Vagabonding Case Study: Manfred and Miu

On June 5th, 2015

Age: 50s and 40s

Hometown: London & Bangkok

Quote: “A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” Lao Tzu

How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip?

I read the Vagabonding book many years ago, and even though I always planned to travel it helped inspire me to actually get started. I read it again this year and it still seems as relevant now as it was all those years ago.

How long were you on the road?

I left the UK around 4.5 years ago and now have a base in Bangkok with my girlfriend Miu, who has lived here for around 20 years. In some ways I feel like I’ve been on the road all that time, although I’m a little settled as well. But we don’t have a permanent home here. We just find a new place every time we return. So at the moment I feel like I’m both at home and on the road, although it obviously more like home for Miu.

Where did you go? 

Apart from Thailand we’ve recently been to Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea. We’re back in Thailand for a few months but then off travelling again. We’ve also travelled around Thailand and stayed in month or so in Hua Hin, Chiang Mai and Surin.

What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey?

I’m in my 50s so I have had plenty of time to save. I use that and rental income from my condo back in the UK. I didn’t work or save specifically to travel, but I always worked towards being more financially free.

Did you work or volunteer on the road?

Neither of us worked or volunteered, as we didn’t need to and preferred to spend the time getting to know each place we visited.

Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite?

That’s always a difficult question, but for me one of the adventures that stands out was walking down into the crater of an active volcano in Indonesia – Ijen Crater. For Miu it was Ubud. She loved the art and the beautiful rice fields. It’s a nice, laid-back town, but for me it was a little touristy. We also both love Seoul and will go back there soon.

Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging?

For both of us it was definitely Vietnam. Things went wrong from the moment we arrived when we discovered that the 3-month visa in my passport only showed as one month on the immigration computer. So even though I paid for a 3-month visa I only got one month. Their mistake but they didn’t want to fix it. Then in Hanoi we encountered many scams, such as a man grabbing my shoes so the he could repair them, the hotel trying to charge us for an extra night and people trying to overcharge us often. Then being offered drugs a few times in Hue, and the taxi driver going a super-long route in Saigon and other refusing to use the meter. All minor annoyances in themselves but it added up to us not ever wanting to back there.

Which travel gear proved most useful?  Least useful?

Our laptops and cameras were the most useful and used every day. We travel light so didn’t really take anything that turned out not to be useful.

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?

For us it’s the freedom. It’s great to not have to work the usual Monday to Friday routine. Each day can be whatever you want it to be, and that’s such a great feeling. It’s also the ability to stay a few months in places you like and just move on from places you don’t.

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?

We don’t have too many challenges with this lifestyle apart from sometimes feeling a little unsettled and wanting to be back home, but not actually having a home. Also, leaving friends and family behind. It’s also sometimes frustrating not to be able to have things delivered to you because you’re on the move.

What lessons did you learn on the road?

Just to take it easy and not to stress about things. Any problems always sort themselves out, so why stress. Just take life as it comes. If there are down times then up times are sure to follow. That’s just the ebb and flow of life.

How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip?

I don’t think we really thought of ourselves as having a vagabonding lifestyle, so I don’t think our views on that have changed. We just see ourselves as seeing the world and slowing down from time to time to explore certain places a little longer.

If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be?

To take less with me. I usually travel light, but when I first moved to Thailand I got four boxes of possessions shipped over. I dumped three of them a few weeks after they arrived.

Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure?

My only advice would be not to over-think it. Just decide to go and then actually go. Some people over-plan so much that they either never leave or make something simple overly complicated. Traveling is very simple indeed. You book your ticket and go. That’s all there is to it. And don’t take too much “stuff” with you – travel light. If you need anything you can buy it at the time.

When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey?

Our next long-term travel will start in January. We’re headed for the UK and mainland Europe. It will be Miu’s first time in Europe so she’s really looking forward to it. It’ll also be my first time back for almost 5 years so I’m looking forward to some colder weather after so long in a tropical climate. I came here partly to get away from the cold European winters, but now I want to go back so that I can experience a cold European winter. I’ll probably change my mind after a few days of pouring winter rain. We’ll probably be away for around 6 months, but that depends on us getting the visas that we want. While it’s pretty easy for Westerners to travel the world, it much more complicated for people from many parts of the world to travel. Miu’s UK visa application is 11 pages long and we have around 60-70 pages of supporting documents. I filled in one page for my original 12-month visa to Thailand and wasn’t asked for any supporting documents. I now realize how lucky I am to be British.

Read more about Manfred and Miu on their blog, Renegade Travels , or follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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Image: Victor Camilo (flickr)