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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