Vagabonding book club: Chapter Four: Preparation

boots & a backpack

Just how extensively you should prepare yourself before vagabonding is a topic of much debate among travelers. Many experienced vagabonders believe that less preparation is actually better in the long run. The naturalist John Muir used to say that the best way to prepare for a trip was to “throw some tea and bread into an old sack and jump over the back fence.” …

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that experienced vagabonders already possess the confidence, faith and know-how to make such spontaneous travel work….

For the first time vagabonder, of course, preparation is a downright necessity– if for no other reason than to familiarize yourself with the fundamental routines of travel, to learn what wonders and challenges await and to assuage the fears that inevitably accompany any life-changing new pursuit. The key to preparation is to strike a balance between knowing what’s out there and being optimistically ignorant.

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


Rolf is right, preparation is a hot topic in vagabonding circles. There are firm proponents of both minimal and diligent preparation. I laughed at the John Muir quote, as that approach resonates with me. I’m well known for grabbing my bag and hopping continents on very little notice and at the slightest suggestion of an adventure. However, Rolf’s point is well taken: that spontaneity and the ability to hop a plane and hit the ground running, the ability to roll with the punches and come out on top, is something that develops over time. I’ve been traveling for a long time. I’ve survived enough things to know how to hedge my bets and trust that the odds are in my favor. It’s not that way when we’re starting out.

I’m engaged in preparing for a small adventure with an old friend of mine for this summer. We’re going to walk 800 km of the Camino de Santiago. Hardly an edgy adventure, but it’s one that has meaning for my friend and I. I feel quite privileged to be invited along on her first foray into vagabonding. Our differing preparation styles have been a source of mutual amusement and have caused me to remember the joy of first journeys and big leaps into the unknown. It has become our joke that she’s prepared for all things and I’m going to show up still lacing my boots. One approach isn’t better than the other, they are just different. We are both doing the necessary preparation for our level of experience with the unknown, and we’re learning from each other in the process.

What about you? How do you prepare for a journey? Are you of the “tea and bread in a bag,” school of planning, or do you, like Rolf, relish the preparation as much as the journey? How much preparation is enough. How much is not enough.

Posted by | Comments (2)  | April 22, 2014
Category: Vagabonding Advice

2 Responses to “Vagabonding book club: Chapter Four: Preparation”

  1. Ric Says:

    I have been seriously vagabonding for the past 6 years on numerous trips ranging from 2 weeks to 6 months and currently on a 4 month trip including 2 Workaway projects. Each trip is different as it could be cycle/camping, climbing Kilimanjaro, wearing work clothes while farming on a Workaway, a 3 week tour with a friend who will only sleep in expensive guest houses or my favourite – just noodling around on my own in the backwoods of a country.
    Planning for each trip is unique and that’s what I enjoy – I look forward to modifying my previous spreadsheets to fit the nature of the upcoming trip.
    Great post Jennifer,

  2. Jennifer Miller Says:

    Thanks Ric, Sounds like you’ve had some great adventures! Glad you enjoyed the post!