The art of travel: A vagabond’s joys, essence, and philosophy

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“Go anyplace in the world and walk for an hour and odds are, you'll find something amazing and true about that place…it's good for your health, it's good for communities, it's good for your education about how the world is and how the world works,” says travel writer Rolf Potts. Photo of Rolf Potts in Malvinas, Argentina. Photo courtesy of Rolf Potts.

From our earliest ancestors, we’ve been travelers — first as nomadic tribes, and later as raiders, traders, explorers, and colonizers. Whether by ship or by foot, it’s human nature to move and explore.  

Jonathan Bastian talks with travel writer, podcaster, and vagabond Rolf Potts about the merits of travel. Potts is the author of several travel books,  including “Vagabonding” and “Marco Polo Didn't Go There.” In his latest book, “The Vagabond’s Way: 366 Meditations on Wanderlust, Discovery, and the Art of Travel,” Potts explains why travel is good for us and how the unexpected part in a journey can change us for the better.  

“The best gift to travel is just allowing yourself to be surprised,” says Potts. “Stumbling into serendipity, having a bad time, and realizing that it's not as bad as you thought it would be. We forget how easy it is to adapt, how helpful people are, and how we can figure it out and have a great time doing it.”

“One of the gifts of travel is to sort of blow those habits open and be vulnerable and almost childlike in your relationship to the world again,” says world traveler Rolf Potts. Photo by Fritz Liedtke. In “The Vagabond’s Way: 366 Meditations on Wanderlust, Discovery, and the Art of Travel,” author Rolf Potts encourages you to sustain the mindset of a journey, even when you aren't able to travel, and affirms that travel is as much a way of being as it is an act of movement.

Today, technology, cheap flights, and bucket-list trips have made travel easier, more affordable, and somewhat predictable. Potts says that’s also limited our options and possibilities as travelers. 

“We're all in lockstep, following our phone, looking at a screen as a window into a place that we've traveled so far to come to, instead of just sort of following our nose or following our eyes or following our ears,” he says.  

When it comes to modes of transportation, Potts shares his tips on exotic ways to travel without becoming overly dependent on flights. 

“Train culture around the world is really fun to experience and it doesn't have as many emissions,” he suggests. “Stay on the sea over land and go those hardships, don't fast-forward your way through the world with a bunch of flights — slow down a little bit.”

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Andrea Brody