July 9, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: flat tires and bumpy road adventures (while pregnant) in Costa Rica

Playa Bejuco - 21

Cost/day: $50/day

What’s the strangest thing that’s happened lately?

We left the beach life in Nicaragua and are housesitting in the mountains of Costa Rica, above San Jose.

I’m 8 1/2 months pregnant, but that doesn’t stop us from taking a trip to the beach after we’ve been here a couple of weeks. You can see the ocean from our house in the mountains of Costa Rica, but it appears deceptively close. What we think will be a short drive to enjoy the sun and waves, turns into a 2 hour bumpy, off-road adventure and a flat tire.

I hope I don’t go into labor. ;)

Playa Bejuco - 06

Describe a typical day:

Our days have been spent at home at the mountain house, preparing for the birth of our sixth child.

But today we decided to take a trip to the beach today. Two bumpy hours and a flat tire later we finally arrived. The beach was large, the sun shone high, we picked fresh coconuts from the tree and found sand dollars in the sand.

Playa Bejuco - 41

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

Like: Costa Rica is a beautiful country. We love being back (we lived here in 2007-2008). We’re excited to explore it once more — the beaches, rainforests, oceans, waterfalls and rivers.

Dislike: After living in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua for the last 1 1/2 years, Costa Rica is comparatively more expensive — housing, food and activities… but I think we’ll adjust. We’re loving it here.

Playa Bejuco - 32

Describe a challenge you faced:

I’ve had all my babies at home (except for my adopted daughter ;) ) I’d like to have this one at home in Costa Rica, but we’ve been working out logistics… can the midwife make it in time? Is there a hospital nearby?

Greg Rachel Pregnant Costa Rica

What new lesson did you learn?

Every travel experience offers joy and disappointment, pleasure and pain, beauty and the unsightly. Traveling well is learning how to embrace both… still true.

Where next?

Staying put here for a while… I’m sure you can guess why. ;)

Learn how to become location independent this year, connect with me on Facebook, or join our Fantastic Family Fridays.

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (1) 
Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

July 7, 2014

Growing up involves exploring what makes us feel alive

“A big part of growing up, for everyone, involves exploring what it is that makes us feel not only alive and present, but also competent and respected. With luck, we find passions that are legal and worthwhile, and may be spun upward into hobbies and vocations, rather than downward into self-destruction. These don’t have to center on an adrenalin-filled physical experience. Research by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, of Claremont Graduate University in California, has shown that gardeners, cooks and heart surgeons can experience rapture — the pleasure of being rapt — of the same kind. So can artists and writers. So can gamers, and those who create the digital worlds they inhabit. Happily, mortal fear turns out not to be necessary — though you can see how it helps. That cherished quality of focus and vitality can come from pushing yourself towards the subtler limits of skill, as well as away from danger.”
–Guy Claxton, Get Your Kicks, Aeon, 11/08/2013

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (0) 
Category: Travel Quote of the Day

July 5, 2014

The death of the Mile High Club

Take off...

I want to take this opportunity to declare that the Mile-High Club is, for all practical purposes, defunct. Much like the practice of phrenology or the fad for goldfish swallowing, the notion of having sex on commercial airplanes is no longer worthy of serious consideration.

Before I get inundated with angry e-mails accusing me of being a prude, let me be clear about one thing: This is not about sex. For die-hard Mile-High Club practitioners, I’m sure there’s still nothing more arousing than the heady scent of disinfectant and sewage as you wedge yourself against a paper towel dispenser to consummate your passion with the person you love (or as many Mile-High Club tales seem to imply, with the person you met at the boarding gate).

In reality, the death of the Mile-High Club is tied to the decline of the commercial air travel experience in general. Back in the late ‘60s, when the advent of the Boeing 737 began to make jet travel affordable for the masses, I’m sure everything about the experience of flight was somewhat of a thrill. Nearly four decades later, however, a couple generations of travelers have known nothing but air travel for long journeys. We’re still flying in those same 737s (and comparable aircraft), yet the level of comfort and service has actually declined: Security lines are longer, seating schemes are more cramped, in-flight snack services are disappearing, and—in a startling development—some aircraft manufacturers have reportedly considered maximizing passenger capacity by installing standing-room seating, wherein you are strapped, like a mental patient, to a padded backboard during takeoff.

