A vagabond’s relationship with work

On July 1st, 2015

shutterstock_173535041Perhaps you’ve found yourself, sitting in a cubicle pecking out reports for your boss, longing to be on a secluded beach in some far corner of the world. You go home from work and pull out your atlas and dream of Mai Thais and the sound of waves crashing on the shore. You turn the page and can almost smell the aromas of the market as you look at photos from foreign lands.

Daydreaming about travel is an almost universally shared experience. Southwest Airlines tapped into this with their popular tagline, “Wanna get away?” The answer, almost universally, is yes. Yes, we want to get away.

Picture that secluded beach. Imagine yourself meandering through that market, smelling new smells and tasting new tastes. Think about this life of travel that you so desperately desire.

You’re not thinking about work, are you?

Unless you find yourself in possession of a winning lottery ticket, work is intrinsically tied to your goals for long-term travel. What, then, is a vagabonders relationship with work? Begrudging? A necessary evil?

Vagabonders need not view work in such a negative light. Instead, we can take the high road, viewing our time at work as being a “happy warrior,” or even fulfilling our life calling.

Happy warrior

In 2009 I set off on a six month road trip across the United States with my wife and one-year-old son. At the time, I viewed the the trip as an anomaly in my life. At the end of the trip when we returned home my wife and I would get respectable jobs, serve on the right boards, send our kids to the right schools and live happily ever after. The problem is that vagabonding is sort of like crack. Once you get a taste, you just have to figure out a way to keep it going.

One of the ways I “keep it going” is as a fundraising consultant to non-profit organizations. This work requires me to travel frequently and I often batch my work between our family’s adventures.

On a recent work trip I faced one problem after another. I set off with a rough flight itinerary then flight delays and missed connections made things even worse. On the ground with my client things did not get better. Our meetings were not going as well as we hoped. We were driving around all day with long distances in between meetings and staying at nondescript hotels in what I’d describe as less than exciting places.

Yet my spirit never dampened. I knew that with the money I was making on this trip that I would be able to purchase round-trip airfare to Guatemala for my family. With this in mind, it was easy to approach my work as a happy warrior.

This is what separates that vagabonder from the daydreamer. A vagabonder knows what she’s working for and can go to work as a happy warrior knowing that her work is funding her travel dreams. A daydreamer is only escaping for a moment and will soon go back to work without ever really knowing what he is working toward.

Life calling

Near the end of that United States road-trip with my family in 2009 I started to feel that something was missing. I was seeing and experiencing new things on a daily basis, yet I realized for the first time that a life of leisure was not a worthy goal. I had something in me, unique to me, that only I could give to the world. I needed to give it. Even if I had a winning lottery ticket, without work I realized my life would be incomplete.

The world is poorer, collectively, than it should be to the extent that people have settled for work that’s less than work they love. As children we dream, but as we grow into adults we are told to stop dreaming and instead be practical.

A vagabonder will at times be the happy warrior; thankful for work that he may not be passionate about yet grateful to make money to fund traveling adventures. We shouldn’t stop there, though. We should simultaneously pursue work we are passionate about. Perhaps that work may someday help fund our traveling adventures, but we also pursue this work because each of us has something in us that only we can give.

At it’s worst, work is an opportunity to be a happy warrior in achieving our travel goals. At it’s best, work is an opportunity to become a best version of ourselves while enriching the world around us.


Clark Vandeventer is the author of unWorking: Exit the Rat Race, Live Like a Millionaire, and Be Happy Now. You can learn more about his book at unWorkingBook.com and read his blog about travel and lifestyle design at FamilyTrek.org. Follow him on Twitter @ClarkVand.

Photo credits:   Ditty_about_summer