5 Lessons on Simplicity from a Mountain Top

Colorado Adventures

On a recent road trip to Colorado, a friend was kind enough to let me and Nate stay in his tiny house on the tip top of a mountain. The drive up to the home was a terrifying maze and I was certain the truck was going to barrel off the edge at any moment. When we reached the top, we found the home nestled in the rocky terrain, so secluded and peaceful.  

On this trip, I read the book “Vagabonding” by Rolf Potts. In these pages, I discovered many meaningful insights on traveling and living simply.

Here are my main takeaways from the book and my travel experience:

1) Make a Rough Schedule:

The reality of vagabonding comes into sharper focus as you adjust your worldview and begin to embrace the exhilarating uncertainty that true travel promises. -R.P.

Be Flexible: Before our trip, we  made an outline with the cities we wanted to stay in each day and several ideas for camping spots. We ended up falling in love with the mountains in Salida and extending our stay in the small town! 

2) Select One Tourist Attraction & Avoid Large Cities:

We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life in the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis. -Edward Abbey

Mount Rushmore: Crowded tourist attractions are overwhelming and expensive- full of crying babies, large families, pets, expensive parking, etc. Choose only one tourist attraction you really want to see, and then leave the rest open-ended. We chose to stop by Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

Denver City: I had heard many trusted friends rave about the city of Dever being the hot place to be for “young professionals.” I was looking forward to seeing a city filled with creative energy and high potential for growth. When we arrived in Denver, I found it crowded, stuffy, full of chains, and overwhelmingly corporate infested. From this experience, we learned to set our own travel path. 


3) Pack LIGHT & Simply:

Simplicity- both at home and on the road- affords you the time to seek renewed meaning in an oft-neglected commodity that can’t be bought at any price: life itself. -R.P.

Camping Gear: I made several trips to REI before the trip where I quickly became intimidated by price tags. Rolf recommends travelers don’t buy tons of gear before a trip. You can always purchase or borrow what you need along the way.  When we were about to leave for a concert at Red Rocks, it began pouring rain. We were able to stay dry by borrowing an umbrella from a new friend.

4) Earn your Freedom:

Vagabonding begins the moment you stop making excuses, start saving money, and begin to look at maps with the narcotic tingle of possibility. -R.P.

Plan Ahead: According to Rolf, if you think you have enough budget to travel for 6 months, plan on 4 months. Then, if you have money remaining at the end, see these last 2 months as a bonus! This will help cover unanticipated expenses. 

5) Discover your Strengths:

Your travels are not an escape from your real life but a discovery of your real life.- R.P.

Creativity is Essential: I found one of my strengths is the ability to stay positive and open to new experiences. This is essential when traveling and encountering any new places and people. Most of our trip was spent camping and in a small studio up in the mountains without running water. Throughout the trip, we found creative ways to stay clean without draining all of our drinking water. We adapted to this by finding rivers, lakes, and a portable camp shower. Creativity on the road can vastly improve your experience.