World-renowned travel writer Rolf Potts urged students to travel at today’s public lecture in the Bundy Reading Room.
“Do it now. Time is the truest form of wealth,” Potts said.
Potts also discussed how he grew up on the plains of Kansas and became a travel writer.
Heralded as “Jack Kerouac for the Internet Age” according to USA Today, Potts has spent the past two decades developing his philosophy of “Indie travel” — honoring options over possessions, seeing yourself in the context of a rich and complex world, defining your values, exploring your beliefs and crafting your own meaning for life, His philosophy also encourages achieving dynamic possibilities over static goals and finding nuanced realities over broad expectations.
This advice from Potts comes as the result of his experiences visiting over 60 countries on six continents. In these places, Potts said he learned to understand culture at a gut level by stretching his expectations and visiting areas that may not be on the beaten path.
He also learned the wealth of true authenticity. What armchair travelers in the U.S. might see as authentic (Buddhist monks chanting at sunset) may not be what is really authentic to the people living there, he said. Potts described an “American” style dude ranch in northern Thailand, complete with stagecoaches and a 45-minute fist-fight between the "Cowboys" and "Indians."
During the lecture Potts commented that travel is changing. With the accessibility of the Internet at our fingertips, it is more and more difficult to truly leave our comfort level. The things that make good travel writers according to Potts — boredom, loneliness, fear — are hard to feel with Angry Birds and Twitter always a click away.
“Don’t overlook the beautiful capacity of complete failure to bring you to the next level,” Potts said.
Even with all of these experiences, the supposed glamour and enviable life of travel, Potts chooses to live on his father’s farm in Kansas. It is important, Potts says, to have a place to come home to. And each time he returns, he sees his home a little clearer and a little differently.
Potts made it clear that a good writer can make a mundane trip to Moscow exciting. A bad writer will make a kidnapping in Asia seem boring. He encouraged the audience to embrace failure and learn.
“Don’t wait to travel. Do it now. My grandfather was set to retire when my grandmother got Alzheimer’s. He was never able to travel. Do it now,” Potts said.