In short, commercial air travel has become hopelessly mundane and unpleasant—and aspiring to have sex on a commercial flight is now as tacky and pointless as aspiring to have sex in a Wal-Mart.  (more…)

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (0) 
Category: Air Travel, Rolf Potts, Sex and Travel

July 4, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Luke McGuire Armstrong

Luke Guatemala

Luke Maguire Armstrong


Age: 28

Hometown: Kalispel, Montana

Quote: Hundreds of years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove… But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that my ruins become a tourist attraction. - Demotivators (more…)

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (0) 
Category: Vagabonding Case Studies

July 3, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Leyla Giray Alyanak


Leyla Giray Alyanak

Age: 61
Hometown: Born in Paris, grew up in Madrid, studied in Montreal, now live near Geneva, Switzerland
Quote: “To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” (Freya Stark)
How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip? I read the book a few years after returning from my trip – and wished it had existed before I left!
How long were you on the road? 3.5 years in my mid-forties was the longest – but I’ve traveled for up to a year at a time on other occasions.
Where did you go? Up the Eastern spine of Africa, through Southeast Asia, the Baltics, and Cuba
What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey? Initially my savings; then a smattering of freelance assignments; and then I was  finally appointment as a newspaper foreign correspondent.
Did you work or volunteer on the road? I worked often – usually writing but occasionally teaching or doing communications work along the way.
Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite? Eritrea. I arrived just after three decades of civil war. Hope was in the air, everyone was optimistic, even those who had lost family or limbs in the brutal conflict. Gender equality was proclaimed, Eritreans started coming home to rebuild their country. And then the regime hardened into a repressive one, and I know if I returned I would no longer be able to feel so positive about it.
Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging? I think Nigeria was the most challenging country I’ve ever visited. Not only is it huge, but few tourists go there so it doesn’t have the tourism infrastructure. Of course Nigerians travel extensively in their own country so where they go I could go, but it wasn’t as straightforward as, say, Kenya or South Africa.
Which travel gear proved most useful?  Least useful? My sarong, bought for a song in Thailand, is probably the most useful thing I have with me. I can wear it around my room, sleep in it, use it as a towel in a pinch, headscarf, protection against wind and sand.  A close second is my trusty rubber doorstop. Just slip it under the door at night and sleep like a charm. Least useful is anything I can easily buy abroad.
What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle? My biggest reward has been to travel slowly and get to meet incredible people along the way, many of whom have become lifelong friends. By taking my time, at least a month in each country, I was able to begin to understand it, not entirely, but certainly more than if I’d drifted through for a day or two.
What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle? My biggest sacrifice was distance from my loved ones, no contest. I traveled well before social media and Skype brought the world closer together. When I was on the road full-time, I was limited to the occasional international phone call and at times, I missed my family terribly. I also missed having a home base, as I got rid of everything before starting to travel. For a number of years, I felt like a tourist in my own life.
What lessons did you learn on the road? I learned so much… to rely more on myself, to be more confident, that I needed far fewer ‘things’ than I thought, that I could make friends anywhere… and that people were basically helpful and kind, with exceptions, but that’s what they were – exceptions.
How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip? Initially I thought travel was about time and distance. Eventually it became about depth and breadth. I began to care more about understanding than seeing, which meant spending a lot more time in a place than I’d ever planned.
If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be? Stop worrying.
Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure? Do your homework, make your plans – and be ready to throw them out the window when an opportunity arises.
When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey? It will be in 2015… Either across the USA – I’ve always wanted to visit it in-depth – or perhaps through Scandinavia. I’d love to spend a month or two in Madagascar or Mexico…

Read more about Leyla on her blog, Women On The Road, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter

WebsiteWomen On The Road Twitter@womenontheroad

Are you a Vagabonding reader planning, in the middle of, or returning from a journey? Would you like your travel blog or website to be featured on Vagabonding Case Studies? If so, drop us a line at casestudies@vagabonding.net and tell us a little about yourself.

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (0) 
Category: Vagabonding Case Studies

July 2, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang, Laos


$30/day per person

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

A stroll through the Luang Prabang morning market brought something different to my senses every time. One morning, I saw a woman with a pile of chickens on the ground for sale. I thought the chickens were dead, but one of them started to get up and the woman shushed it like a dog and it laid back down. A little further down, a large tub of massive frogs awaited purchase next to huge cuts of fish and pig faces staring back at me. Most of the food lay on the ground on tarps.


