67 Quotes From Rolf Potts’ Vagabonding That Will Make You Rethink the Art of Travel

67 Quotes From Rolf Potts’ Vagabonding That Will Make You Rethink the Art of Travel

Rolf Potts’ book, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, has long been a staple in the must read selections of those with a sense of wanderlust. Upon reading the book, it’s no wonder why it has managed to procure such a cult-like following.

Indeed, American entrepreneur, Tim Ferriss has listed it as one of his top-10 life-changing books, and it has been reviewed by big name media outlets, all the way from National Geographic Traveler to USA Today.

The book is effectively a guide on how to get the most out of long-term travel. It is not only inspiring, but it downright implores readers to go out and experience the world for themselves, if not for only a little while.

Vagabonding is chock-full of deliciously satisfying quotes through and through. The problem with reading the book once and then setting it aside, as with any book, is that you are always liable to forget the majority of quotes which were first read so movingly.

In any case, below you’ll find a one-stop list for some of the most sumptuous quotes offered in the book. They are cited from passages not only written by Rolf Potts, but also from sections placed in the margins written by other authors.

And by the way, if you haven’t already read it, don’t let these few quotes suffice for actually picking up the book for yourself.

You can also find more resources and updated information on the Vagabonding website.

Quotes from Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

  1. Even if the practical reality of travel is still months or years away, vagabonding begins the moment you stop making excuses, start saving money, and begin to look at maps with the narcotic tingle of possibility. (12)

  2. Wanting to travel reflects a positive attitude. You want to see, to grow in experience, and presumably to become more whole as a human being. Vagabonding takes this a step further: It promotes the chances of sustaining and strengthening this positive attitude. As a vagabond, you begin to face your fears now and then instead of continuously sidestepping them in the name of convenience. You build an attitude that makes life more rewarding, which in turn makes it easier to keep doing it. It’s called positive feedback, and it works. –Ed Buryn, Vagabonding in Europe and North Africa

  3. A vacation, after all, merely rewards work. Vagabonding justifies it. (18)

  4. A lot of us first aspired to far-ranging travel and exotic adventure early in our teens; these ambitions are, in fact, adolescent in nature, which I find an inspiring idea. … Thus, when we allow ourselves to imagine as we once did, we know, with sudden jarring clarity, that if we don’t go right now, we’re never going to do it. And we’ll be haunted by our unrealized dreams and know that we have sinned against ourselves gravely. –Tim Cahill, “Exotic Places Made Me Do It”

  5. Rather, you should enthusiastically and unapologetically include your vagabonding experience on your resume when you return. List the job skills travel has taught you: independence, flexibility, negotiation, planning, boldness, self-sufficiency, improvisation. (19)

  6. Indeed, the freedom to go vagabonding has never been determined by income level; it’s found through simplicity—the conscious decision of how to use what income you have. (29)

  7. … as you cultivate your future with rich fields of time, you are also sowing the seeds of personal growth that will gradually bloom as you travel into the world. (32)

  8. 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”

  9. 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”

  10. I’ve said before, vagabonding is not an ideology, a balm for societal ills, or a token of social status. Vagabonding is, was, and always will be a private undertaking—and its goal is to improve your life not in relation to your neighbors but in relation to yourself. (36)

  11. 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. (38)

  12. The reason vagabonding is so appealing is that it promises to show you the destinations and experience you’ve dreamed about; but the reason vagabonding is so addictive is that, joyfully, you’ll never quite find what you dreamed. (48-49)

  13. “The world is a book,” goes a saying attributed to Saint Augustine, “and those who do not travel read only one page.” (49)

  14. The gift of the information age, after all, is knowing your options—not your destiny—and those people who plan their travels with the idea of eliminating all uncertainty and unpredictability are missing out on the whole point of leaving home in the first place. (50-51)

  15. As John Steinbeck wrote in Travels with Charley, “Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity … no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” (51)

  16. A good traveler has no fixed plan, and is not intent on arriving. –Lao-Tzu, The Way of Life

  17. When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find in himself a good and sufficient reason for going. This to the practical bum is not difficult. He has a built-in garden of reason to choose from. Next he must plan his trip in time and space, choose a direction and a destination. –John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley

  18. Before the development of tourism, travel was conceived to be like study, and its fruits were considered to be the adornment of the mind and the formation of the judgement. The traveler was a student of what he sought. –Paul Fussell, Abroad

