Jennifer Gampell
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Bangkok 10100 Thailand
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February 22, 2003

by Jennifer Gampell
Special to the Globe and Mail

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel
Rolf Potts, Villard Books
205 pages, $17.95

Anyone who enjoyed Rolf Potts's travel essays during the heyday of already has an appreciation for his descriptive flair and storytelling ability. Unlike so many "I-went-here-and-this-happened" travel writers, his pieces are heavy on cultural nuance and light on self-aggrandizement.

Now, Potts has synthesized more than six years' worth of road experiences into an unusual travel guide that's much more than a how-to manual for open-ended journeys. With wit, insight and flair, he has created an inspiring philosophical handbook about living life as an adventure.

In Vagabonding,he blends homegrown aphorisms (". . . if travel really is an attitude of awareness and openness to new things, then any moment can be considered travel") with personal vignettes and practical tips. For example, Potts turns an anecdote about Christopher Columbus into a parable about too much pre-trip planning. He finds vagabonding metaphors in Buddhist texts and tales of the Indian Raj, while underlining his points with quotes from an eclectic array of sources, including Seinfeld jokes and Rainer Maria Rilke poems. Each of the eight chapters includes useful print and on-line resources, quotes from fellow travellers and a profile of a historical vagabonder, among them John Muir and Annie Dillard.

Vagabonding is an inspiring read for anyone who has ever contemplated taking an extended break. And in this time of war rumbles and international discord, his words ring truer than ever: "If you continually view other people through your own eyes, you'll lose the opportunity to see the world through theirs."


Copyright 2003 Jennifer Gampell