Vagabonding Book Club: Chapter 5: Don’t set limits

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“If there’s one key concept to remember amid the excitement of your first days on the road, it’s this: Slow down.

Just to underscore the importance of this concept, I’ll state it again: SLOW . . . DOWN.

For first time vagabonders, this can be one of the hardest travel lessons to grasp, since it will seem that there are so many amazing sights and experiences to squeeze in. You must keep in mind, however, that the whole point of long term travel is having the time to moveĀ deliberately through the world. Vagabonding is about not merely reallotting a portion of your life for travel but rediscovering the entire concept of time.”

Rolf Potts, Chapter 5, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

As I re-read this passage I couldn’t help but nod along and smile a little. Just this morning I spent an hour on the phone with some folks preparing to set off for a year of travel with their kids. Their enthusiasm was contagious, the joy in their voices as they peppered me with questions was palpable. It’s always exciting to chat through big plans with intrepid souls and imagine the endless possibilities.

“So what do you think of our planned route,” Sterling asked me, after he’d rattled off their rough outline.

“Well, I think it sounds fantastic!” I replied, “I don’t disagree on any particular point, your choices are all excellent, but I do think you’re going to get tired. If you’ve only got a year then I understand the desire to see as much as possible, but there’s also something to be said for slowing down and leaving room for serendipity.”

To SLOW DOWN was the first big lesson that the road taught us. It’s the number one thing I’d say to myself if I could go back and start over. It’s the first recommendation I have for new travelers. Slow down. Over planning limits your travels in your own mind, if not in reality. Becoming married to your plan and your self imposed itinerary makes it hard to release the reins and just live in the moment you’re given.

Eventually one learns to become comfortable flying by the seat of her pants. Pre arranging all of the flights for a four country tour becomes unnecessary, even undesirable. Booking hotels ahead becomes laughable. We learn to greet each new day on the road with an open hand and to savour the delight of watching it unfold, not knowing, for certain where we are going or where we’ll rest our heads at night.

It’s hard at first. If you need that structure to begin with, then don’t be afraid, or ashamed to have it. It is better to get out there and do something than to be paralyzed by fears and do nothing. Give yourself permission to change your plans if it seems right and commit to yourself that you’ll take each day slowly, move deliberately, as Rolf says, and experience your time on the road moment by moment instead of a neatly printed on your itinerary.

The essence of Vagabonding is found in this chapter, in not setting limits, on yourself, on others, on the world, on your journey itself.

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Category: Travel Writing

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