  19. Vagabonding is not like bulk shopping: The value of your travels does not hinge on how many stamps you have in your passport when you get home—and the slow, nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of forty countries. (64)

  20. This in mind, pack a dozen or so visa-sized photos of yourself, just to avoid the hassle of getting mug shots overseas. Check the visa requirements of your initial destination before you leave …(64)

  21. Dragging an enormous pack full of junk from place to place is the surest way to hamstring your flexibility and turn your travels into a ridiculous, grunting charade. (66)

  22. “Excitement and depression, fortune and misfortune, pleasure and pain,” wrote Dhammapada scholar Eknath Easwaran, “are storms in a tiny, private, shell-bound realm—which we take to be the whole of existence. Yet we can break out of this shell and enter a new world.” (88)

  23. If there’s one key concept to remember amid the excitement of your first days on the road, it’s this: Slow down. (89)

  24. Vagabonding is about not merely reallotting a portion of your life for travel but rediscovering the entire concept of time. (89)

  25. In living so far away from your home, you’ll suddenly find yourself holding a clean slate. There’s no better opportunity to break old habits, face latent fears, and test out repressed facets of your personality. (90)

  26. When you travel you experience, in a very practical way, the act of rebirth. You confront completely new situations, the day passes more slowly, and on most journeys you don’t even understand the language the people speak. … You begin to be more accessible to others, because they may be able to help you in difficult situations. –Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

  27. But the traveler’s world is not the ordinary one, for travel itself, even the most commonplace, is and implicit quest for anomaly. –Paul Fussell, Abroad

  28. The practice of soulful travel is to discover the overlapping point between history and everyday life, the way to find the essence of every place, every day: in the markets, small chapels, out-of-the-way parks, craft shops. Curiosity about the extraordinary in the ordinary moves the heart of the traveler intent on seeing behind the veil of tourism. –Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage

  29. It’s almost as if the tourist trail has become some kind of science-fiction force field—a web of attractions, amenities, and infrastructure from which only intrepid heroes can escape. (94)

  30. In this way, vagabonding is like a pilgrimage without a specific destination or goal—not a quest for answers so much as a celebration of the questions, an embrace of the ambiguous, and an openness to anything that comes your way. (97)

  31. “We see as we are,” said the Buddha, and rarely is this quite so evident as when we travel. (108)

  32. Those who visit foreign nations, but associate only with their own country-men, change their climate, but not their customs. They see new meridians, but the same men; and with heads as empty as their pockets, return home with traveled bodies, but untraveled minds. –Charles Caleb Colton, Lacon

  33. After all, cultural identity is instinctive, not intellectual—and this means that the challenge will come not in how you manage your own manners but in how you instinctively react to the unfamiliar manners of others. (110)

  34. In this way, cultural awareness is often the positive product of rather negative experiences—and no amount of sensitivity training can compare to what you’ll learn by accident. (111)

  35. On the road, a big prerequisite for keeping your sense of humor is to first cultivate a sense of humility. After all, it can be hard to laugh at yourself if you swagger through the world like you own it. (112)

  36. The art of learning fundamental common values is perhaps the greatest gain of travel to those who wish to live at ease among their fellows. –Freya Stark, Perseus in the Wind

  37. If you strongly identify with your immigrant roots, a trip to your ethnic homeland could be the biggest culture shock of all. (128)

  38. We need sometimes to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment no matter what. –George Santayana, “The Philosophy of Travel”

  39. Explorations is not so much a covering of surface distance as a study in depth: a fleeting episode, a fragment of landscape or a remark overheard that may provide the only means of understanding and interpreting areas which would otherwise remain barren of meaning. –Claude Levi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques

  40. In fact, having an adventure is sometimes just a matter of going out and allowing things to happen in a strange and amazing new environment—not so much a physical challenge as a psychic one. (139)

  41. The secret of adventure, then, is not to carefully seek it out but to travel in such a way that it finds you. To do this, you first need to overcome the protective habits of home and open yourself up to unpredictability. (139)

  42. Good judgment can come from bad experiences; good experiences can come from bad judgment. The key in all of this is to trust chance, and to steer it in such a way that you’re always learning from it. (141)

  43. Adventure is wherever you allow it to find you—and the first step of any exploration is to discover its potential within yourself. (142)

  44. “Explore your own higher latitudes,” wrote Thoreau in Walden. “Be a Columbus to whole new continents within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.” (142)

