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.
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 twenty-four 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.
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 more than a few weeks or months, Potts feels somewhat at home in Bangkok, Cairo, Pusan, New York, New Orleans, and north-central Kansas, where he keeps a small farmhouse on 30 acres near his family. Each July he can be found in France, where he is the summer writer-in-residence and program director at the Paris American Academy.
Media praise for Rolf Potts
Potts is one of the best travel writers to emerge in the last decade. Intrepid and thoughtful, he’s a Paul Theroux for the backpacker generation.
—San Francisco Chronicle
Potts makes a valuable contribution to our thinking, not only about travel, but about life and work. And he leaves us with a prescription for making our lives more meaningful and more fun.
Potts, Internet raconteur and travel-advice sage, is the kind of guy you wish the pubs had more of: well traveled, generous with funny stories, eager to listen to yours.
Jack Kerouac for the Internet Age
Rolf is one of the sharpest minds among the new generation of travel writers and bloggers.
—Rick Steves “Travel With Rick Steves”
Rolf Potts’ name may not be as familiar as Paul Theroux or Jan Morris, but he’s as skilled a travel writer as anyone out there.
—New Orleans Times-Picayune
It’s [a] turn-on-a-dime ability to mix gonzo adventure with nuanced rumination — often in the same story — that make Potts stand out in the world of travel writing. He seems like the ideal drinking companion, full of verve, incredible tales and unexpected insights.
—Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Vita.mn)
For Rolf Potts, traveling is more than adventure. It’s art.
—Poets & Writers
Potts isn’t so much a travel reporter as a story teller. …He’s more about getting under the skin of a place — detailing a cast of characters that would either enthrall or scare the hell out of most travelers, depending on where they come down on the trust-paranoia continuum.
—Orange County Register
[O]ne of the few young writers I know who is really bringing the high literary tradition of travel into the new century with a special brand of eloquence and wit and openness.
—Pico Iyer, author of Video Night in Kathmandu
… a renowned shoestring traveler whose 2003 book, Vagabonding, is a crucial reference for any budget wanderer.
Anyone who enjoyed Rolf Potts’s travel essays during the heyday of Salon.com already has an appreciation for his descriptive flair and storytelling ability. Unlike so many “I-went-here-and-this-happened” travel writers, his pieces are heavy on cultural nuance and light on self-aggrandizement.
—Globe and Mail (Canada)
Potts encourages us to think about travel in a way that has been almost lost. He wants us to wander, to explore, to embrace the unknown and, finally, to take our own damn time about it.
—Tim Cahill, founding editor of Outside Magazine
Author, journalist, and inveterate traveler, Rolf Potts has made a name for himself as a champion of vagabonding — spending extended time on the road, often without a hard-and-fast itinerary.
—National Geographic Traveler
He’s been drugged and robbed in Istanbul, checked out brothels in Cambodia where prostitutes are identified by numbers, and shopped for donkeys in the Libyan Desert. Rolf Potts usually has an interesting answer to the mundane question, ‘So, what did you do today?’
—San Francisco Examiner
Some folks go on adventures, but other people live adventures. Such is the case with writer Rolf Potts, who has spent the better part of his adult years writing dispatches from far-flung locales.
Rolf Potts is at the forefront of a new generation of literary travel writers that came of age with the Internet.
So much of travel writing is of the ‘how to get there/what to see’ variety. Potts’ is different: he travels independently, immersing himself in his subject, often becoming part of the story, and seeks to communicate a sense of place, warts and all.
No American travel writer has written as much — and as cleverly — about [the] gap between expectations and reality as Rolf Potts.
—Budget Travel, “This Just In”
Potts shows travelers and would-be travelers the joy of immersing oneself in a foreign culture.
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
We wanted to know if it is still possible to have great, life changing adventures on a shoestring. Few are better equipped to answer this question than Rolf Potts.
—Times Online (U.K.)
Rolf Potts can truly be called a man of the world.
One of the finest travel writers working today.
—Pauline Frommer, “The Travel Show“
El gurú de los mochileros.
—El Mercurio (Chile)
Plus qu’un simple vagabond.