“Friends and vagabonders,
“Welcome to my newly redesigned website!”
I wrote that phrase almost exactly sixteen years ago, when (thanks to a lot of heavy-lifting from my webmaster Mike Marlett) I updated RolfPotts.com from its basic, blue-and-white 1998 design to a black-and-tan layout with ambitious new content.
A prominent feature of this new content was my “Vagabonding Suggestifesto” (“manifesto” sounded too presumptuous) — an essayistic ten-point list of philosophical travel advice. This eventually caught the attention of an editor at Random House, and I expanded that travel philosophy into my first book, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of World Travel.
Another feature from that update was a monthly Travel Writer Profile column, where I posed basic career-oriented questions to travel-writing professionals. That series is still ongoing, and now features more than 200 interviews with a wide range of travel writers, editors, publishers, filmmakers, bloggers, and novelists, including Pico Iyer, Simon Winchester, Mary Morris, Hilary Bradt, Tony Wheeler, Gary Shteyngart, Peter Hessler, David Grann, and Tim Cahill.
The cover of Vagabonding (which is now in its 24th printing) shares the same font and black/tan hue as my 2000-era website. In the years since that book came out I have traveled around the world many times (once with no luggage), published hundreds of articles and essays, hosted travel-themed TV shows and webisodes, lectured at venues from Ireland to Australia, taught semester-long nonfiction-writing courses at Penn and Yale, directed an annual writing workshop at the Paris American Academy, and written a few more books.
During that time, the design of RolfPotts.com didn’t change much, and as the years went on it began to look a tad dated. Finally, in early 2016 (after years of speculating about it) Mike and I rolled up our sleeves and started the redesigned site you see now.
So, for the second time in sixteen years: “Welcome to my newly redesigned website!” I hope it’s a great resource for anyone interested in travel, writing, cultural criticism, and other aspects of my professional life.
Here are a few notes on how the new site works, and what it’s all about:
1) Ninety percent of what you see here is tied into my professional work and travels
When I first started RolfPotts.com in 1998, it mainly contained links to the travel articles I was writing for venues like Salon, general travel advice, and quotes from books I’d been reading. The following year I added a monthly “update” section, which served as a kind of Ur-blog about my travels and writings.
The site still contains some of those elements, including an expanded archive of my online Stories and Essays. But now, after nearly two decades of working as a journalist, essayist, TV host, public speaker, and teacher, I have expanded my offerings to include a list of upcoming and past Events, an archive of my Video features, information about my annual Paris Writing Workshop, and a full rundown of my Books (including Anthologies I’ve appeared in and Forewords I’ve written).
For those wanting to know more about me, I’ve included a Bio page, as well as a page with links to dozens of Interviews (many of which expand on the ideas I introduced in books like Vagabonding). I’ve also included links to my old blogging projects, such as Vagablogging (which features fourteen years of travel advice from a variety of contributors) and the No Baggage Challenge (which documents a six-week trip around the world with no luggage).
2) The other ten percent is me thinking out loud about esoteric things
I might occasionally write about travel on the blog portion of this website, but since much of my professional life is given over to travel writing, this new blog will mainly serve as a place where I can write about random things that fascinate me. It will be a bit more personal and a bit less polished than my normal writing; often, these posts won’t establish a formal thesis or deliver a specific insight so much as say, simply: isn’t this interesting?
Part of the reason why I want to do this is as a kind of writing exercise — a way to test out ideas and ruminate in new directions without the pressure (or limitations) of a formal submission and publication process. A lot of what I write about here will tie into my tangential obsessions with music, sports, film and television, books, and the 1990s. And, since I’ve been a compulsive note-taker for most of my life, I’ll post some excerpts of writing that isn’t my own — including poems that intrigue me and writers reflecting on the craft of writing.
3) There isn’t a comments section (but I’m happy to hear from you)
One final thing I’ll say about this site is that it’s not monetized, and the blog content in particular doesn’t serve a strategic purpose beyond the chance to write about things that interest me.
Accordingly, I don’t host a “comments” section anywhere on this site. If you feel like sharing your thoughts about something you read here, send me a message via the Contact page. I read everything that comes my way, and I reply to much of it. If what you say strikes a particular chord with me, I might even incorporate your comments into a follow-up post.