Describe a typical day:

After breakfast, homeschool and work are completed in the morning, we head out to do things like swim in the Mekong, visit the unexploded ordinances center, take a hands-on class in traditional weaving and natural dyeing or rice farming. We did a lot of wandering around the beautiful, quiet town just getting lost and finding little gems as well as riding a motorbike on the outskirts of town.




Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

It was interesting talking with our guide from the rice farming course. He graduated from college, spoke English very well and told us he could have chosen to work in an office. In fact, for a time he had worked in an office. But he grew up near the farm and the idea of being able to work outside everyday was more appealing to him than sitting in an office, even if it meant he would be paid less.  (more…)

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (0) 
Category: Asia, Vagabonding Field Reports

June 29, 2014

Three things long term travel is not

Vagabonding Guatemala

I awoke, this morning, thinking about our journey and the excitement of being home for a few months. I opened my eyes to messages of love and daily life from people around the world, fellow travelers, as well as those who never leave home and I realized, again, just how thankful I am for the diversity in our circles. There are so many beautiful lives I get to live vicariously through the people we connect with. Long term travel is just one of an endless number of choices we could have made for this lifetime. Truth be told, it’s really only one tiny chapter of the greater book of our lives. There was a time when we lived other sorts of lives, and there will be a time in the future when we do something else entirely.

Long term travel is a lot of things, but this morning I awoke thinking about a few of the things it is not. 

A contest

It doesn’t matter who’s been on the road the longest. It doesn’t matter how many countries you’ve been to. It doesn’t matter what your blog following is. It doesn’t matter how many kids you’ve had in weird corners of the world. It doesn’t matter if your kid is tri-lingual. It’s not a race to check World Heritage sites off the list. It’s not about bigger, better, or faster. International is not better than domestic. No one cares how many Four Seasons hotels you’ve stayed at. There are no extra points for maintaining the smallest (or the largest) budget for years on end. Anytime it becomes about who does what bigger, better or faster, I’m opting out of the conversation and I hope you will too. Travel is not a contest; it’s an enrichment activity.

An extended vacation

For the record, we have not been on vacation for the past five and a half years. In some ways, traveling full time is a lot harder than living in one place. It’s not a long string of beach postcards and holiday style outings. We’re juggling kids and laundry, sicknesses and work schedules, schooling and dentist appointments, just like everyone else. It’s worth it to us. We love living this way for this phase of life. Longterm travel isn’t an extended vacation, it’s a lifestyle choice.

Inherently better

Occasionally people have felt the need to justify their lifestyle choice to me, “Well, it’s not like what you are doing, we’re just…” fill in the blank. Folks, there is no “just.” What we’re doing, traveling for years on end, is not inherently better than life in the suburbs. In fact, I’ve gotten my share of hate mail from people who would argue that it’s much worse. One of the things I love most about life is the many ways that there are to live it. My way need not be your way. Your dream is beautiful because it’s your dream. We all get to do our thing and together we make the world go round.

It bugs me, more than just a little, when I hear travelers smugly slapping one another on the back and quietly (or not so quietly) deriding all of “those people” who aren’t as “cool as we are” because they happen to hold stationary jobs, live in the ‘burbs, send their kids to school, or in some other way conform to the “norm.”Ladies and gentlemen who travel, hear this: you are not special, you are not fabulous, you’re just doing your thing. I celebrate that: do your thing. I love travelers, they are my people; but so are moms of ten kids neck deep in diapers and sippy cups for decades, and so are farmers whose dreams are dug deep in local soil, and so are folks who’ve hung up their wanderlust to do other worthwhile things for a while. Longterm travel is just one way to live a life, not the best way.

There are two more things long term travel is not; read about the original post on Edventure Project

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (2) 
Category: Vagabonding Advice

June 28, 2014

You’re Doing What?

We’d been dating long distance for over three years. We got engaged in Australia in January of 2009 when I was still in New York and he in Melbourne. We’d traveled overseas together on every holiday break we could and loved it. We knew we wanted to share the same space for more than a few weeks together and thought long and hard about how to do it in perhaps a non-traditional way. We decided to take a ten-month honeymoon after we got married and travel around the world. A couple of years later, we did it again for a few months. We looked forward to the job hiatus, an apartment on hold, the joy of not knowing where we’d be or what we’d do on any given day, nothing pulling us in a specific direction and constant adventure ahead. The scariest part was that at some point, we had to tell people what we were doing. Of course, some responses were positive, ‘that’s awesome, take the opportunity and enjoy’ from those who were happy for us. But, let’s just say that the traditional path was not the one on which we traveled.

