Vagabonding Case Study: Jerry Walsh

On May 13th, 2016

Jerry Walsh

Age: 21

Hometown: Charlottesville, VA

Quote: “At the end of the day, I evolved from being an outsider looking in to becoming a functioning member of the community. Integration is what vagabonding is about.

How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip?
A fellow traveller I met in Bodh Gaya, India recommended it to me. I actually read the book after I got back from my trip and it confirmed that long term travel as a lifestyle is not some far fetched fantasy that one needs to grow out of. Quite the opposite.

How long were you on the road?
11.5 months

Where all did you go?
India, Nepal, and Bhutan

What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey?
Savings from the years

Did you work or volunteer on the road?
I was a volunteer in Kathmandu, Nepal for three months working at a Nepali run outdoor leadership school called Initiative Outdoor where I worked with local Nepali kids teaching them outdoor skills and environmental awareness. I was also a student for 6 months.

Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite?
Ladakh, India is one of the most breathtaking places I have ever seen. Every moment there was surreal and awe-inspiring. I rented a motorcycle and cruised for several days through the Tibetan plateau just loving life. I also violently crashed that motorcycle  but in a way that made it all the better. I also loved Taktsang monastery in Bhutan–another mesmerizing place. Varanasi, Bodh Gaya, Laksahdweep Islands…Every place was a doorway into a sacred dimension.

Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging?
Bhutan was challenging at times due to the government restrictions. I was not allowed to venture off on my own and it felt confining. However, the land and the people are both beautiful and balanced the trip out. Sketch ball opium dealers hounding me in the constipated smog of Varanasi could be a little overwhelming but I took it as a test of patience.

Did any of your pre-trip worries or concerns come true?  Did you run into any problems or obstacles that you hadn’t anticipated?
Surprisingly I’m not dead and I still have all my organs and limbs in tact. I only partially shattered my eyebrow crashing a mountain bike while intoxicated from Tibetan chang in Kathmandu. I woke up from unconsciousness bleeding profusely from the head and staggering in the middle of the street at midnight somewhere around Lalitpur…My eyebrow still doesn’t grow hair fully but it makes for a good story. The biggest and most unpredictable problem that I came across was falling in love with a girl–made Delhi belly seem appetizing when we parted ways.

Which travel gear proved most useful?  Least useful?
Most useful: Backpack obviously and my bandana was clutch. A camera is always a must.

Least useful: Water purifying tablets and a bunch of other worthless medical supplies I could have purchased abroad for a fraction the price–used basically none of it–a lesson learned: PACK TIGHT YOU NEED LESS THAN YOU THINK!

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?
FREEDOM, ability to explore both your inner and outer realities, knowing yourself, following your inner guidance, intuition, dreams, and bliss. You even lose track of what day it is…Is it Monday? Or Thursday? Need I say more? Exactly.

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?
You are stuck in a perpetual cycle of short term relationships unless you brought a compadre for the long haul. This can be annoying because introducing yourself for the seven thousandth time looses its luster rather quickly…The best way I can sum up the challenges you experience is letting go. You aren’t holding onto much materially and your identity looses its reinforcements constantly so you learn to carry yourself.

What lessons did you learn on the road?
Learning to let go is probably the hardest but most rewarding lesson you will ever learn and traveling is a damn good teacher. When you see how the flow of traffic operates on the roads of India you realize that your fate is in the hands of the gods–or at least the bus driver and his sobriety and sanity are in question…. I also learned to transmute loneliness into self-love. That was a hard lesson at first but once you get the hang of it you really learn to enjoy your own company. The other difficulty is seeing the suffering of others. We are all interconnected in more ways than we realize and seeing the illness, poverty, and pollution of developing countries really makes you question your lifestyle choices and how they affect others.

How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip?
I played several roles abroad. I was a student, a researcher (did a 40 page research paper on Buddhist pilgrimage), a free floating aimless wander without a clue–just following the vibes, then a student again (studying Tibetan and Himalayan culture), then a researcher once more (another paper on Ladakhi shamanism), and then finally a volunteer living with a Nepali family…At the end of the day, I evolved from being an outsider looking in to becoming a functioning member of the community. Integration is what vagabonding is about to me. Go anywhere, do anything, be anyone, and let everything unfold as it should.

If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be?
Surrender and go with the flow

Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure?
Follow your heart and trust everything will work out in the end. There is something very special inside of you that wants to be expressed and when you travel it is revealed to you…

When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey?
I’m planning on going to Peru to finish a spanish requirement for my undergrad this summer for a few months hopefully. I’m planning on getting involved with an ayahuasca retreat center and furthering my research on shamanism/traditional medicine. I’m then headed to Burning Man and from there…go with the flow…

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Image: Edan Cohen (