The Art of Writing a Story About Walking Across Andorra

He traversed an entire nation in a long weekend. Now, Rolf shows how you can impress members of the opposite sex and write a textbook-perfect travel article in eight easy steps.

[Appeared in World Hum on Dec 30, 2005]


The Pitjantjatjara Word for Tourists and Ants Is One and the Same

In the first of several dispatches from central Australia, Rolf discovers that the best thing about Aboriginal tour guides is that they don’t really give a crap about tourists.

[Appeared in on March 5, 2007]


The Dark Side of Travel Romance

What could possibly be bad about an on-the-road romance? Try rekindling it when you get home.

[Appeared in Yahoo! News on April 10, 2006]


Where no Travel Writer has Gone Before

In a five-part series, Rolf Potts joins Trekkies aboard a “Star Trek” theme cruise to Bermuda.

[Appeared in World Hum on November 16-20, 2009]

Where no Travel Writer has Gone Before (Video)

A video teaser for Rolf’s “Star Trek” fan-cruise series. Original music by Rolfe Kent and Meredith Meyer; edited by Mike Marlett.

[Appeared in World Hum on November 13, 2009]


Lost in Transaction

What’s money worth? In Myanmar, Rolf discovers that travel has a way of putting “cash value” into a new perspective.

[Appeared in Yahoo! News on March 27, 2006]

Native eye for the tourist guy

When Rolf picks up a traditional, skirt-like lungi in Myanmar, he has no idea the fashion faux pas that will ensue. A meditation on “going native.”

[Appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 14, 2004]

The Last Archipelago

The Mergui has some 800 (largely unmapped) islands, a population of elusive sea gypsies (the Moken), and, because it belongs to repressive Myanmar, almost no visitors. As the junta in Yangon inches toward political reform, Rolf plumbs a final frontier.

[Appeared in the July 2002 issue of Conde Nast Traveler]


Up Cambodia without a phrasebook

On the pleasures and paranoia of being a mostly clueless white guy in the company of Third World hosts.

[Appeared in on June 1, 1999]

Song of the broken road

For adventurers headed overland to Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s Route 6 is Disneyland gone bad.

[Appeared in on May 18, 1999]


The Other Patagonia

During his stint as writer-in-residence for a global Land Rover expedition, Rolf explores the recently completed Carretera Austral (Southern Highway) through Chile’s Aisen province.

[Appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine on Oct 3, 2004]


Around the world on shoestring

In an essay about the merits of global budget travel, Rolf uses his experiences with a group of Cuban bagpipers to illustrate how wandering on the cheap can lead to the kind of unexpected encounters that make a journey memorable.

[Appeared in The Guardian (U.K.) on Feb 7, 2009]


Skepticism and salvation in Cyprus

An unorthodox tour of the second and final tomb of Lazarus puts a strange twist into Rolf’s Larnaca layover.

[Appeared in on Feb 22, 2000]

Dominican Republic

Begging the Question

As a traveler, what’s the best response when people ask you for money?

[Appeared in Yahoo! News on Aug 14, 2006]


Johnny Wadie Red Tabel

“Whatever Johnny Wadie Red Tabel was, it wasn’t whisky; its flavor was a medicinal blend of anise, vanilla, and laundry detergent, and its buzz arrived in tandem with its hangover.”

[Appeared in Roads & Kingdoms on March 31, 2015]

An Egyptian straight-razor shave (in 21 easy steps)

Looking to trim his beard amidst a luggage-free journey, Rolf stumbles into the most detail-intensive barbershop-shave of his life.

[Originally published on Sept 10, 2010]

Embracing my inner tourist at Giza

Near Giza, Rolf discovers that the vendor culture that surrounds the Pyramids is nearly as interesting (and historically rooted) as the Pyramids themselves.

[Originally published on Sept 8, 2010]

The baksheesh diaries

In Egypt, Rolf discovers that even the simplest experiences sometimes carry a price tag.

