wish I could have provided you with a “success story”.

    Any ideas, suggestions, advice….

    Thanks!

    Like

  7. I’d have to agree with the skeptics on the reading time. 3000 words in 5 minutes == 600 wpm. More typical is 250 wpm, or 12 minutes. 600 is quite fast, and for a post that’s supposed to be though-provoking, doesn’t leave much time for thinking.

    Leo

    Like

  8. Great Great Article. Thank you for this.

    I would like to also recommend a book to you if I may that guides me on the path less travelled. It really should be on the list above. The title is “Free Parking” written by a Canadian named “Alan Dickson” who describes himself as a recovering financial planner.

    “Earn Less – Live More” is the subtitle.
    Needless to say I read this book cover to cover regularly to keep focused moving forward when choosing life over making a living.

    Dana

    Like

  9. Personally this quote sums it up for me.

    “Content makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor.”
    Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist and philosopher.

    Like

  10. I think a lot of people spend their lives on autopilot, always pursuing more than they need or even want, without understanding why, instead of just achieving what’s necessary to express their personalities and their own desires, and to live the way they genuinely want to live.

    Like

  11. Awesome post, but I do have a question. I don’t doubt that the beach huts can be found at great prices compared to living in a US city, but does anyone have any information on where to get these deals? I Tried googling a bit, but haven’t come up with much.

    I think debt is my big thing, but reading this post makes me want to take action and enjoy life. I feel very tied down at the moment with big car payments and student loan bills to pay each month. I’m thinking I will try selling my car and freeing up some income so that I can some day set out and travel as well.

    When you think about it, we really do accumulate a lot of useless crap over the years.

    Like

  12. Great post. I move every three to eight months and still add Uni into the mix. I am currently living in Bangkok and fluttering around the region heading back to study too soon. Here is my advice/insight into being a minimalist or enjoying extended travel (or just being away from Homebase):

    –To keep it cheap– It’s less costly to travel in the off-season of a country (i.e. Not tourist season) hotel prices are down and there are a lot more deals and specials available (or at least made noticeable) to tourists. Ex. I came to Bangkok right after the Red Shirt Protests (and while I do live with family that moved here long ago) hotel prices have been cut dramatically (some 50%) and there was No traffic!! Now things are almost back to normal, but prices are still down. Fyi. Even if there wasn’t a crisis prices are still low in the off-season in lots of countries.

    –Think about what you value about your home routine, you can tie it into your travel lifestyle– I value a good workout because it sets the pace of my day and keeps me healthy physically and mentally. The hardest part for me when I move is adapting my workout routine to my new lifestyle. But, once you realize you need to find a way to incorporate that valued routine into your life, wherever you are, it can make the whole experience much more enjoyable.

    –Take Baby steps– You don’t have to give up your life at home if you don’t want to. Especially if you are older and have lived somewhere for a long time, doesn’t mean you have to give it all up (but it may be necessary to downsize). Take baby steps, if you do this you will learn if and how you want to incorporate these travel experiences into your current life. I’m currently helping my dad do this. My sisters still live in the house and it is not time to move yet, but every time I go back I clean out a room and go through all of our stuff and either give it away or prepare them for a yard sale (I don’t stay long) As for me all my belongings fit in my car and I usually just borrow a bed and dresser from family or friends nearby wherever I am (in the US). Not many people are minimalists, so you could have many options. –to start.. what are you doing this weekend? Oh nothing? Well pack ONE bag and get the hell out of town! (go to the mountains, on a boat ride, to another state nearby, you don’t have to get on a plane yet if that is a big step)

    –Learn your pace— What do you enjoy doing when you travel? Do you just want to relax on a beach? Do you want to immerse yourself in a culture? Do you just want to see the sights? Do you want to travel from place to place and not stop? Any of these will work, as long as you are happy doing them. The purpose of these experiences is not to come ‘home’ and compare where you’ve been and how much you know with someone else, the purpose is to add happiness and value to your life. I’m still figuring this out and I know what I don’t want and slowly figuring out what I do want and how I get the most out of where I am. Tim is a great example (if I understand correctly): He has learned that he enjoys learning about other cultures and the activities within them and he is willing to invest his time into doing this. The book, blog, etc. are byproducts of his experiences, and he seems to enjoy passing along what he has learned to anyone willing to listen (just like everyone else whether family, friends, or strangers). Lucky us!

    Although long that was my brief two cents on the traveling/minimalist lifestyle. Hopefully helpful to those who think they’ll leave the vagabonding to the “professionals”. Just remember where the professionals began!

    Kristin

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  13. Developing and living a set of core values will de-clutter your life in astounding ways. It’s ok to “have it all” but your core values will allow you to determine what is important to you and your life. Simple but effective way to live. Here’s some great core values to get started, keep your list about to about 10 or 12 core values. Appreciation, humility, valor, understanding and forgiveness.

