2 Powerful Travel Books That Made Me a Budget Backpacker

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The thumbnail of the cringe-worthy video below is me in Jodhpur, India. Honestly, I would have never went there if I didn’t read a couple travel books a few months prior.

It’s for this reason that I decided to write this blog post and share with you my favorite travel books. Wether you feel stuck in your job like I did, or need a change of pace, I highly recommend these inspirational books for motivation.

YouTube video

I’m not a huge reader in the traditional sense of opening up a book and reading. In fact, I have never finished a single book from cover to cover throughout all of high school and college: no joke. But now I listen to a lot of audiobooks. In 2017, I read listened to 17 audiobooks.

Also not a reader? Get your first Audible audiobook for free when you sign up with my invite link.

Anyway, whether you prefer reading or listening, here are the two travel books that that single-handedly inspired me to travel the world.

The 4-Hour Workweek

The 4-Hour Workweek book cover by Tim Ferriss

Immediately, I was skeptical of a book with such a scamy title as The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.  I was about to stop listening to the book just 15 minutes in. But I’m sure glad I stuck with it because The 4-Hour Workweek has not only inspired me to travel, but also has had a huge impact on my career.

The Deferred Life Plan vs Mini Retirements

My mini-review of The 4-Hour Workweek will focus on the aspect of the book that inspired me to travel now as opposed to waiting until I’m retired. Tim Ferriss, the author, introduces the idea of taking mini-retirements throughout your life rather than waiting until you’re retired to travel the world.

Another point that Tim makes that I found especially relevant is that timing is never right. You’ll always have an excuse for not traveling now and habitually push it off. It could be work, kids, finances, or whatever.

At the end of the day, you simply need to pull the trigger and realize that your life will be waiting for you when you return home. A quote from the book explains this concept the best.

For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.
― Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek

The Surprisingly Cheap Cost of Long-Term Travel

Most of all, long-term world travel is not something that only the ultra-rich can afford to do.  In fact, you can travel abroad for less than you pay for your rent or mortgage back in the US.  Not only that but in the worst of circumstances, you can always earn money on the road from odd jobs. At the very least, you can trade your time for lodging.

If you’re skeptical, that’s okay, because I was too. But then I traveled around India for 5 weeks, and I only ended up spending $1,059.21.  This dollar amount includes all food, drinks, lodging, tourism, and travel expenses. At home in Baltimore, I pay $925 per month for rent alone.

Time > Money

Another concept that The 4-Hour Workweek introduces time as a new currency. In other words, relative income is more important than absolute income.

For example, Marc who works 10 hours per week and makes $25,000 per year is richer than Brian who works 60 hours per week and makes $100,000 per year. Not only is Marc’s hourly rate higher, but he has more time to enjoy his life outside of work than Brian.

Even if Marc’s hourly rate was lower than Brian, he would still have much more time to enjoy doing the things that he loves. As the famous saying goes: It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years


Vagabonding book cover by Rolf Potts

The second book in my small collection of travel books is Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel. I actually found out about this book from The 4-Hour Workweek. In fact, Tim Ferriss traveled the world for 18 months with Rolf Potts’s book in hand.

First, I feel obligated to define vagabonding for you, because I had no idea what this word meant when I first picked up this book. As the title suggests and as Rolf sates, vagabonding is “taking time off from your normal life—from six weeks to four months to two years—to discover and experience the world on your own terms.”

In a sense, you can say vagabonding is similar to a nomadic life where your address is unknown for a period of time.

Vacation vs Vagabonding = Tourism vs Travel

A vacation is easy and relaxing.  Cruises, all-inclusive resorts, and trips to the beach or slopes are all considered vacations.  Vacations are synonymous with tourism.  Vacations allow you to escape your life for a short period of time and catch up on rest, relaxation, and fun.

Travel or vagabonding, on the other hand can be hard work.  Travel can include relaxation and fun, but that is certainly not the primary focus.  When you travel, you will immerse yourself in a culture that is foreign to your own. A result of traveling is personal growth which is something that a margarita on the beach just can’t offer you.

Now Is the Best Time to Travel

Similar to the mini-retirements that Tim talks about in The 4-Hour Workweek, Rolf Potts encourages the reader to travel now as opposed to waiting for the right time.  This excerpt from Vagabonding explains this concept beautifully:

In this way, we end up spending (as Thoreau put it) “the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it.” We’d love to drop all and explore the world outside, we tell ourselves, but the time never seems right. Thus, given an unlimited amount of choices, we make none. Settling into our lives, we get so obsessed with holding on to our domestic certainties that we forget why we desired them in the first place.
― Rolf Potts, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

Potts is saying two things here:

  1. Travel now while you are young and able
  2. Reexamine your values and hold them true

Key Takeaways From These Two Travel Books

Tim Ferriss and Rolf Potts share a similar perspective on long-term travel. The 4-Hour Workweek and Vagabonding touch on many topics, but compliment each other well on the topic of travel.

Tim Ferriss has a podcast episode that is especially relevant where he interviews Rolf Potts. So in addition to reading The 4-Hour Workweek and Vagabonding, I recommend that you listen to that podcast episode for additional inspiration about travel tips and creating time wealth.

As a result of reading these travel books multiple times, I realized that real wealth comes from time and mobility and not so much from money.

Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. Learn how to travel on a budget from some of my other blog posts, and let me know if you have any questions or comments below.

Meet Tony

After years of backpacking the world solo, Tony is an expert when it comes to budget travel. Discover why Tony quit his job to travel on the cheap, and follow him on YouTube for all the latest.

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