Tim Ferriss: Vagabond Mentor

Jetsetter and world traveller.

Back in 2004 Tim Ferriss took off to the capital of multicultural Argentina, Buenos Aires. 

Tim has by this point in his life experienced much in the way of personal and professional success and earned himself a centrepiece bust in the museum of self help. He had skilfully founded and grown a successful business – brainQUICKEN. Went on to acutely reposition himself as an angel investor in tech – boasting success with Facebook, Twitter, Uber, AliBaba and more. He authored the absurdly saturated, multinational bestseller, 4-Hour Work Week. And finally – in his words his most important work – published his intimate and accessible experience with depression in the hopes of helping those affected within his wide audience. 

But, just like Tim, if you are going to travel, then you may as well travel like a local.

The Story of Tango, Red Wine and Argentina

Tim had initially set aside 4 weeks (apparently unironic period of time) for a sabbatical away from tech, or as he calls it, a ‘mini-retirement’. His choice of destination was Buenos Aires. This time ended up inflating into 9 months and offered Tim the chance to master both the language and the fiery dance of the people, Tango.

This experience landed Tim as the first American Tango Dancer in the Guinness World Records achieving 37 spins in one minute. Although Tim was surely already accustomed to a full bodied red of another sort, he has publicly reminisced on his time in Argentina through a wining and dining lens.

The nature Tim’s trip has vagabonding written all over it.

In true Tim Ferriss fashion, not only is he a vagabonder himself, but he holds a friendship with the most public exponent of the philosophy – Rolf Potts. The two sat down to record a podcast not so long ago and managed to spread this message and style of travel through Tim’s expansive audience, allowing the knowledge to drip past the filter, to distill in the memory of me and other likeminded listeners.

Tim’s familiarity with ‘mini-retirements’ come from an experience as an unwittingly young vagabond. Towards the end of highschool, Tim became a minority of one among the homogenous people of Japan. In much of Tim’s published work he mentions early difficulties as he learnt Japanese and was victim to to unavoidable culture shock – noting a particular time he misspoke his then scrappy Japanese; Intending on asking his host mother to wake him for breakfast and instead, mistakenly asking her to ‘violently rape him’.

Tim has since consistently set aside time to take these ‘mini-vacations’, voyaging in Bali, Latin America, or somewhere else off the grid, he even returned recently to Japan on a vagabonding experience and mastered horseback archery offering allusion to Dan Carlin’s description the horse rearing mongols in his incredible ‘Wrath of Khanspodcast series.

What is Vagabonding

My admiration for Tim is clear, as the title alludes, his experience is a wonderful vagabonding example. He consistently leaves for undetermined, purposeful periods of time aiming to achieve nothing certain except the experience of himself within the world.

The internet defines Vagabonding as – ‘a person who wonders place to place without a home or a job’. This makes it all sound a bit purposeless. I prefer the way Rolf Potts sets it down – ‘Vagabonding is the act of leaving behind an orderly world to travel independently for an extended period of time’ and furthermore, ‘Vagabonding is a deliberate way of living that makes freedom to travel possible’. It is distinctly, definably, different to travel.

It is distinctly, definably, different to travel

Volounteer experiences, Workaway’s, labour for accommodation transactions, community orientated work – these are the dry goods of the Vagabonding loaf. Vagabonding is not a checklist, or a list of must sees – it can be an experience that is encapsulated in a scent, a memory that can lift your mood, an accent that flushes your skin – it is an intrinsic feeling which confirms upon your departure that you are no longer the same person as you arrived.

Vagabonding is accessible to everyone.

The biggest constraint that I have heard use in the lexicon is “I don’t have money”. There is enough literature out there offering the experiences of people travelling with minuscule budgets to expel this myth. Reasons to not leave for undetermined periods of time should always be personal, and not subject to some tangible factor. For example, I have missed the development of my youngest brother over the past years and I have not been able to support my parents through difficult times. These are things I know I will regret when I am older and everything is an opportunity cost. Things that did not matter: money, the opinion of others, career prospects, a girlfriend. There is nothing that can’t be resolved without conversation and deliberation. 

The Fruits of Vagabonding

The core theme of the 4-Hour Work Week, and one of the hungry motivations of the Vagabonder – is liberation from the office. Tim Ferriss wrote the 4-Hour Work Week as a guide to someone who is looking for the lifestyle that affords the freedom to travel, and has steadfastly led the lifestyle outlined in his book as proof of it’s is possibility. There exist more ‘digital nomads’ and people who are without an address constantly travelling than ever before. The personal computer and broader monetisation of creativity has allowed sustainability to the vagabonding lifestyle. The yield from this intentional movement of travel is your exposure to experience. Vagabonding will automatically 10x your interactions with people – it is inherent to the experience. Every marginal experience more you encounter exposes you to yet another impressionable conversation or unforeseen opportunity. You can meet a girl that changes your life. This is the fruits of Vagabonding. No other style of travel is going to offer such interactions consistently.

“The personal computer and broader monetisation of creativity has allowed sustainability to the vagabonding lifestyle”

Lessons From Tim

It seems I strayed from the initial subject. Tim Ferriss has influenced me more greatly than anyone outside my family I have ever known. Vagabonding is possible. Just look to your mentors, and if you can’t find one. Start with Tim.


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