Rolf Potts Interview | Vagabonding | World’s Best Travel Writer

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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. His adventures have taken him across six continents, and include piloting a fishing boat 900 miles down the Laotian Mekong, hitchhiking across Eastern Europe, traversing Israel on foot, bicycling across Burma, driving a Land Rover across South America, and traveling around the world for six weeks with no luggage or bags of any kind.


Travel Writer Rolf Potts 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 (Random House, 2003), has been through thirty-three printings and translated into several foreign languages. His collection of literary travel essays, Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations From One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer (Travelers’ Tales, 2008), won a 2009 Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers, and became the first American-authored book to win Italy’s prestigious Chatwin Prize for travel writing. He has also co-written a travel-themed comic book, and penned a volume about The Geto Boys for Bloomsbury Academic’s vaunted “33 1/3” series of music criticism.


His newest book, Souvenir, was published by Bloomsbury in March of 2018. Rolf’s stories have appeared in numerous literary anthologies over the years, and more than twenty of his essays have been selected as “Notable Mention” in The Best American Essays, The Best American Non-Required Reading, and The Best American Travel Writing, including “Storming ‘The Beach’,” which Bill Bryson chose as a main selection in 2000, and “Tantric Sex for Dilettantes,” which Tim Cahill selected in 2006. His writing for National Geographic Traveler, Slate.com, Lonely Planet, Outside and Travelers’ Tales garnered him five Lowell Thomas Awards. He has lectured at venues around the world, including New York University, the University of Lugano, the University of Melbourne, Authors@Google, and the World Affairs Council. He has taught semester-long nonfiction writing courses at Penn and Yale. Though he rarely stays in one place for long, Potts has, over the years, felt somewhat at home in places like Bangkok, Cairo, Pusan, New Orleans, New York, and Paris, where he runs a series of creative writing classes each summer. He is based in north-central Kansas, where he keeps a small farmhouse on 30 acres with his wife, Kansas-born actress Kristen Bush.

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