If you’ve never heard of Rolf Potts, then you’re one of the disadvantaged few. A seasoned traveler and writer, he has been to over fifty countries and has written about his adventures for dozens of magazines and newspapers, from the high-profile to the humble. Rolf always tells his tales in a witty and wise way that has earned him worldwide praise.
In addition to appearing in National Geographic Traveler, Slate.com, and on National Public Radio, his writing has also been featured in nearly twenty literary travel anthologies, and thirteen of his essays have appeared in the Best American Travel Writing collection.
But Rolf is probably best know for his book on independent travel, “Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel,” which has been through six printings and translated into several foreign languages since it was published in 2003.
When he’s not traveling, Rolf teaches writing at the Paris American Academy, where he is the summer writer-in-residence during the month of July, or he can be found hanging out at his farmhouse in Kansas.
I recently got to live vicariously through Rolf for an afternoon, when I interviewed him about writing techniques, the philosophy of vagabonding, and why it’s important to spend more than $5 when traveling across a continent, among other things.
When did you first develop wanderlust? How old were you?
I’ve always had wanderlust. I remember being six years old and going to Wyoming and seeing mountains for the first time. I’m from Kansas, which is flat, so that was a big deal. As a kid, every year hinged around vacation, where we went in the summer. We went to Kansas City, Missouri, Colorado, California. Travel was always the most exciting part of the year in the family setting. Where I grew up was fairly provincial, and not a lot of people traveled the world. It never occurred to me that the vagabonding process was available to me. Wanderlust was something I’ve always had, but it was not until the first long trip I made after college when I realized how easy and inexpensive and incredibly wonderful it was, that I incorporated it into a more active part of my lifestyle.