[Appeared in on April 11, 2000]

Backpackers’ Ball at the Sultan Hotel

With Flaubert’s 1850 letters as a guide, Rolf explores the enduring allure of opera, orgasm, belly-dancing and other Cairo clichés.

[Appeared in Salon on March 14-15, 2000]

Live from the trans-global Beach Nation

Leo’s new movie may be fiction, but its portrayal of a crowded travel world is based in fact. Rolf reports — from the unlikeliest of places — on just what is happening.

[Appeared in on Feb 11, 2000]


19 London clichés in less than four hours

In transit between New York and Paris, Rolf tries to make the most of a three-and-a-half hour London layover.

[Originally published on Aug 23, 2010]


Market Town, Tribal Bar, Country Liquor

Araki was the only drink on offer, and the owner sloshed it into a plastic bottle from an unwieldy jerrycan before moving around the room to refill clients’ glasses for ten cents a shot.”

[Appeared in Roads & Kingdoms on April 9, 2015]

Mister Universe

What makes someone want to be the world’s most traveled man? Rolf reports from from the back-roads of East Africa.

[Appeared in The New York Times Magazine on Nov 16, 2008]

Falkland Islands

My Own Private Falklands

With few crowds or restrictions, the remote Falkland Islands provide an intimate wildlife experience that offers an alternative to that of the Galapagos.

[Appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of National Geographic Traveler]


Rolling retro-style in Paris

Three days into his round-the-world no-baggage journey, Rolf explores Paris from the back of vintage Citroën 2CV.

[Originally published on Aug 25, 2010]

Jurassic Tennis

Jeu de Paume once dominated every level of French society. Today, only about 200 players remain. From the 16th arrondissement of Paris, Rolf reports on the lingering vestiges of the game that gave birth to modern tennis.

[Appeared in The Smart Set on Nov 30, 2007]

Le Musée du Fumeur

Smoking will soon be banned from indoor public spaces in Paris. Is a museum dedicated to the classic French habit a celebration or eulogy?

[Appeared in The Smart Set on Aug 6, 2007]

In the hall of the Baby Jesuses

Museums honor achievement, but finding original travel experiences amid their exhibits can sometimes be a challenge.

[Appeared in Yahoo! News on Nov 6, 2006]


A Greek romance

At Corfu’s Pink Palace, the ouzo flows, the crockery flies and the libidos run wild.

[Appeared in on January 4, 2000]


You Have Now Entered the Tourist Zone

Why do places grow vaguely annoying once they become travel destinations?

[Appeared in Yahoo! News on May 22, 2006]

India’s isle of ghosts

On a journey through western India, Rolf explores the former Portuguese outpost of Diu, which brims with history’s phantoms.

[Appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 19, 2006]


Windsurfing Where Jesus Walked

Whenever Rolf tells people how he learned to windsurf on Israel’s Sea of Galilee, he’s usually met with a bemused pause, as if a Bible-themed punch line should come next.

[Appeared in Forbes on June 19, 2008]


Intrigue under the big screen

At a 1-dinar cinema in Amman, Jordan, the real story has little to do with the movie itself.

[Appeared in on May 25, 2000]

Dancing at the blood festival

Armed only with curiosity and a stained pair of pants, Rolf tries to make sense of the Islamic Feast of the Sacrifice in Aqaba, Jordan.

[Appeared in on May 9, 2000]


Expats in Asia

Korean-born U.S. filmmaker Wonsuk Chin is making a movie that is partially inspired by Rolf’s 1990’s expatriate writings about Busan. With the movie in pre-production, Rolf travels to Korea to meet Chin and reflect on the expat experience.

[Appeared in, October 24-27, 2006]

Korea’s no-man’s land

Rolf describes a visit to Korea’s DMZ, one of the planet’s oddest tourist attractions, where visitors can pick up everything from propaganda to perfume.

[Appeared in on Feb 3, 1999]

Man bites dog

Koreans and Americans both love dogs — they just have a different way of showing it.

[Appeared in on Oct 28, 1998]

Letter from Pusan: The party’s over

Rolf describes the heady rise and wistful fall of expat life in South Korea.

