Rolf Potts has reported from more than sixty countries for the likes of National Geographic Traveler, The New Yorker, Slate.com, Outside, the New York Times Magazine, The Believer, The Guardian (U.K.), Sports Illustrated, National Public Radio, and the Travel Channel. Potts is perhaps best known for promoting the ethic of independent travel, and his book on the subject, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel.
According to Rolf, vagabonding isn’t just about travel, it’s a mindset. Even in the midst of the pandemic, Rolf talks about “maintaining that vagabonding attitude… even when travel isn’t literally what you are doing.”
In our conversation, Rolf talks about what it means to be wealthy in time versus wealthy in things. He offers these inspiring words about what it means to “live richly.” Rolf says: “Life is of a short duration and so make sure that you are making decisions that don’t put off what is important, be it travel or your family or your community, I think there are a lot of ways to our detriment we’re encouraged to live less richly than we could be, when in fact it doesn’t cost that much to live richly.”
Rolf also talks about the ancient wisdom that inspired his book as well as his life. Influenced by the Stoic philosophers, he says that you may not be able to control events, but you can control how you react to these events. “You can choose to be rich in time instead of rich in things.”
Unfortunately, many people are addicted to their electronic devices and the latest news. Rolf gives this simple advice: just take a walk and explore some new street, neighborhood, wherever you happen to be. He says: “Go for a walk anywhere in a new city and have your mind blown. Well, you can do that at home too.” During the pandemic, Rolf spends time hiking and exploring his hometown in rural Kansas.
The poet Rilke once wrote: “the only journey is the one within.” And Rolf echoes this “inner journey” concept in his work. He says: “If you realize that the inner journey is what counts, then you get a little less inquisitive and competitive about the outer journey and you realize that those rewards can be found even in very humble and close to home trips and adventures.”
How do you live the life of your dreams? Rolf says that this begins by simply “giving yourself permission.” Rolf explains that we often put off our travels because of these pretexts like money. When in reality what we really need to do is just give ourselves permission to do something we dream about, like travel.
Rolf often says that “Vagabonding in its purest is a letter to my 17 year old self.” He talks about all of the great lessons that he’s learned from his travels all over the planet: “I think of my very anxious and nervous 17 year old self… because he’d be so happy with what I’ve discovered since then just because I was willing to put myself out there in the world to make mistakes and learn as I go and that’s advice I’d give to anyone.”
You can learn more about Rolf and his work here: https://rolfpotts.com/