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  14. That’s an amazing article to read and it’s very inspirational. For a long time I dream of traveling the world and I have no problem with simplicity, sleeping in hostels or taking buses and trains at all. I would give up a lot to be able to travel for months.
    The think that sadness me is that all of the articles of this type are write from American point of view and as much as I love this article this advices just can’t help me in my situation. For example: “and my total expenses rarely exceeded $1000 a month” maybe sound cheap for an average American or someone from Western Europe, but I’m from Bosnia and my month income is around 500 dollars, so no matter how much I simplify my life, I am still far away from being able to travel, even the way described in the article.
    Is there any advice for someone like me?

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  15. I seriously loved this blog, thank you so much! I’ve always been good at letting go of ‘stuff’ and feel even more determination to let go of what’s left. I think decluttering your home and life frees up so much energy for pursuing your dreams.

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  16. Hi, everyone!

    I’ve been living out of my suitcase for the past two months and have worn the same clothes during this time. Luckily, I’ve been doing laundry along the way! My sweety and I have been able to visit Australia, Nunavut (Canada), Yellowknife, NWT (Canada) and Indiana as well as Winnipeg, Manitoba.

    It’s very, very easy to keep in touch these days via Facebook and webmail to stay on top of business and connect with friends and family.

    At 38, I’ve never been happier. This morning I cooked a meal for my sweety and a dear friend who checked his nets at 1 am with the tides last night. Our friend donated his catch to us and our crew for tonight’s feast. It’s marinating right now for supper. After, we’ll have a cake in the shape of an ulu for a friend’s birthday. Then for 5 dollars, we’ll be able to attend a community music festial for a few hours before heading up the hill to our tent.

    As I write this, I’m amazed at how much I’ve accumulated over the past 4 years living in one place. Most of it I do not need. I’m so happy to be moving next month as I’ll cull a lot before I go and give all of my furniture away.

    I think one of the quickest ways to cull your stuff is to move. When your movers are charging you by the pound things become clear very early about what you really need and want in your life.

    I’ve read Tim’s book and love it so much. Even just looking at the cover fires me up for business and starting scholarships for my communities who’ve always been there for me. Thank you, Tim!

    It is a joy to wake up every day and know the basics are covered (food, warmth, a quick check of the Internet, laundry if we need it, visiting with friends and elders and some serious cuddling every single night) at a very low cost.

    My question is about renting versus owning a home. I’ve always rented and find that landlords are fabulous when it comes to looking out for you if you are respectful of them and their property. I find so many friends who own a home are cash poor and usually have an excuse for not doing a lot of things.

    Mind you, I do not have children and having children and becoming a home-owner usually go hand in hand.

    Is there a book or movement out there that suggests renting is the way to go? I have investments and many ways of generating money on the road, but it seems to me that renters have a bliss they keep to themselves.

    Anyhow, please respond and let me know what you think about renting vs. owning. Tim, you’ve created an international movement for this generation and please come out with more books, etc.

    You’re a man on the move and you remind us all of our dreams and what’s important: health, time, friends and family, adventure, spontenaity and not knowing what will happen next. There’s a joy in this. I feel it every day.

    Take care,

    Richard

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    • Hi Richard,

      I just sold a home at a six-figure loss because I decided home ownership wasn’t for me. I prefer the flexibility of renting and have no plans to purchase homes in the near future.

      Congrats on the wonderful travels!!!

      All the best,

      Tim

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  17. Hi Tim,

    This is just to thank you and The 4-Hour Workweek for providing me with the tools and encouragement to take a 2-month “mini retirement” overseas earlier this spring. It took a lot of budgeting because I chose not to work while traveling and still had to maintain certain expenses at home, but the experience was tremendous! I volunteered, rented an apartment in a city I’d always wanted to visit, unleashed a long-suppressed creative streak by keeping an online travel and photo diary, made some beautiful friendships and returned home without a job but incredibly satisfied and rejuvenated to continue to make future choices about “living well” instead of “doing well.” To anyone reading this, you really can do this too!

    P.S. I think we were in Amsterdam (for Queen’s Day) and Istanbul at the same time!

    Best wishes,

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  18. Thanks Tim! Inspiring as always. Got my goals set on not just living well, but doing well at the same time still. I think you’ve proven that both can be done if your focus is right.

    Aaron Gaily

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  19. After falling into the trap of a job which I worked from dawn until dusk to pay for my 1/4 of a million pound mortgage on a 5 bed house, and material possessions such as TV’s and entertainment systems, I decided enough was enough. I sold EVERYTHING and quit my job, 6 weeks from making my decision – with a couple of suitcases I bought a plane ticket to Egypt and I never looked back. I started my virtual business, which I established in Egypt (it’s a great place to go if you want your money to stretch a long way) where I was for over 2 years, since then I have lived in the UK, France, Spain and soon off to Italy. I have no desire for anything other than as little as possible – it makes it so much easier to move around :)

    I met my husband along the way too and had 2 children both born in different countries – it’s so much fun!

