Hometown: London, U.K.
Quote: “It’s been a radically liberating experience. I feel free to live my life the way I want unencumbered by superfluous ‘stuff’..”
How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip?
About 18 months ago I came across Tim Ferriss’ ‘The Four Hour Work Week’ and through that I discovered Rolf’s ‘Vagabonding’. Together, they fuelled and a genuine lifestyle change.
Through Rolf I learned that by spending less I could afford to work less, and that mean’t more time for what’s really important: time and experiences, not money and “stuff”. One quote from Ed Buryn in Vagabonding really stayed with me, “Money, of course, is still needed to survive, but time is what you need to live.”
How long were you on the road?
It’s ongoing. About half my life is spent working on cruise ships (usually for just a week at a time) and the rest is spent doing land work and finding vagabonding opportunities along the way. One place I keep being drawn back to is Brazil. When I am there I just have this sense of belonging.
Inspired by the beautiful music, I started to learn Brazilian Portuguese. Last year I spent about eight weeks there.
Where all did you go?
I started in the old district of Santa Teresa in Rio for the pre-carnival week, visited Paraty and Petropolis, worked my way up north to Recife, Natal, Fortaleza, Salvador da Bahia then took a boat up the Amazon, ending up at the Amazonian capital: Manaus. From there I flew to Brasilia then Foz do Iguazu for the falls.
What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey?
I am a singer. I travel worldwide with my job. Often, when I have finished a contract I ask my employer to delay my return flight so I have time for some independent travel.
Did you work or volunteer on the road?
I planned my vagabonding around various singing contracts in the same area, so after my time in around Rio I worked on another ship which took me up the east coast to Recife where I took more time out, then another ship to Manaus. From there I was on my own.
Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite?
Paraty in Brazil is a favourite. Others include St Petersburg, The Falklands, Queenstown New Zealand, and Beijing.
Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging?
Of course it’s great to “see the sights” but our experience of a place is so often affected by the people we meet there and the mood we happen to be in. Alain du Botton, in ‘The Art of Travel’ says as much: “the true ingredients to happiness could not be material or aesthetic but must stubbornly be psychological.” One moment that stays with me was hiking to the foot of a deserted lake in the Tierra del Fuego. Apart from me, it was deserted. The art critic John Ruskin encouraged tourists to take their time and really let every detail of a vista soak in, and that’s exactly what I did. After about an hour just sitting by the water’s edge, I turned and walked back up the road to see a convoy of six coaches heading to the same spot. I felt grateful not to be one of those tourists about to be dumped off the bus with five minutes to take a photo and pile back on to reach the next beauty spot on time.
Did any of your pre-trip worries or concerns come true? Did you run into any problems or obstacles that you hadn’t anticipated?
I was a little worried about safety, especially in Rio and Salvador da Bahia. I took all the usual precautions and was fine. I guess a little luck helps too.
Which travel gear proved most useful? Least useful?
I rely a lot on my Blackberry. It’s great for travel information, uploading blogs, taking pictures and keeping in touch. The least useful was my boots, I chucked them in favour of flip flops.
What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?
In our culture, we give up time with our loved ones, put off perusing our ambitions and spend our lives glued to laptops and mobile phones. Well, I did, anyway. With luck we hope to retire at 65 and that our pensions afford us to do all the things we’ve been putting off. That’s providing our friends haven’t forgotten who we are, and we’ve still got our health.
There is, as Tim Ferris says, “an insanity of consensus, if you will – to get rich from life rather than live richly, to “do well” in the world instead of living well. And, in spite of the fact that America is famous for its unhappy rich people, most of us remain convinced that just a little more money will set life right”.
That really struck a chord with me and inspired me to find a better way of living and working. At that time I was also juggling my time between a fire safety business (we produce specialist fire training DVDs), and an entertainment agency (selling acts and producing ready made shows). Financially I was doing okay, but I was never off the phone, always stressed and hardly ever relaxed.
Numerous studies have shown that living more simply and avoiding unnecessary purchases makes us happier than when we’re obsessed with material possessions and money. Lusting after new stuff never produces the long-term satisfaction we think it will. No sooner do we have the latest, fastest, shiniest or coolest thing, an even better model comes along to tempt us all over again. Before we know it we’re sucked in to a never ending cycle of working, producing and consuming – with little time for actually living. Sony, Prada and Tesco would love us to believe that shopping is all we need for a satisfying life.
I used to spend half my life on the phone. I loved making calls and taking them. I especially liked checking my voicemail and hearing: “You have 17 messages”. I think it made me feel important and necessary – like dentistry. It certainly made me feel successful. Then one day I thought: “Who is more ‘successful’: the man running around like a maniac on the phone all day, or the man sitting on his beach with his phone switched off?”
So I decided to shed as many responsibilities as possible. I sold off my agency, restructured my fire safety business to run with hardly any involvement from me and, since I spend so much time away, decided to sell off most of my possessions and rent my home out. I figured the benefits of someone else paying my mortgage would be worth the inconvenience of having no place to call my own.
It’s been a radically liberating experience. I feel free to live my life the way I want unencumbered by superfluous “stuff”.
What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?
I’ve had to learn I can’t have everything I want. At least not at the same time. As well as a life free to travel part of me also wants more time with my friends. I want a dog, I miss cooking at home. I love the unpredictability of my life, but at the same time I miss any sense of regularity.
What lessons did you learn on the road?
I like time alone, but not for long. I don’t do well experiencing great things with no one to share them with. I love meeting new people. Thankfully, most people you meet on the road are super friendly and totally open to making friends.
How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip?
I think of vagabonding as living with an open mind and open heart. Free from traditional expectations and open to new experiences. I used to think of vagabonding as a way of travel, but now I consider it a way of life. I try to maintain the same sense of openness and wonder whether I am buying apples from a market in Lima or my home town. I think it’s an attitude of mind.
If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be?
Don’t waste time getting to know people – jump right in.
Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure?
Don’t worry. Plan carefully, don’t be stupid and then jump in feet first and enjoy yourself.
When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey?
I have a five month work trip coming up in Brazil. It’s not a physical vagabonding experience but I will be around Brazilians the whole time and hope to really soak in the culture and finally improve my Portuguese.
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