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What is vagabonding? Vagabonding is the art of long-term travel. It is a mindset in the way you take your place in the world. It’s about shifting habits and taking full advantage of the only commodity we really have: time.
In 2007, I ventured to Paris for a five-week writing workshop. Rolf Potts, serial long-term traveler and writer, was one of my professors. He wrote the book, Vagabonding, which I read and then stumbled upon just the other day as I was searching for a book to read. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Lately, I’ve felt restless and stuck in a routine: get up, work out, eat, train clients, write from the confines of my oat-lacquered table, eat again, go grocery shopping, return emails, see a friend or two, take a walk… It’s not that it’s not fulfilling, but it almost seems as though I am waiting for something. That I am always waiting for that next “big” thing.
For almost two years, my husband and I have been talking about traveling. He has not yet been to Europe, and I am dying to go back. We keep saying, “When we can just sock some money away, we’ll go.” “When our schedules calm down, we’ll do it!” “When we can find a long-term sitter for our puppy, we will definitely go!” We dream about owning a lake house, about riding bikes through the countryside, about conversing with people in new and foreign languages.
But, the simple truth is this: making the decision to travel is the only important one. Some of my most exciting trips have been those where nothing was planned and I literally stepped on a plane to venture into another country with just a backpack and a passport. Why were these trips so exciting? Because I learned to let go.
As Rolf states, “We see long-term travel to faraway lands as a recurring dream or an exotic temptation, but not something that applies to the here and now. Instead – out of our insane duty to fear, fashion and monthly payments on things we don’t really need – we quarantine our travels to short, frenzied bursts. In this way, as we throw our wealth at an abstract notion called ‘lifestyle,’ travel becomes just another accessory – a smooth-edged, encapsulated experience that we purchase the same way we buy clothing and furniture.”
He explains that we are brought up to associate money with living a good life; that we are “too poor to buy our freedom.” He writes, “Long-term travel isn’t an act of rebellion against society; it’s an act of common sense within society. Long-term travel doesn’t require a massive bundle of cash; it requires only that we walk through the world in a more deliberate way.”
Both of these paragraphs really rang true to me – because it’s not just applicable to travel. It’s applicable to the way we walk through the world in general. It’s applicable to our jobs, our spouses and our daily lives – in breaking free from our monthly payments to go do something extraordinary (and not simply crammed into one week out of the year, when we get “time” off).
Just last week, we took a road trip to Nashville to see my family. We didn’t make plans. We hopped from one place to another and ended up at a gourmet grocery store one afternoon, sipping gluten-free beers, eating sweet potato chips and laughing hysterically with my parents. Then an impromptu dinner at one of my favorite French cafes, and endless conversation with my best friend, Nikki. We sipped decaf coffee and watched the sun disappear behind the horizon. While this may sound incredibly boring to some, it was just the kind of “deliberateness” I needed for me to see what really matters, and what might be missing in this thing called daily life.
One of my absolute favorite parts of Rolf’s book, a sentence that I keep tightly tucked in the recesses of my brain is this: “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.”
He goes on to explain that despite our nation’s infamy for housing unhappy rich people, nearly all of us think everything would be just a bit better if we had more money. But, for what? What is it that we really need that we can buy? Is it freedom? Does it really purchase what we naturally already own?
Just the other day, I realized that I am not attached to any of my material possessions. I am attached to my mother’s smile and my father’s tender words; my husband’s sleepy eyes in the morning and the way my best friend curls her hands around a mug of coffee in our favorite coffee shop. I collect these things because they are the true fabric of my life.
What is the fabric of yours? What would your life be like if you started looking at nothing as a hindrance – money is something to be made with odd little jobs, instead of being chained to a 9 to 5 profession? What about if we started wanting less instead of more? If we doled out compliments the way we cling to our dollar bills?
As the week continues, I am making a promise to live more deliberately. To focus on living well instead of doing well. Focusing on the riches already in my life, instead of the ones sitting in a store somewhere.
For me, vagabonding is a way of life. Every day is a new destination, and I am looking forward to what’s in the here and now… and all that might come from this day forward.
Because the truth is that all the money in the world can’t buy me more of the only thing I truly need: time.
To read more about Rea Frey and why she is so Cheeky, please click here.