    Great article Tim, thank you…

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  20. Dear all

    just a quick message and question, I recently read The 4 Hour Work Week from someone who brought it to my Filipino Martial Arts class. It really touched on the many anxieties and concerns that I have as I find myself in a situation where I am stuck in a job I never wanted and “dying a slow spiritual death” as you put it. After reading the book however it seemed that Tim and many of the NRs already came from an entrepreneurial background and past work history in the private sector. So I suppose one of the questions I had was, is an NR necessarily always an entrepreneur/business type person? How does Tim’s book apply to a lowly public sector worker such as myself, or even a bartender, gym instructor, teacher, accountant or unemployed person? In fact the latter five are friends of mine who have all purchased the book after I recommended it to them as they are in the same situation as me. I don’t really have a business mind although I am taking the concepts in the book very seriously and I am willing to learn the workings of entrepreneurial initiatives and outsourced business. If anyone can answer this question I would be grateful.

    regards

    Adam

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    • Hi Adam,

      Thanks for the comment. I believe business building is a learnable skill. Take heart! The “Automation” section should help you develop some entrepreneurial critical thinking, and then it’s all about experimenting and trial and error. I just had a slight head start, that’s all.

      Good luck!

      Tim

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  21. Hi Tim

    Thanks for that, in fact Ive already started outsourcing, been hiring assistants to re-work my CV and do my application forms, more time to have fun!! My other question was would VAs from companies such as Brickwork and YMII also conduct research on niche markets and re-sale techniques let alone set up my webpage for my business? I just dont have the time to do all that or study too much about the workings of business, economics etc although once I leave my job then I will.

    Adam

    Adam

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  22. Great article. A couple of years ago my sister and I moved to Tokyo to work and travel. We basically moved with nothing and then found jobs and traveled around Southeast Asia. We were in Asia a year total. We only let ourselves take regular school backpacks, not those huge traveler backpacks when we arrived in Bangkok. We never needed more and loved living with less. We also decided to take only the local methods of transportation which made for some crazy interesting adventures in the north of Thailand and Laos, that included hitchiking some 300 miles. Our best memories are when we took the local way. It wasn’t always comfortable but we got to slow down and live in each moment and we met the sweetest people.

    If you really need it, you can find it on the road. Just pack some bug spray and sunscreen and have an adventure!!!!!!

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  23. From someone who grew up in the Philippines, lived in the US (Los Angeles and Vegas), and then moved to Thailand in my late 20’s, this article surely hits home.

    Thank you for introducing us to Rolf’s work.

    Simplicity and freeing up time for meaningful activities- like engaging in one’s passion and spending time with loved ones- should be top priorities.
    My parents gave us a comfortable yet simple and laid-back upbringing. After moving to the States and having lived there for over 5 years, I experienced expensive dining, fancy car rides, fancy hotel rooms etc. Was I happier there than my previous stay in the Philippines and my current stay in Thailand? A resounding “No!”.

    Great blog. I can’t wait for your future work and Rolf’s as well. :-)

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  24. Don’t forget that the United Nations predicts, accurately I believe, that the population of earth by 2050 will be 9.3 billion souls. Question: who is going to feed, education and care for these people. Yep, you guessed it. All of us. That takes a lot of work, creativity and peace to keep earth a sane place to live. A loin cloth, bowl of rice, reflections, and donkey will not help anyone. We need approximately 9.3 billion pair of shoes, pants, shirts, hats, glasses, band aides, books, computers, hamburgers, coca colas, carrots and a few other things.
    Get real, ladies and gentlemen, if you don’t work hard and creatively, the global village will falter and descend into one of the biggest hell holes you can ever imagine, and recent history (you don’t have to go back far, Cambodia’s killing fields will do) proves it.
    See you Monday on the 8:00 a.m. bus.

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  25. Tim,

    2 Things: 1) You lied. Or are an incredibly fast reader. Total read time (not counting the book recommendations): 11:36, timed on my Android. 2) Great post, very inspiring! I have not read Vagabonding yet but it sounds awesome. Also, I humbly appreciate the book recommendations on money management. I think we can all use a little more advice in that life quadrant.

    Thanks!
    Tim

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  26. The marketplace seeks to interlock with our human makeup: emotions, insecurities, desires. In our society, virtually impossible to escape. With two young boys, I see them being drawn into it…and we not about to go live in the woods. I make them aware that when they feel that desire it’s because the marketing has put a deliberate hook in them. It’s fun to watch them realize the feeling of that hook. When they are teenagers we intend to vagabond to bring about the full feeling that you don’t need all this stuff and that a rich life is truly about experiences with other living creatures.

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  27. I love it! this is how I travel. People constantly ask me how I can take as much time to travel as I do. I do it by adjusting myself and excellent savings habits. Here’s a video from one of my recent escapades where I got to meet Frank Kern.

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  28. This is an amazing blog post!!! I’ve read so many things like this before, but never expressed with such beauty and clarity. Thank you!

    Sharing immediately :-)

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