I spent over seven years sitting in this cubicle, burning up my 20s, and knowing that something was very wrong but not sure how to fix it. I at least knew that I definitely didn’t want to wake up one day to be the rich, miserable guy in his 40s driving the red convertible.
After some research into various escape options, I came across Rolf Pott’s book Vagabonding; it was like a slap in the face. I levitated around for weeks, planning in secret, and not sharing my new dream with anyone. I sold my house and began to tear down my entire financial-and-social infrastructure that I had spent the last 30 years building. I stopped buying things and started banking the money instead; funds add up far quicker than you can imagine once you stop buying things!
Finally, on December 31, 2005, I walked out of IBM Global Services forever. One quick look back and I knew that I would never return.
Here is the short story about my escape from the cubicle.
What Is Vagabonding?
Rolf Potts describes vagabonding as “the act of leaving behind the orderly world to travel independently for an extended period of time” and “a deliberate way of living that makes freedom to travel possible.”
So simply put, vagabonding is the act of choosing experiences and travel adventures over working away your life for material things. It’s not throwing all caution away and going into the Wild to face grizzly bears and poisonous plants alone — of course, that is always an option. Vagabonding is simply a matter of realigning your priorities in life so that travel is possible.
You can spend $20K on a new car, or keep driving the one you have that runs fine. Sure, a new car would be fun and smell good, but in a few years it will wear out just as they always do. Or you could take that same amount of money (a small fortune by budget travel standards) and literally go around the world gaining life experience and memories that will shape you into a new person. Unlike plasma screen televisions and clothes from the mall, life experiences never wear out, go away, rust, get stolen, or go out of style. After the initial investment, life experience is yours forever.
Why not wait for retirement to enjoy life?
Thoreau put it best when he said we spend “the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it.” (i.e., retirement).
In other words: live for now. There is no guarantee that you will have the finances or health by retirement age to do the things that you want to do. This does not mean that we should not prepare some for the future, but don’t get stuck in the cycle of working to buy iToys and things to distract you from working in the first place!
What if I do not have the money?
You would be amazed at how little money you actually need to travel a majority of the world. In fact, per the BBC, more than half of the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day. How much money slips through your fingers monthly? We’re not talking vacation-style travel here where money is fire hosed for two weeks in an effort to bring happiness.
Budget destinations such as Asia, Africa, and South America are full of adventure and culture. They are extremely cheap compared to what you spend to live in the “civilized” world. For the cost of one average dinner-and-a-movie date in the U.S., you could eat, sleep, and play for days on an island in Thailand!
A life of travel
Vagabonding is not for everyone, just as sitting in an office or cubicle is not for everyone. I don’t advocate throwing a finger to your boss, sticking a flower in your hair, or even denouncing capitalism. In fact, I have never burned a single bra. If you enjoy what you do, stick to it! If you feel the life being sucked out of you in true Office Space fashion, then get the heck out of there. It can’t be put any simpler than this:
Stop complaining about things and make yourself happy!
How to get started?
First, STOP BUYING THINGS. In a few months you will realize that material things are a liability rather than a blessing. Save the money instead so that you will have a buffer. Plus, more money means more options later.
Second, start talking to other travelers, jump into the culture, and see if this lifestyle is for you. You can start by visiting my website for new budget travelers. Take a look at my backpacking guide to get started.
Bootsnall is also a huge and friendly travel community that will accept you with open arms.
Where I find my hotels: www.trivago.com.
Once you are where you need to be, everything else will fall into place — it feels great!
I will see you on the road one day.