Rolf Potts travels around
the world with no luggage

Why this journey doesn’t really count as vagabonding

August 10, 2010 by Rolf Potts

At heart, my no-luggage world-adventure seeks to validate the idea that travel is about the journey itself — not the baggage one brings to it. This notion dovetails nicely with the principles I set forth in my book Vagabonding.

Still, I don’t really consider this journey a pure “vagabonding” adventure, despite its far-flung nature. This is because vagabonding is a distinctively personal endeavor, whereas this adventure is more of a collective and public undertaking.

Here are a few factors that illustrate how my no-baggage travels might differ from the vagabonding I’ve promoted in my book:

The connectivity factor

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my no-baggage adventure is a “stunt” of sorts that is meant to promote the virtues of simplicity, traveling light, and valuing experiences over possessions. To best appeal to a 21st century audience, such a stunt must play out in real time — which means each day of travel will be offset by the need to write blog stories, post videos, and interact in social media venues. In other words, I’ll be “wired” most every day of the trip — and, as I suggest in Vagabonding, constant connectedness has a way of pulling you out of the here and now on the road.

The sponsor factor

The second chapter of Vagabonding is entitled “Earn Your Freedom,” and it details the humble joys of making your travel dreams a reality by working hard and saving money for the journey. My 8-month journey around North America in 1994 wouldn’t have been the same without the months I spent landscaping in Seattle to fund it, and my 36-month Asia adventure in 1999-2001 was meaningful in part because I spent two years teaching English in Korea to save up for it. By contrast, my no-baggage journey will be funded by ScotteVest and BootsnAll. This won’t compromise my ability to have a fun and meaningful time, of course — it just means it will be a different kind of journey.

The itinerary factor

Another vagabonding strategy is to take things slow and leave things open to improvisation on the road. I’m hoping my six-week itinerary will allow for spontaneity — but it won’t provide for much flexibility, since all the flight connections had to be planned in advance to ensure I arrive home on-time and under-budget. Moreover, since the world is a big place, I’ll have to be constantly on the move to travel its circumference in six weeks. Hence, if I fall in love with South Africa after a week on safari — or if I decide I want to spend three months in New Zealand after a few days in the fjords — I’ll have to bide my time and return to those places later.

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  • Kathy Glow

    Good Luck and I know you will be successful. It will be fun as well.

  • No luggage travel? I will quite literally be taking notes. Mad thanks for trailblazing this one!

  • Anita

    I know you have to work hard to do the things that you are able to do but… You seem to have such a cool job. I hope when my kids are grown, I can do something like that…

  • If your sponsors wanted to bring attention to their products with your “stunt” it worked! I have traveled to Europe a few times this decade and each time I tried to travel light- to no avail. Each trip I had a carry-on and a heavy checked bag and I thought I had been successful. Now I am amped for my next trip to carry little or nothing (probably closer to little than to nothing!). The clothing makes the difference! Already been on the Scottevest website and plan on outfitting myself with their gear for travel and home! Tell us how the underwear works out.

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  • Mike Burngasser

    This trip sounds like a ton of fun, but you are right, it's far different from your normal travels.

    For one thing, the whole world is watching. And people on couches want action, not slow meaningful relationships. On the plus side, this will be a direct adrenaline injection the whole time!

    Have fun :)

  • Zina

    Very cool. I've just finished a two and a half year trip and I had a lot of fun. I didn't go luggage-less, but I went very light. If I'd only had my iPad then, I could have gone even lighter. (It helped that I discovered Icebreaker clothing, which allowed me to pack even less clothing.) For a week, I can get by on a messenger's bag worth of stuff and a ScotteVest now, and that's including work gear. Will be following your adventures with much interest!

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