Rolf Potts: The Man, The Myth, the Hottie


So, here I am cruising around the country doing author events for my latest book. The way these events go, you talk about the book, you read from the book, you talk about the process of making the book, you talk about the process of getting yourself to the point of being the name on the book, and then you talk more about yourself. Most of the time the audience asks questions, and if I did I good job, everyone is laughing.

And they did laugh. They laughed so much that the main question I got asked at nearly every store was, “What’s the next book going to be called?” These sillies just love the underwear themes. This was good news to report back to Travelers’ Tales, and somehow I wasn’t that surprised.

What surprised me was the second most asked question.
“What’s Rolf Potts like?”

And it happened so much, and in so many different places, that I can’t even remember them all. But I remember at least three, maybe four.

Santa Cruz, California
I was hanging out with some friends, one of which is a travel writer and editor and has many years, books, and bylines than I can keep track of. We were chit chatting about the life of a writer and I mentioned something about a friend who was working on a book. I don’t remember the context of why this came up, and don’t worry, I wasn’t revealing the topic of the book, but before I could finish my thought, she interjected, “Rolf?” And I thought, “Rolf? Where did that come from. I haven’t spoken to this woman in years. Possibly longer than I’ve actually known Rolf (four years). No, I said. Not Rolf. But picking up on her interest in the subject, I told her all about Vagablogging.net and how she could use it in her upcoming newspaper column for travel websites.
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Portland, Oregon
The event at 23rd Avenue Books was mainly for Sean Keener’s friends and family. There were others, 20 some in all. And so many men that I really had to avert my eyes when talking about getting felt up by a Turkish/German masseur. Two of the guys in the crowd were somewhat new BootsnAll members and tagged along with Sean and posse as we went out for drinks after. And they kept tagging along until we were back at Sean’s house in the Bootbus drinking Pinot. “So, how’d you hear about BootsnAll?” I asked. Vagabonding, they both replied, though they were not together. One of them, the younger one, then said he found Written Road from the book. “So, is this travel writing community all a front or do you really know Rolf Potts and Don George?” I started laughing. Yes, I really know them.

And then he proceeded to unearth his admiration for Rolf and went into all sorts of Rolf philosophies and a small spiel about the book that I swear Rolf could have written himself. This young man has rarely traveled, but oh has he traveled through Rolf’s words. And not just the book, no, he’s read a ton of stuff online as well. Sean and I sat back, stunned. Whoa. He nailed it. Yep, that’s Rolf. But I was too into the Pinot to recall his statements other than that I was impressed that a 22-year-old had this kind of insight into someone just from reading their work.

“Where did you meet him?” Mini-Rolf asked.
“I met him at the Bangkok Oriental in Thailand four years ago,” I said.
“Oh! He was there doing a story for National Geographic Traveler!”
“Yes, that’s when I met him.”

And the beat went on…

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Olympia, Washington
I can’t figure out if the youngster wanted to spend more time with me because we shared an interest in craps, or because I knew Rolf. But it didn’t matter. I met him on one of his last nights before heading down to Mexico for a few months. And of course, he wanted to talk more about you know who.

He didn’t want me to tell Rolf about him in any other way than that he’s read Vagabonding three times, and on the last pass he knew what was going to come next before he turned the page. I felt like torturing the young man and whipped out my cell phone. “Oooh, lets call him. Right now. Look, I’ve got his number right here.” The poor man was mortifed. Petrified. And begged me not to. So, I didn’t.

Toronto, CANADA
I had attended WordStock, a one day conference for Canadian Journalists. Afterwards I went out with two contributors to Sand in My Bra and Whose Panties Are These. One woman had invited a bunch of other writers she knew so there were seven of us women in all. We ordered our beer and wine, got the apps coming, and sat down to talk about, what I thought was going to be, writing. The ringleader indulged me in a little shop talk until she could hold it no longer, “Ok, Ok, lets get down to what’s really important. What’s Rolf Potts like? Is he as good looking in person as he is on his site?”

After a quick second of being shocked at this recurring theme, I laughed. And then I switched from writer mode, to girl mode. So, Rolf, you will have to excuse me. “Oh yeah,” I said. Then I couldn’t help but follow up with, “and he got even better looking this summer! He was living down in San Diego and had some friends take him shopping. This one shirt, oh my gosh.” They loved it. So, I kept going, “Well, he had to you know, now that he’s hanging out with politicos.”

Guelph, CANADA (a small uni town an hour west of Toronto)
The real reason I was headed over to Canada was to have some R&R. Sure, I’d flown into Toronto and did the book thing for the first few hours, but I assumed that my shadow of All-Things-Rolf would cease as soon as I left the ladies.

No way…

I got a brief break, but the minute I walked into this small town’s independent bookstore, there he was. Or Vagabonding rather. Top shelf, face out, with a shelf talker! I was so mad I didn’t have a camera. It’s always a nice feeling to have your book be a “Staff Pick”, but it’s even better if they write a personal comment. Thanks to the efforts of my friend in Guelph who went to the Bookshelf to copy it down, I was able to get this back for Rolf.

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

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Vagabonding confirms travel is a lifestyle – it volleys strings of data meant to facilitate the planning and execution of trips with duration of
at least months and months. Set up like a self-help manual, it has chapter titles like ” Earn your freedom”, ” Learn and keep learning”, and “Meet your neighbours”. Potts research is impressive. The book is engaging enough because of his writing style, but with the addition of his factoids, traveler biographies, hints, and resources ( www.i-resign.com, for example), it’s also capable of engaging those long-held dreams of long-term travel that have lingered solely in fantasy-land for too long. Potts delivers the goods and a reader needs to arrange a life that makes time for travel. Vagabonding is the type of travel book that is kept in a reference collection instead of being tossed through a train window once its destination is met.

So, the answer is Yes, to all the Written Road fans, lookieloos, and the like. Yes, I know Rolf Potts. He’s real. Our friendship is legitimate. I’ve met several of his friends, had bison burgers with his dad, and slept over at his best friend’s house. He is probably even the person that I’ve been in the most cities with. We’ve met in Bangkok, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego. I thought there were more than that, but maybe not. We have fun together and I don’t make up events or connections with other writers on this site. And even though Rolf’s level of work and pay is taking him into higher brackets than I’m in, I still think it’d be fun to do a humor book with him and even better for us to do a college campus tour. We would definitely have them laughing.

And maybe, just maybe, if he’s not too busy celebrating his birthday this morning, he’ll write back and tell us the ONE time he was out amid strangers and they asked him about knowing me.

Have a great party tonight, Rolf! Sorry I can’t be there. Maybe some of your fans on WR will say Happy Birthday right here or over at Vagablogging.net.