For the last two years, spread throughout the abused and stained pages of various travel journals, I kept notes for myself about how to wander this world more efficiently.

Some of these rules of vagabonding came from brilliant travelers I met along the way, others were picked up through painful lessons learned. I never knew the last number I used, so I would make up a new one for each rule.

I left it that way: nice and random just like vagabonding!

The Rules of Vagabonding Have Changed.

Note: I’ve learned a lot since I first wrote this post. Maybe someday I’ll completely rewrite my half-serious rules of vagabonding. For now, glean whatever tidbits you enjoy, and flush the rest down the toilet.

Rule #1

Create your own rules and live by them.

Rule #2

Always save money by any means possible.

  • Never turn down something free.
  • Never waste anything.
  • Never throw away anything. That rubber band might come in handy for something Macgyverish later!
  • Always negotiate.
  • Always ask for a discount.
  • Don’t let pride cost you money.
  • Delay big purchases until the last possible moment.

Rule #5

Always go where the action is. Meet your fate head on. Write your own biography one day. Push your luck as far as you can get away with and still manage to tell the story later.

Rule #7

Talk to everyone. One small conversation could change your travels…or maybe your whole life! Every person who you encounter is special, and they all have the means to shape you into a better person.

The road

Rule #8

Everything happens for a reason. Don’t cry because you missed that bus — maybe it was doomed to hit a cow down the road. Take what you have in every single situation and work with it. When life gives you lemons, throw them back at the harlot.

Rule #10

Always help a fellow traveler. That karmic road mentality, which has been around since the Bible days, is what makes vagabonding possible for us in the first place. Never turn down the chance to help a fellow vagabond.

Rule #12

Keep yourself clean. Sure, it’s challenging to live this lifestyle of carrying so few clothes and not to smell bad, but locals and travelers alike will treat you better if you don’t smell like the road.

Rule #14

Respect the locals. They aren’t rambling around the world on permanent holiday like we are. This is real life for them in a harsh place, day in and day out. Don’t treat locals like your servants; we are their guests.

Rule #22

Watch out for Scandinavians and Italians — both are experts at stealing hearts. And remember: If and when you fall in love with another traveler, there will be a price to pay when cardinal directions come knocking.

Rule #23

Always listen to your gut. Even if your plan or timeline dictates something different. If you get up one day and feel like it’s time to leave a place — start packing!

Rule #25

Never turn down the opportunity to try something new. Eating insects, scuba diving, cliff jumping, fire eating, standing on your head and singing a Britney Spears song — you’ll never know what impact it will have on your life until you do it!

Rule #29

Never make any important decision while drunk, weary, or angry. That new tattoo may not seem like such a good idea once the cold fingers of sobriety come prodding.

Rule #33

Only hand your camera or backpack to people who run slower than you.

Rule #36

Don’t trust taxi or tuk-tuk drivers in any country.

Rule #37

Avoid electronics whenever possible. You didn’t travel all the way around the world to sit in front of a computer or television. That includes smartphones.

Rule #42

Stay as flexible as possible. Buy one-way tickets whenever you can. Don’t pre-book unless absolutely necessary to save money. Time is always against you while on the road.

Rule #43

Travel alone. At least for part of your trip. It’s the only way to taste the pure, intoxicating freedom of answering only to yourself.

Rule # 46

Always keep a travel journal. You will never remember the small details of your trip years from now…especially if you drink one more of those Thai Redbull buckets.

Rule # 48

Hiring a motorcycle or scooter is a very fun way to get around, but just remember: There are two types of motorcycle riders in Asia: the ones who have been down and the ones who are going down.

Rule #49

Be a survivor. Sit in the middle of the local buses, not in no-survival seats. Use a life vest as a pillow on overnight ferries. Don’t take drinks from seedy strangers. Look both ways before crossing the road. No matter how small, always be thinking of your own well-being. No one may take care of you if you are alone in a new place. Expect to accumulate a few scars — that’s part of the game.

Rule #50

The longer you stay on one place, the cheaper it gets. Movements cost money. Plus, the longer that you sit still, the more you’ll learn from others where to find the cheapest food/drinks/accommodation.

Rule #52

Travel light. Everyone knows this is the best way, but people still bring too much. A heavy bag makes you a slow-mover. Slow-movers make great targets. Bring more money instead, and buy what you need when you need it. Cash is much more flexible than stuff and it weighs less, too!

Rule #?

All of the rules of vagabonding are optional…you should make your own catered to your own travel style. The whole reason you are vagabonding in the first place rather than sitting in front of a television in suburbia is because you aren’t good at following rules anyway!

That’s all that I can dig up for now. I may release a part two as I think of more random rules and find more notes scrawled in long-forgotten books. Send me your suggestions. And may there always be a road.