There were many interesting questions that came from the thoughts of others, but mostly we got…’you’re doing what?’

Here are some of the questions we got when we ditched the traditional path for a while.

Why would you do that?
What about health insurance?
What about your jobs?
What about your career?
What about your apartment?
What will you do for money?
Do you have a trust fund I don’t know about?
How can you do that?
Where will you live?
Did you get an apartment already?
Do you know where you’re staying?
You’re planning on traveling WHERE?
Don’t you know there are diseases and crazy dangers there?
Why would you want to go THERE?
What will you do with all of your STUFF?
Are you insane?
Are you ever coming back?
What about your family?
Can I come too?
You’re doing what?

How did people react when you shared your travel plans?
What’s the most memorable question you heard when you headed off on your journey?

To read more of Stacey’s travels check out her blog at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com


Posted by | Permalink | Comments (0) 
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind, On The Road

June 27, 2014

Enjoy the ride


Chris Plough - Guadalupe Mountains - 2014

(Riding past the Guadalupe Mountains)

I was planning to write about learning to throw axes during my last trip to Toronto. About how it reminded me to get out of my head and flow in the moment. That the moment I started laughing, that’s exactly what would happen and my throws became more accurate. I’ll write about it another time, though, because today I learned that my grandfather has passed away.

He had an incredible impact on my life and is a large part of why I’ve become the man I am. Though he was a great man, I’m not going to write about him either. First – it’s much to fresh and I don’t have perspective yet. Second – this blog is about us, learning about how travel has made our lives better.

Instead, I’m going to write about why I’m grateful that I’m able to ride my motorcycle across three thousand miles of this beautiful country. Right now – I can’t imagine anything better than cruising through the incredible landscapes of the Southwestern United States, then up the Pacific Coast Highway.

I don’t know about you – but for some reason, I’ve always found driving and riding to be almost meditative. After a few hours on the road, it always seems that the gates to my subconscious pry open and I’m flooded with thoughts, ideas… emotions. All those things that we seem to seem to suppress during our minor-crisis and Facebook filled days.

How about you? When do you find that moment? I know some people who find it when running; others when meditating; and more than a few after a judicious portion of psychedelic drugs.

This is one of the main reasons that I love traveling. I mean, aside from meeting interesting people and seeing/smelling/hearing/feeling a new place. The act of traveling – of being on the road – brings me a sense of contentment. Of course, even that has its limits. After 14 hours in a truck, I’m usually beat and need to pull over for a nap. On a bike, anything over 7 hours makes my butt ache – a lot.

Again – how about you? Do you seek the destination or the journey? Both? Think back on your last few trips – which memories burn the brightest? Were they from the destination — or from somewhere along the way?

All I know is that I’m grateful that I get to spend the next couple of weeks in the saddle, flying across long stretches of highway. Right now it’s about the journey.

Chris Plough writes and podcasts at oznog.com, where he shares stories and advice from his adventures and from the incredible people that he’s met along the way. You can also follow him on twitter: @chrisplough.


Posted by | Permalink | Comments (0) 
Category: General, North America, On The Road, Solo Travel, Vagabonding Life

June 26, 2014

Intentionally creating culture through long term travel

Have you ever wondered if the culture that surrounds you has more of an influence on your kid than you do? Have you ever muttered the phrase “I guess it’s just what kids do these days” out of frustration? Have you ever encouraged, pushed, or flat out made your kid do something because “someday society will demand this of you”, even though you secretly thought the cultural norm you were pushing was, well, dumb?

People often wonder aloud whether traveling long term with children is “right”. Will they miss their friends? Will they lack “roots”? How will they receive an education? Is it safe? These are valid questions- and believe me, every single one has an answer as unique as the family answering it. Some families travel for educational purposes, some for financial freedom, some to gain more time with their families.

But what about traveling with the (partial) goal of intentionally shaping the culture our children are raised in? How many families see this as their driving goal? In the traveling world, a lot.

