Vagabonding Case Study: Shunit Cohen

Shunit Cohen

Age: 33

Hometown: Kibbotz Gadot Israel

Quote: “Attempting to live like a local in Salvador was the most challenging, exciting and fulfilling thing I did to date and it was anything but EASY!.

How did you find out about Vagabonding?

I was reading Tim Ferriss’ book, The Four Hour Work Week.

How did you find it useful before and during the trip?

It’ll be fair to admit that chances are I wouldn’t have the guts to go on the trip without having Rolf’s words ringing in my ears before and during the trip.

How long were you on the road? 6 months.

Where all did you go?

I’ve been living abroad travelling the world for over a decade. This time, there was only one destination: From NYC US à Salvador Bahia Brazil.

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

Garage Sale.

I sold all my belongings!!!

Did you work or volunteer on the road?


I was working a full time job in a traveler’s hostel. This allowed me to pay for my apartment, dance school and living expenses.

To reel you in for a second, we are talking about earning less than 5 US dollars a day, yet I just couldn’t care less, doing so gave me the opportunity to fulfill on my biggest life dream: Study dance in Salvador and these were the means I’ve had to realize this dream, or it wouldn’t happen.

Once I got over the mental hurdle of working for pennies it was a blessing.

Nothing would ever make me more familiar with the local’s authentic culture, habits and daily life!!!

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

Itaparica. Itaparica is a Brazilian island about 10 km from the city of Salvador.

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

This will come as a surprise to you’ll, BUT Salvador was all of the above.

Relax, please let me explain.

In the words of Gary Arndt, “The world is boring. Just like your neighborhood, is pretty boring. It can be amazingly interesting, but to the locals, they just go about living their lives“.

NO ONE WAS JUST DANCING SAMBA IN THE STRETS , coconuts and pineapples weren’t really flaying around, most do not speak English, poverty is brutal and to find an authentic samba school ya really have to be ruthless with all the “samba teachers” hanging in the streets waiting for the American/British/German/French cougars.

Attempting to live like a local in Salvador was the most challenging, exciting and fulfilling thing I did to date and it was anything but EASY!!!

Did any of your pre-trip worries or concerns come true?  Did you run into any problems or obstacles that you hadn’t anticipated?


As a matter of fact I was constantly amused by the travelers who would come to Salvador and barely ever leave the hostel, or go out only with a huge group of other travelers. Why spend so much cash if you plan on doing the same things you do back home???

This was both fascinating and sad for me.

Don’t get me wrong, you must be smart and use your common sense all the time, however, nothing is better than being one of the locals. Letting them take you to places you’d never go as a tourist, eat foods you’d never dream of eating, all the while when you are barely speaking nor understanding their spoken language. The thing is this: these people are the masters in speaking the human language, BUT if you stay in your tourist comfort zone you’ll never ever know it and you’ll miss the fun!!!

Which travel gear proved most useful? My traveling bag.

Least useful? Money belt

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?

The excitements, the self confidence, learning to creatively overcome challenges, seeing the world and most of all meeting new people and cultures.

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?

Saying good bye to great people you meet along the way, missing your family and friends.

What lessons did you learn on the road?

I can do better than 5 dollars a day and unlike most of the world I’m actually lucky enough to choose from endless possibilities. At some point it was time for me to be ruthless, cut the fat go ahead and plan for a jump!!!

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

A vagabond is a state of mind. Not necessarily means you have to sleep in a tent in the forest/beach/mountains.

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

No matter what, don’t leave Brazil without living in Rio de janeiro for at least 3 months.

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

Just do it, the rest of your life depends on it.

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

6/1/12, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Only this time I’ll be working from my laptop and study dance.


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Posted by | Comments (4)  | December 7, 2011
Category: Vagabonding Case Studies

4 Responses to “Vagabonding Case Study: Shunit Cohen”

  1. Regev Elya Says:

    Fascinating. Didn’t know you’re going back to Brazil in less than a month (Or is it June?). Anyway, good words out there, I agree with your perception of tourism as it’s seen by 99.5% of the ‘travelers’.

  2. Shushu (Shunit) Says:

    It is June 2012…And not sure about that as well, as things got a bit complicated…
    Love S

  3. Joanne Says:

    I love your story Shunit, but I was hoping your next long term journey –and adventure– would be in NYC again. Love, Joanne

  4. Gerard Says:

    Very cool. I read both Tim F and Rolf P’s book and it gave me the balls needed to take a career break and do an 8-month RTW trip which I leave tomorrow! This may be a career ‘break’, but I’m leaving the doors open for it to be a career change.