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Sunday, 25 February 2007

An Interview with Rolf Potts - Page 5

Written by Karen Elowitt
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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.

You're say in one piece that “travel anywhere is often a matter of exploring half-understood desires.” Can you expand on this, or give an example?

That can be taken very broadly. Maybe you watched a show about the Inca trail when you were seven, and now you’re 26 and still obsessed with the Inca trail. It’s not an intellectualized thing. It’s an impulse that’s tied to who you were as a child. I think it’s great to take that half-understood desire, go to Cuzco, and in the process of being there, you’ll discover so much more and sharpen that desire. The experience of being in the Andes will be great, but the most memorable part of the trip may end up being something completely different. You might go to Egypt because of the pyramids, but once you arrive, that half-understood desire will find its focus and your travel may go in these amazing new directions.

Travel anywhere is an ongoing exercise in ignorance. Be willing to let your ignorance hang out and just go and see the real thing. By that I mean embrace the kind of humility that allows you to admit your ignorance and discover new things. At home we try to protect our self-image by pretending we know more than we do, but on the road we must be open to new places, and not pretend to know about something until we've experienced it.

What are the pros and cons of being a permanent expat?

It’s a very personal thing. I would recommend it to anyone for a short time, to see if it’s right for you. Sometimes it can be tough, and its rewards don’t always pay off until later. Some people are conflicted about it. Maybe I was a bit myself. I am comfortable overseas, but there are some things I miss at home, including my family and friends and a certain stability.

Where are you off to next?

In a week I’m going to Europe for a week, then the Dominican Republic, then Cuba, where I’ll be till late April. Cuba is a place that I am curious about. I want to go there in the waning days of the Castro era.

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© Karen Elowitt - 2007

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