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Just A Vagabond

The transition from being a vagabond to being a vagabond and something else.

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Tired, dirty, hungry, undernourished. There is no time to rest. Little time to hang out, consider the lilies, and have easy conversations with the people around me. It’s full-on movement — from meeting to meeting, interview to interview, project area to project area, city to city, country to country. I imagine what I do may seem romantic — traveling the world in search of information — but it doesn’t exactly seem that way when doing it.

Writing transitioned from being something recreational that I pretended was a job to becoming a real job. What do parents say to their kids — if you make an ugly face long enough it may stick? Well, I kept traveling and blogging long enough that I found myself as an international journalist with a queue of stories to file that continuously grows faster than it can reasonably be finished. For the first time since I was an archaeologist, perhaps, I can say that I truly travel for work. It gets rough, it’s not what anyone would probably think of when envisioning world travel, but I like it this way.

I found that the thrill of a story is far more enthralling than the thrill of a place. I perhaps always knew this, although I wouldn’t readily admit it for a long period of time. There was always some reason why I would spend countless hours inside four walls typing rather than being out in the streets of myriad exotic locales frolicking and recreating. For the first three or so years of doing Vagabond Journey I didn’t make any money. But I kept doing it anyway — for hours and hours each day, waking up at 6am and jumping right on the laptop rather than going down to the beach or into the hills. I thought that I was building a body of work that could fund my travels, and while that actually happened it was the work itself that I was ultimately more interested in funding.

At one point I realized that I loved the work more than the travel, that it was the writing that was the fuel for the movement, not the other way around. That’s when everything fell into place. I understood who I was and, more importantly, what I was doing. The goal was no longer the place but the story — to find something that I could try to understand, some record of experience that I could learn from, some massive mound of cud to chew on. That was always the appeal of the itinerancy in the first place — the Nat Geo-esque exploration that I naively believed travel was as a kid on the farm.

Access is what travel is ultimately about: access to places, access to people, access to information. This prime directive of travel transitioned very smoothly into journalism. Although my path has been rather unconventional, I suppose I’ve struggled up through the ranks — put in my time, so to speak — and now I’m often granted this access. I look back at the CEOs, the government officials, the ambassadors, the governors of national banks, the academics, the entrepreneurs — the people I spend my days talking with — and I laugh a little. I’m just a fucking vagabond. But I suppose I’m also something else now too.


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Filed under: Journalism, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3715 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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