Vagablogging, the website of Rolf Potts, published a case study about me on their site which you can check out here. Rolf Potts, if you aren’t familiar, is the author of the book Vagabonding which was hugely inspirational to me.
Q&A With Vagablogging.net
Hometown: Reston, VA
Quote: “Enduring the difficult times and learning from them is part of the journey.”
How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip? Vagabonding was recommended to me by a friend and became (more than any other) the book that inspired me to explore the world. I didn’t use it during my trip but it taught me what’s possible and to look at things differently.
How long were you on the road? 5 years.
Where all did you go? Japan & China. Tokyo, Hong Kong, and everywhere in Mainland China, including Tibet.
What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey? Playing music. I’m a club DJ.
Did you work or volunteer on the road? I worked on the road!
Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite? In mainland China my favorite places are Zhuhai (a city on the China Sea, near Hong Kong), Kunming (capital of Yunnan Province) and Chengdu (capital of Sichuan). I selected Chengdu as the city to build my base and I’ve been here for several years.
Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging? Large cities on the east coast of China, like Shenzhen and Guangzhou (the manufacturing capital of the world) are pretty rough. They’re highly populated, the pollution is intense and I picked up a cold no-one-really-cares feeling many times. In the summertime that region brings some of the most unbearable heat and humidity I’ve ever had to endure. For me that was a difficult region.
Did any of your pre-trip worries or concerns come true? Did you run into any problems or obstacles that you hadn’t anticipated? I wrestled with many pre-trip worries but fortunately none of the bad ones came to fruition. I made mistakes, got into embarassing situations and had my wallet stolen in a mosh pit at a music festival. Enduring the difficult times and learning from them is part of the journey so I consider that stuff to be growing pains.
Which travel gear proved most useful? Least useful? Three very useful items come to mind:
- A high quality backpack: I’ve been using the same North Face (Yavapai) for 7 years. It’s small and easy to get around with but lightweight and durable.
- Moleskine notebooks have become indispensible for me, although any ordinary notebook will fit the bill. I have several filled with Chinese characters that were taught to me by friends and strangers over the years, in addition to a diary and tons of notes captured along the way.
- An iPod Touch can replace so many items and really lighten your load. It’s an mp3 player, an ebook reader, a calculator, translator and dictionary, currency convertor, and much more. It weighs less than a pound and means you don’t have to carry books around with you, which are heavy and cumbersome. And of course, having music with you when you travel is an enormous comfort.
What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle? Exploring the uncharted, outward and within. Making meaningful observations about yourself and the culture you come from once you get acclimated to another way of life. But perhaps more than anything: what makes you happy. This is something that I began to discover once I embraced another way of living.
What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle? Not everyone will understand it, and it’s difficult or impossible to explain to some. Being separated from family can be difficult, especially around the holidays (spending Thanksgiving 8,000 miles from my family, for example). For me that’s the biggest sacrifice.
What lessons did you learn on the road? Always grow, develop and adapt to your surroundings. This is a skill you’ll hone as you spend years on the road, but it’s important no matter where you find yourself.
How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip? The more I traveled the more I came to find that it’s all about people. Reading a book or watching a movie can be very insightful, but often it doesn’t compare to the subtleties of human interaction. Now when I travel somewhere new I’m as excited about conversing with people and learning about who they are as I am about any other part of the trip.
If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be? Don’t worry so much. You only live once and youth doesn’t last.
Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure? Do it.
When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey? That’s easy – South America! I’m looking forward to exploring a totally new region after traveling all around Asia for half a decade.