I’ve been re-reading Vagabonding by Rolf Potts for no particular reason. Just as I remember, it’s full of curious wisdom.

He quotes a mid-century naturalist called Edwin Way Teale:

Freedom … seems more rare, more difficult to attain, more remote with each new generation.

then Potts comments that

Teale’s lament for the deterioration of personal freedom was just as hollow a generalization in 1956 as it is now. As John Muir was well aware, vagabonding has never been regulated by the fickle public definition of lifestyle. Rather, it has always been a private choice within a society that is constantly urging us to do otherwise.

Reluctant as I am to completely divorce the individual from society in my writing, I rarely say anything as untempered or full-frontal as that.

Potts is right. It’s elementary Escapology and it must not be forgotten. The world might demand that we go to work, own or rent some bricks and mortar, perform certain duties, behave certain ways. But we don’t have to do any of it. We can’t be controlled to that extent. You can still, after everything, walk away.


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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

One Response to “Fickle”

  1. Kevin says:

    Interesting, thanks for this Robert. A glance at Rolf Potts’ website makes me think of the song ‘Ramblin Man’ by Lemon Jelly, and of another book – The Old Ways by Robert McFarlane, about journeys on foot which he made along ancient tracks, holloways and drove-roads. It’s not exactly vagabonding in the sense that Potts means, but it’s a fantastic, poetic and inspiring book, and fires the imagination for at least one kind of escape.

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