It might sound a little crazy at first thought but really, when you think about it, every parent, every adult, every person who interacts with a child, does it everyday- usually without even thinking about it. Culture is what you get when experiences, language, knowledge, beliefs, interactions, expectations, religious views, biases, prejudices, social norms, values, educational ideals, and a whole host of other things accumulate and become internalized within a society. Culture is the symbolic agreement between a group of people for how they would like to be and do. So when we choose our kids’ school, encourage a sport or instrument, or decide whether to join that country club, we are also choosing which parts of our culture we emphasize to our children.

Traveling families want to do this too. Just…. differently.


There are grand symbols of our culture that most people can identify from a mile away. Varied things like McDonald’s and the burka are manifestations of a culture. But there are also more subtle expressions of our culture. The words we use when talking about girls. The clothes we wear to the office, religious gathering, or party. The skin colors of our models. The products we push on our children. The language we use when discussing violence against women. The classes we encourage kids to take in school. The way we talk about foreigners and immigrants.

Every society, large or small, has a culture. There is culture on a grand scale- like American culture- and culture on a more individualized scale- like a family culture.  Some of us don’t want to passively accept the culture we were handed. Some of us what to intentionally choose the culture we participate in- and the culture our children internalize.

We aren’t just talking about choosing one country’s culture over another. We’re talking about looking at how every interaction and choice we make communicates something to our children- whether overt or covert. Travel itself can be key in developing culture. Choosing to travel long term with children might seem scary to some but it communicates a belief in true, personal freedom, an interest in getting to know people who are different from us, and a daily need for creativity to our children. Without us even saying anything, it informs our children that learning can happen anywhere, that you really CAN do absolutely anything if you want it bad enough, and that there are many more ways to go about life than the way we do it in our home neighborhood.


You might be thinking, “this is great for teenagers, but what about a two year old? They won’t even remember.” If you wonder how much of our cultural adaption is unconscious acquisition, talk to anyone who has left their home country for several months or more. Ask them about “re-entry”. Ask them how coming back to the land they grew up in felt; how much they forgot; how much they needed to re-adapt; and how surprised they were by all of this. The next time your two year old repeats a phrase you…ahem… would rather they not, ask yourself if you consciously taught them to use those colorful words with such perfect timing or if they absorbed it without you realizing. And consider this, if nothing matters in a child’s development until they are old enough to remember it, then why do you talk to, play with, and otherwise lay positive groundwork with your baby?

Kids absorb like sponges and, in fact, so do adults. Internalizing culture is no different. We can’t guarantee that a kid absorb exactly what we want them to, no matter where we are! But we can seek to shape the greater culture that we expose them to. A McDonald’s on every corner might be a bit less concerning to a parent if their kid happily eats crickets, curry, and coconut 364 days out of the year.


Us long term travelers know a secret. We know that every minute of every day does actually count when it comes to the acquisition of culture. And we know that by creating space where the very act of doing, of traveling, is working to shape their family culture that we can sweat the small stuff a little less. And that isn’t so crazy, is it?

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (0) 
Category: Ethics













Vagabonding Audio Book at Audible.com

Marco Polo Didnt Go There
Rolf's new book!



Satan: None of y’all have a clue what happened between me and Robert Johnson. Did...

Roger: My family and I recently returned from a three week trip to Europe (Germany,...

Ric Moore: Coming home after 4 months, I was in a bit of a funk. ‘Nothing’...

Peter Korchnak @ Where Is Your Toothbrush?: Agreed with Lynne, well said. The...

M.Jagger: Rod, Blimey….It was a blast partying with you at the local...

Ava Collopy: I’m currently working on a new book and website project to represent...

Caroline Macomber: I’m beginning to feel that it doesn’t end. But that I...

Stephen: Does it end, though? I’ve gone through several cycles of this over the...

Margie: I will never be a tour guide, but the prospective you have shown here will help...

Lynne Nieman: Well said! Although not a long term traveler like you, I have taken a few...






Easter Island with miles
Vagabonding Case Study: Mariellen Ward
Vagabonding book club: Chapter 11: Coming home
Maximilian I on the journey of life
Enlightening Self-inflicted Ruin Travel
Thank you, Victoria Falls.
Lost in the crowd when traveling?
Can words hurt as much as sticks and stones?
Vagabonding Field Report: The Penguins of Phillip Island
Long term travel with a family: You have to really want to do this

Subscribe to this blog's feed
Follow @rolfpotts