[Appeared in Salon on Sept. 24, 1998]

Ignorants abroad

An American expatriate weathers the slings and arrows of learning another language.

[Appeared in Salon on June 22, 1998]


Toura Incognita

Central Laos has all the makings of travel’s last frontier: An unmapped wilderness, a lost city, and villagers unaccustomed to visitors. What’s at stake when tourists arrive?

[Appeared in the January 2003 issue of Conde Nast Traveler]

Retch-22: Laos in the time of cholera

The official analysis was “diarrhea, with vomiting.” Right.

[Appeared in on Aug 24, 1999]

Apocalypse Not: One Month on the Mekong

In a quixotic attempt to re-create Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi” in Southeast Asia, Rolf invests in a Laotian riverboat and attempts to drive it 800 miles to the Cambodian border.

[This essay originally ran as five-part series in Salon, July 6-10, 1999]


Fear and loathing in Latvia

Between the fistfights and the Finnish girls, it’s hard to get any writing done.

[Appeared in on Nov 23, 1999]


My Beirut hostage crisis

Taken under the wing of a Lebanese detergent tycoon, Rolf learns that there’s a fine line between hospitality and kidnapping.

[Appeared in on June 6, 2000]


Scenes from a train: Thailand to Malaysia

On a 24-hour train transit from Bangkok to Penang, Rolf learns the social limitations of Thai whiskey, and meets a fellow traveler who embodies the antithesis of “traveling light.”

[Originally published on Sept 28, 2010]


Raising My Parents in Mongolia

When Rolf’s parents accompany him on a trip to Mongolia, he suddenly finds the whole parent-child dynamic reversed. But who’s teaching whom a lesson?

[Broadcast on NPR's "Savvy Traveler" on June 21, 2002]

Horse races, open spaces and the fate of Genghis Khan’s balls

In his first dispatch from an epic Beijing-St. Petersburg train trip, Rolf explores the mysteries of Mongolia.

[Appeared in on Nov 9, 1999]


In Fes: Walk until the day becomes interesting

In the twisting alleyways of a Moroccan medina, Rolf does away with pre-planning and follows his instincts.

[Originally published on Sept 3, 2010]

The wrong town in Morocco

Not long after mispronouncing the town of “Chefchaouen” to his Moroccan taxi driver, Rolf goes on to discover the accidental charms of a town called “Tetouan.”

[Originally published on Sept 1, 2010]

New Zealand

Exploring the laws of physics in New Zealand

Rolf leaps off of cliffs, soars through the trees, and jets up rivers near Queenstown, on New Zealand’s South Island.

[Originally published on Oct 1, 2010]


A Desert By Any Other Name

The desert coast of Peru is as gorgeous as it is baffling.

[Appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine on March 28, 2004]


Helen of Troy is in my taxi

Rolf discovers the ambiguity of language and love in the Philippines.

[Appeared in on March 19, 1999]


Road roulette

Demoralized by goals and guidebooks, Rolf tackles Poland on a thumb and a prayer.

[Appeared in on Dec 14, 1999]


St. Petersburg, Vampire-Style

Suffering from jet-lag amid a dead-of-winter magazine assignment, Rolf’s inability to sleep leads him into a series of after-hours dive-bars, where a coterie of young Russians teaches him the philosophical joys of getting to know a city by night.

[Appeared in the December/January 2010 issue of Afar]

On the Trans-Siberian Express

Amid an epic Beijing-to-St. Petersburg train trip, Rolf parties with librarians, tracks down the fate of Genghis Khan’s testicles, and (among other things) embarks on a madcap race to catch up with the train after getting stranded on the Mongolian-Siberian border.

[This essay originally ran as five-part series in Salon, November 9-13, 1999]

South Africa

Justin’s elephant-poop cold remedy

Stuck with a cold in an isolated corner of South Africa’s Welgevonden Game Preserve, Rolf’s cameraman Justin comes face to face with an unusual bush cure.

[Originally published on Sept 21, 2010]

Hanging with the animal paparazzi in South Africa

Near Kruger National Park, Rolf discovers that the “Big Five” safari animals aren’t nearly so exciting as the creatures one finds by happenstance.

