Unofficial Rules of Vagabonding

The road


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!

Rule #1

Always save energy. Energy and money are the fuels for travel. A smart traveler sits on his backpack in interminable lines, stands in the shade rather than sweating in the sun, steps out of the cold wind, and always conserves strength. You never know when or where you might need a burst of energy reserves to survive!

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.

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.

Find all related to:
Greg Rodgers

About Greg Rodgers

Enjoyed this post? Consider throwing a dollar into my Paypal account: (I can eat for $2 on the road!) Check out my Facebook page:

30 Responses to “Unofficial Rules of Vagabonding”

  1. What a great list! vagabonding 101, I like it. 🙂

    I can especially relate to #8 Everything happens for a reason. Some of the best, most memorable travel experiences can come out of mistakes or disappointments.

  2. love this! esp 10, 14, 33, & 43

    “No journey caries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it gives us equal distance into the world within.”
    Lillian Smith

  3. Andi Crockford March 9, 2009 at 17:28 pm

    Love the list and the fact that I stumbled across your site, I will deifnitely visit many more times. I agree with your list (except #43, I backpack with the fam., am doing a year + in March of 2010) and have a couple to add.
    The first one is actually my husbands, but I love it. It comes from traveling with teenagers “You pack it, you pack it”. And mine… Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

  4. Thanks for the comments! Definitely wise additions, will add them to the next “release”. Cheers!

  5. #51

    Expect the Unexpected, when the unexpected doesn’t happen, proceed to DO the unexpected untill desierd results are achieved!

    (Huh, good? good?) 🙂

  6. Haha, love it. 🙂

  7. I love it too… especially 3, 4, 6, 9, 11, 13, 15-21, 24, 26-32, 34, 35, 38-41, 44, 45, 47 and my favorite #51!

  8. I should have known my Shaolin brother-in-suffering would read between the lines! 🙂

  9. I love these rules! Especially number 12. Vagabonding males especially need to pay attention to that one.

  10. And as for heart stealing, the traveling French are also very skilled at that.

  11. I loved your list – I do hope you will publish Part 2. Even if I agree that we should all make own own rules of the road. My #1 rule is to follow my heart, trust my instincts, and take the path less traveled by.

  12. “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.”

    What are you doing making websites then?

  13. Please, please, please do another revised version of the rules. I’m sure you will have plenty of time and inspiration wile in bali.
    A big fan.

  14. I like it, we live by the same beat mate.

    Other rules of the road in my motorcycle travels:

    Always back in. One never knows when a quick getaway is required.

    Sit with your back to the wall, in a place where you can see your vehicle.

    ALWAYS have one more bungie cord than is required to pack the load.

    And lastly, keep the gas tank full! One never knows the next time there will be the opportunity. I never let the tank get down to a quarter. I prefer half.

    Enjoy the road

  15. I have been living by these rules most of my life 58 years. They have always seemed to me to be common sense and have served me well.There is something special that happens when your sitting on your pack hopefully in the shade while others are standing in the sun waiting impatiently as their brains are slowly being fried.
    A old motorcycle tramp

  16. These are fantastic! I’m hopefully going to study abroad next semester, so some of these seem very applicable to that situation as well. It felt like this list really spoke to me since I also seem to live by most of these rules. As Lao Tzu said: flow like water.

    Thank you for this post!

  17. Hi all I’d like to add,
    Its better to be cold, wet, tired, hungry and happy than cold, wet, tired, hungry and miserable about it.
    The little motto helped me when I got to London on a Saturday, the hostels were booked and so I slept outside. Morning came and I was absolutely drenched.

  18. Thanks for the list… nice.. Here is one of mine. If there are Busses there are tourists, If ther are tourists there are thieves. Avoid if possible.

  19. coo! lots of respect 😀 Mine is live as if today was your last day…
    cheers mate
    JOSH – fellow vagabond

  20. amazing rules for life.

  21. I can relate. I missed my boat to Helsinki and had to take one to Turku instead. Woke up at dawn only to find myself in the middle of an archipelago. It was freaking unbelievably beautiful. Best accident of my life.

  22. I always follow number five…but I like to find travel companions…I went to Huacachina, Peru, because I met someone on a bus station who was going there….and there I met some Peruvian artisans who took me to the desert to pick up fossils…one of the most amazing experiences of my life!

  23. Wow. I LOVE this list. I can relate so much as a backpacker myself. I always take advantage of opportunities that pop up to do new and exciting things. I’m a risk-taker and will push things to the very extreme. You never know where it will take you. I like how you kept the random numbering system. LOL!

  24. Really good and sound advice for life, not just vaggabonding. I have read and taken on board, think I will print and keep in my journal thanks a bunch really pleased with this. Northumberland UK

  25. Old army rules:
    Never stand when you can sit.
    Never sit when you can lie down.
    Sleep whenever you can.
    Never pass up a meal, it might be a long time till the next one.
    My rule:
    Live, Love and Enjoy each and every day like it is the best and last day of your life, do this and you will be Happy and at Peace with the world.

  26. I hadn’t realized this but since I took a solo backpack trip thru Europe in 1990 I still have this mentality. I haven’t declined anything free or thrown anything away.

  27. HA! Never turn down something free? IDK about that one…especially drinks!

  28. Excellent waiting for part #2

  29. I have pretty much similar views.


  1. Link: Unofficial rules of vagabonding | The Poor Travel Blogger - August 18, 2010

    […] I love this list of rules and it is exactly the sort of life I’ll be encountering starting this October. Other than that list the website has other great resources. 18. Aug, 2010 […]

Leave a Reply