  45. “Good people keep walking whatever happens,” taught the Buddha. “They do not speak vain words and are the same in good fortune and bad” (142)

  46. Learn to treasure your worst experiences as gripping (if traumatic) new chapters in the epic novel that is your life. (143)

  47. Most people are on the world, not in it—having no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them—undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate. -John Muir, The Wilderness World of John Muir

  48. By the vacuous standards of fashion, insiders and outsiders are necessary, but in the realm of travel (where, by definition, you are always a guest in foreign places) such a distinction is ridiculous. (159)

  49. With escape in mind, vacationers tend to approach their holiday with grim resolve, determined to make their experience live up to their expectations; on the vagabonding road, you prepare for the long haul knowing that the predictable and the unpredictable, the pleasant and the unpleasant are not separate but part of the same ongoing reality. (159)

  50. For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints. -Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with A Donkey in The Cevennes

  51. In this way, “seeing” as you travel is somewhat of a spiritual exercise: a process not of seeking interesting surroundings, but of being continually interested in whatever surrounds you. … Thus, the best way to confront reality is not with a set method of interpretation (which will allow you to recognize only patterns you already know) but with a sincere attitude of open-mindedness. (160)

  52. At home, political convictions are a tool for getting things done within your community; on the road, political convictions are a clumsy set of experiential blinders, compelling you to seek evidence for conclusions you’ve already drawn. (161)

  53. In this way, any idealized search for the Other threatens disappointment in a world where the Other can often resemble home. (162-163)

  54. We all have stuck in us deep somewhere a keenness for excitement, a savoring for the kooky, a leap-for-life outlook. From this comes the catalytic impetus, without which all other requirements mean nothing. Everyday types are as likely to have this sine qua non as the obvious icon-kickers. The person who strikes off for himself is no hero, nor necessarily even unconventional, but to a greater degree than most people, he or she thinks and acts independently. The vagabond frees in himself the latent urge to live closer to the edge of experience. –Ed Buryn, Vagabonding in Europe and North Africa

  55. Travel is a creative act—not simply loafing and inviting your soul, but feeding on the imagination, accounting for each fresh wonder, memorizing, and moving on. … And the best landscapes, apparently dense or featureless, hold surprises if they are studied patiently, in the kind of discomfort one can savor afterward. -Paul Theroux, To the Ends of The Earth

  56. Travel, I was coming to realize, was a metaphor not only for the countless options life offers but also for the fact that choosing one option reduces you to the parameters of that choice. (173)

  57. On a broader and more mythical level, however, walkabout acts as a kind of remedy when the duties and obligations of life cause one to lose track of his or her true self. To correct this, one merely leaves behind all possessions (except for survival essentials) and starts walking. What’s intriguing about walkabout is that there’s no physical goal: It simply continues until one becomes whole again. (174)

  58. “While wandering, you experience a mysteriously organic process,” observed Joseph Campbell. “It’s like a tree growing. It doesn’t know where it’s growing next. A branch may grow this way and then another way. When you look back, you’ll see that this will have been an organic development.” (177)

  59. “There are deeper reasons to travel—itches and tickles on the underbelly of the unconscious mind,” wrote Jeff Greenwald in Shopping for Buddhas. “We go where we need to go, and then try to figure out what we’re doing there.” (177)

  60. In this way, you’ll find that you’re not just exploring new places but weaving a tapestry of life experience that is much richer and more intricate than you could ever have imagined while you were still at home. (180)

  61. People say that what we are all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think this is what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive. –Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

  62. Where your treasure is, your heart will be also—and your decision to enrich your life with time and experience (instead of more “things”) will invariable pay spiritual dividends. (187-188)

  63. Indeed, if travel is a process that helps you “find yourself,” it’s because it leaves you with nothing to hide behind—it yanks you out from the realm of rehearsed responses and dull comforts, ad forces you into the present. (188)

  64. Ultimately, then, discovering the sacred as you travel is not an abstract quest so much as a manner of perceiving—an honest awareness that neither requires blind faith nor embraces blind doubt. (191)

  65. Try as you might, you simply can’t make the social rewards of travel match up to the private discoveries. (201)

  66. If travel truly is in the journey and not the destination, if travel really is an attitude of awareness and openness to new things, then any moment can be considered travel. (201)

  67. Your travels, you will discover, have awakened you to parts of the world, and awakened parts of the world within you. (202)

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