[Originally published on Sept 16, 2010]


Tapas for ignoramuses

Rolf explores the streets of central Madrid through seven drinks and nine dishes.

[Originally published on Aug 29, 2010]


Anthem Soul

Sometimes you have to travel halfway around the world to find out how American you are.

[Appeared in World Hum on July 5, 2001]


The Same River Twice: Bangkok in Three Acts

Back in Thailand after a seven-year absence, Rolf revisits the Khao San Road backpacker scene, eats insects in Chinatown, and tests his no-baggage wardrobe in an upscale nightclub.

[Originally published on Sept 24, 2010]

Jolly Good Excuse For a Party

From the shores of a Thailand resort town, Rolf explores what happens when you mix rich men, elephants, and polo gear.

[Appeared in the January 2004 issue of Conde Nast Traveler]

Cowboys and Indians, Thai-Style

At Thailand’s premier cowboy resort, a displaced traveler from Kansas explores the mysteries of the Far East’s Wild Wild West.

[Appeared in Vagablogging on August 7, 2003]

Fear and Loathing in a Five-Star Hotel

He’d navigated the Mekong river, wandered the Libyan Desert, and been stranded in Siberia. Then – in one last adventure after two years of vagabonding – Rolf traveled to Bangkok to face the specter of world-class luxury.

[Appeared in the July/August 2002 issue of National Geographic Traveler]

Super Bowl Exile

Rolf reports from Thailand on the difficulty of taking part in a time-honored American custom — watching the Super Bowl — while traveling in Asia.

[Broadcast on NPR's "Savvy Traveler" on Feb 1, 2002]

Goodbye, Khao San Road

As he leaves Southeast Asia, Rolf reflects on the evolution of the middle-class travel revolution.

[Appeared in on Oct 12, 1999]

Getting stoned with Mr. X

Rolf wanders in search of an Indiana Jones adventure in Thailand’s gem country.

[Appeared in on April 20, 1999]

Penny Pinched

In the first installment of “Vagabonding,” Rolf pays through the nose for his penny-pinching ways.

[Appeared in on April 6, 1999]

Storming “The Beach”

When he tries to infiltrate a movie set on a heavily guarded Thai island, Rolf embarks on a rollicking post-modern travel adventure, somewhat starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

[Appeared in Salon on January 30-31, 1999]


Turkish Knockout

Rolf retraces the thin threads that led to his being drugged and robbed in the heart of Istanbul.

[Appeared in Salon on January 18-19, 2000]


Why Rolf is Traveling Around the World With No Luggage

From his home in rural Kansas, Rolf lays out the reasons why he wanted to circumnavigate the globe without so much as a fanny pack or a man-purse.

[Originally published on Aug 19, 2010]

A Vagabond Finds a Home

Rolf finally found a place to call his own — a bunkhouse overlooking the Kansas prairie. It’s infused with the lessons he’d learned from 13 years living out of a backpack.

[Appeared in World Hum on Nov 18, 2007]

The New B Movie

Why your video store stocks “mockbusters” alongside the blockbusters: A look at how one Hollywood B-movie studio stays in business.

[Appeared in The New York Times Magazine on Oct 7, 2007]

In New Orleans: The Allure of Disaster Tourism

Is it weird to want to visit the flood-ravaged Lower Ninth Ward during Mardi Gras season?

[Appeared in Yahoo! News on March 13, 2006]

The Mystical High Church of Luck

Rolf goes to Las Vegas with $5 in his pocket, discovers the Mystical High Church of Luck — and ends up losing $100.

[Appeared in on April 28, 1998]


Searching for Binh Hoa

Hoping to find an obscure Vietnam War killing field, Rolf discovers that some lessons of history teach themselves.

[Appeared in on Aug 10, 1999]

The Barbecue Jesus and other epiphanies

Wandering off the Vietnamese budget travel trail in search of authenticity, Rolf finds that authenticity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

[Appeared in on July 27, 1999]