The future of Vagabonding is now

The technology explosion of the last ten years has made the dramatic growth of vagabonding possible.

RPFor as long as we have roamed the earth, there have always been those who view the open road a little more wistfully. Great adventurers such as Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, and James Cook needed the coffers of kings in order to explore the world.  Expeditions often required dozens of hired support crew and dedicated transport. Today’s vagabond has it much easier.

Online airfare shopping and access to a wealth of accessible information are just two of the most obvious advantages that modern travelers have. However, the single most important factor is a growing interconnected community. Simply knowing that others have, are, and will make long-term travel possible gives exponentially more people the confidence to try it themselves. Sites such as Vagabonding and Thorn Tree bring like-minded travelers together to share their stories and advice. Since we launched our new Case Studies series, we have received over 130 requests to be a part of the project with more arriving every week, and you will continue to see their profiles over the months to come. Earlier this year I profiled the then-nascent #RTWsoon hashtag on Twitter, and its use has only grown. There is now a sister hashtag, #RTWnow, following dozens of travelers throughout the four corners of the globe, maintaining contact with each other and sharing their personal discoveries with the world. Even as Brett mentioned earlier today about the lost art of the analog nomad, it can’t be denied that the digital revolution has thrown the doors of long-term travel wide open.

Beyond research and community, technology has enabled us to do more remotely than ever before. It used to be that vagabonds needed sufficient wealth to last them throughout their journey. Today there are any number of long-term travelers who supplement their costs through being able to work online, as web consultants, career counselors, editors, or as bloggers selling advertising and e-books. Money can be transferred, bills can be paid, lodging and transportation can be booked, all online.

A less-obvious advantage of our increasingly online world is the ability to downsize some of the belongings that hold us down. Bookcases filled with books, media towers with hundreds of CDs, DVDs, and videocassettes, and even desktop computers are becoming things of the past. We no longer need to keep boxes of bank records, pay stubs, or bills because any needed data can be retrieved. Sites like eBayCraigslist, and Freecycle make it easy to get rid of everything we don’t need, perhaps earning a little bit of money, or just letting us feel good about not throwing out things which still have use. Craigslist can even help you find subletters for your apartment or foster homes for your pets.

Without the need to store ephemeral media in a physical location, having easy methods of getting rid of unwanted possessions, and being able to manage businesses and lifestyle upkeep online, “stuff” begins to tie us down less. While technology cannot solve every problem or remove every obstacle to long-term travel, it has made a number of logistical issues more manageable, and will continue to pave the way for an increasing number of vagabonds in the years to come.

Posted by | Comments (5)  | June 17, 2010
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind, Vagabonding Life

5 Responses to “The future of Vagabonding is now”

  1. Mark Trip Says:

    I’m certainly all for downsizing where possible. We just don’t need so much clutter and you get a warm glow when you take a whole bunch of stuff to charity shops, knowing you’re helping others!

  2. hapto Says:

    One should be certain to not funnel your experience abroad by only using the internet. It seen too many tech-folk experience the world through the screens of their computers and iphones, and digital cameras.

  3. Rebecca Says:

    Downsizing is a good thing — too much clutter as Mark pointed out. Traveling today isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago. As was mentioned, people are bringing more and more technology with them. This could be a drawback, unless you’re a freelance writer and you’re writing from the road. It’s important to remember “why” you travel. Is it to take as many photos with your brand new digital camera? Is it to commune with the locals and learn about another culture? Or, is it to learn about yourself? Make sure you’re “vagabonding” for the right reasons.

  4. Ted Beatie Says:

    Thanks for the comments, all. I don’t deny in the slightest that there is danger in too much reliance on technology while actually on the road. That topic has been brought up any number of times, myself included. One should always be sure that they “vagabonding for the right reasons”, and to not let the temptation of constant connectedness distract them from connecting to the cultures that they are trying to visit.

    However, my point is that technology is making the ability to set out in the first place much more possible than it would have been even 5-10 years ago, and will continue to open the world to more people as time goes on.

  5. Sage Says:

    I have gotten to where I’m traveling more without my computer and with leather notebooks… which is more like my backpacking style to begin with, where extra stuff truly weighs you down.

    That said, I’ve recently acquired an Alpha Smart Dana (used a 10% of its retail), which is more like a word processoor than computer, but is light weight, goes 25 hours on batteries which can be either 3-AA or a recharagable battery, and types easier than my laptop! While I don’t know if I’d take it backpacking, it’s nice to know that I can spend a few days in a cabin without power and write!