The Elusive Life of the Wanderer – Vagabonds will go!

I’ve felt that the true wonder with a life spent slowly vagabonding is that the places you stop take on a character. Each unique and colored with its new own experience. Moving slowly allows you to say “tomorrow” to things. Days slow down like now in a coffee shoppe in Da Lat. I can stay with the latte and kindle and look out the window at the daily life of the city. Scooters, vegetable carts, people old and young. All are there for the slow vagabond. Life itself slows down when you let it.

Maybe the faster pace works. The 30 countries in 45 days. Perhaps the escape is needed. Or perhaps you business travel and your time is not your destination. Maybe you are an expatriate or nomad. I met a few expats before. I’ve seen the nomads too. Life is at a different pace for both. Then there are the true wanderers. Those that move to no one else’s needs.

If travel is the goal and that’s what I read on Twitter these days with a new community I find myself in; life spins it’s chance wheel and perhaps you find the way and means. For every one vagabond I have met there are others leading those

lives of quiet desperation

as Thoreau would have said. How to find things of worth and then upvote them? Become another person because you secretly have the wanderlust. I fear many people that retire simply stop. Travel is an obsession but not a reality. It’s sad I think. Right when people are freed from the chains of work new limitations take hold.

But are there rules?

So what is this unhealthy fascination with rules? I think it all comes from the decades we spent in work and school. Work tells you that you have responsibility and accountability for things. School teaches you how to get there with easier steps. But soon you are indoctrinated with values and mores that you will need if you step in the workaday world. You know them.

  1. Be on time
  2. Be considerate
  3. Be responsible
  4. Be accountable
  5. Be modest
  6. Be there
  7. And there are more and you know them because you lived them

But after some dog years you figure out that work is not all its cracked up to be. I told my boss,

the tank is empty. I have no more to give

Our group VP asked me every day to reconsider. Age, he would say, is not an issue for someone like you. We trust you and want you to stay. Of course by that point I knew there was no way I would stay. I knew that life awaited out the door from Mountain View, down the street away from Program Management avenue and data centers and servers and misbehaving applications and cloud vendors.

Upon reaching that vaunted view, I found that this is not a rule free thing. There are rules that are there. Perhaps we agree so we move toward them willingly.

What are the few, if any rules, of wandering and vagabonding? I’ve figured out some and there are not many.

  1. Lodging. I cannot just trust to arriving at a place for 3 months and not having a firm grasp on lodging. I want a place that will take the longer stay and then get out of my way.
  2. Food. Well, food is important. I like food. I like to eat.
  3. Money. Without money you do not get the first two things but you have to be careful with this one.
  4. Connections. Do you need them when you wander? Family, friends, relationships?
  5. Possessions. All that stuff you have. What do you do with it?
  6. Closure. If you are going to leave forever, you have to have closure on things. You cannot leave a car, house, possessions behind. Close those things off before you go.
  7. Needs and Wants. Well, this is the superset. You have them. Do you need the first 5 to reach the sixth?
  8. Wandering itself. Do you ned to have all 6 to go?
  9. Solo or group mode. What’s your choice?

All of the other things like choosing a backpack, deciding on clothing, do you pack for a week if you are gone for years, do you want a simple or complex life? Check in or carry on? Blog or write a journal? Active on twitter or facebook? All of these may bring value or cause you pain and may do both. There are huge communities out there of expatriates that can help. Travel forum sites to help you learn. Nomads, vagabonds, RTW, gap year, whatever experts that can assist. The question always is do you need all that?

Here’s the final things if you are retired like me. Can you actually do it when you are old? Will all those younger backpackers make room for you? Are there places in the world where you can live cheaper and have more fun?

I’ll give you a hint on these. Yes to all. Being old has no real bearing on doing a thing. Perhaps you move slower. That’s okay. Backpackers and RTW and digital nomads and gapyear people are all after something too. Finally, here’s a hint on the places that are cheaper. You can live well in Vietnam on your retirement just with social security. Take my word for it. Your room in the hotel may not be 5 stars and your food may be street food except a night or two in a week when a burger and fries, Indian food, pizza, or whatever calls you. I started doing a budget in google docs for everything What a waste of time. If you want a real downer after a few beers out and a nice bowl of Pho or an expensive dinner in Hanoi Vietnam (expensive for Vietnam), then just get that spreadsheet out and ruin it by suddenly feeling the guilt. I can tell you that I have spent no more the last 7 nights than $3.00 for dinner and I get a lot of food. Forget the language barriers too. Menus have pictures. So, yes; you can go cheaper and have more fun and meet engaging and fun people from Vietnam.

Give it a shot if you are about to retire is my advice. What’s the worse that can happen? What’s the best?

Author: Michael Perry

I've been blogging for over 20 years and now am living in Southeast Asia. The blog is about my slow vagabonding wherever I want to go. My home base is in Cambodia but I'm rarely there.