Your Dream Trip

is Possible

Ep. 151 with Rolf Potts

“Travel compels you to put trust in the kindness of strangers.”

Rolf Potts

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Bio

Rolf Potts is the author of The Vagabond’s Way: 366 Meditations on Wanderlust, Discovery, and the Art of Travel and Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel. He has reported from more than 60 countries for National Geographic Traveler, The New Yorker, Outside, The New York Times Magazine, and the Travel Channel. Many of his essays have been selected as “Notable Mentions” in The Best American Essays, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and The Best American Travel Writing. He is based in north-central Kansas, where he keeps a small farmhouse on thirty acres with his wife, Kansas-born actress Kristen Bush.

Show Notes

Your dream trip is possible. In the words of someone who has been all over the world, Rolf Potts is here to share with us the authentic way that travel can enhance your life. Rolf speaks about the niche way traveling vagabond style changes your perspective. This episode is all about getting away from the itinerary or what we think will be the right way to do something and allowing fascination with the world to lead us.

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In this episode you will learn about:

  • The path to travel writing and vagabonding.
  • Allowing travel to teach you something instead of disengaging
  • Get away from the itinerary and become fascinated by the world.
  • The reasoning behind the daily readings of Vagabonding
  • How micro-adventures lead to the habit of curiosity
  • Create rituals that make your dream trip possible
  • Things to think about when getting off the beaten path in travel
  • The built-up idea of safety
  • Are you traveling with habits from home?
  • The importance of being present in travel

Episode References/Links:

Transcript

INTRODUCTION

Lesley Logan
Hey, Be It listener. Okay, so I’m smiling so big, because I just got to take a trip down memory lane and not with our guests because I just met him. But I, I didn’t grow up traveling. And I really had all these thoughts around travel. I thought that it was expensive and I thought that it was difficult and I thought that it wasn’t, that wasn’t safe. And, and so I really, I didn’t get on a plane till I was 18. And I didn’t get a passport till I was in my mid 20s. And I really didn’t do a big international trip until I was almost 30. And then the world opened up for me in a different way. And I saw it a different way. And I share that with you because our guest this week is Rolf Potts, and he is the Author of Vagabonding. He has a new book out called the Vagabond’s Way. And it is 366 meditations on wunderlust, discovery in the art of travel. And it’s a really cool book because you can read it as a daily habit like a, like a virtual book. You can read it back to back if you want. But as I was perusing my birthdate day and Brad’s birthday, and these other days, I was, I was just inspired by all the different stories he has to remind you to not escape your life with vacation. And he’ll say this in the episode but to escape into who you are. And my love is like being it till you see it is not just about taking action in your work. It’s it, it’s about becoming more of who you are meant to be. And when you travel, and I say this, from my own experience, and you can find your own words on your own trips. But the more I’ve traveled, the more people I’ve met. And the more I’ve experienced, the more I realize how cool and interesting this whole world is, and how much we have to teach each other, and how much we don’t have to fear. I think we can have a lot of fears in our life. And when you get out into the world, and you see how different people are living and you see, a different things have been around for so long. You start to realize like how frickin cool this whole world is, and that you’re part of it and you’re unique part of it. And so here is an amazing conversation I had with an incredible travel author, Rolf Potts, and I hope it inspires you to plan something, plan anything, and I love his little story about microadventure. So maybe you can make that something that you plan this month. That doesn’t really cost anything you’ll hear, you’ll hear in this episode, thank you so much for being a listener of us. Thank you for your reviews and for sharing this podcast and here is Rolf Potts.

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Lesley Logan
Welcome to the Be It Till You See It podcast where we talk about taking messy action, knowing that perfect is boring. I’m Lesley Logan, Pilates instructor and fitness business coach. I’ve trained thousands of people around the world and the number one thing I see stopping people from achieving anything is self doubt. My friends, action brings clarity and it’s the antidote to fear. Each week, my guests will bring Bold, Executable, Intrinsic and Targeted steps that you can use to put yourself first and Be It Till You See It. It’s a practice, not a perfect. Let’s get started.

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EPISODE

Lesley Logan
All right, Be It listeners. Hey, how are you? I’m really excited because well, our next guest has a total love for travel that I think exceeds mine and Brad’s. And I’m really excited to share it with you. And because I really do think that getting out to the world is one of the best ways to learn more about who you are. It just really, really is. And as I read, Rolf Potts is our guest today, Rolf Potts is our guests and his book, The Vvagabond’s Way, I think you really are gonna get that inspiration as well. So whether you feel the fear of travel right now, and you’re not really going out, or you miss it like crazy, I think this is going to be a really fun conversation. So Rolf Potts, will you tell everyone who you are? And what what you’re up to these days?

Rolf Potts
Well, I’m a travel writer, and I have been for gosh, about a quarter century. I, like many people didn’t travel much during the pandemic. But I got my first big international trip this summer. It was awesome. I went to Paris and Norway with my wife has familyin the Faroe Islands before coming back. So I’m, I’m still slightly excited and tired from a great summer trip.

Lesley Logan
Oh my gosh, I’m so jealous. Yeah, I used to travel like eight to 10 countries a year for the last several years before the pandemic and I didn’t grow up traveling. So I didn’t actually my first big trip was to Brazil in 2012. And then when my husband I went on a honeymoon in 2015, that was my, like, I went to several countries at once. And I was like, “Oh my God, this is the most amazing thing. I’ve never done this before.” And we never stopped. And then obviously, we all did. But what got you into being a travel writer? How does one do that just go one day, “I’m gonna write, I love traveling, I’m gonna write about it.” How did you do that?

Rolf Potts
If only it were that easy. I actually grew up not traveling much myself, I didn’t have a passport until I was 25. Actually, my first big vagabonding trip was earlier than that. I lived in a van for eight months and traveled North America, this is back when you could go to Canada and Mexico without a passport. And then I thought, well, now I’m going to become a travel writer. So I wrote a book, which is a complete failure and complete failures of the best education actually. And then I just kept trying and kept trying, I was out of money. So I moved to South Korea to work as an English as a foreign language teacher, conversation teacher for a couple years. And I just, I just didn’t give up. I just kept trying to be a travel writer until I became one. And then my first byline was in my late 20s. And my first book was in my early 30s. And I’m still doing it, even though the the media world has changed. One great thing about being a travel writer is that even if you are not rewarded financially, travel is sort of a reward in itself, you know. And so even if you fail professionally, in an attempt to be a travel writer. Hey, your billy prize is that you have these awesome travels that you can remember for the rest of your life.

Lesley Logan
Oh, my God. 1,000% love that. I also thank you for sharing that journey. Because I do think like, when you as someone who’s written a book, I’m not like, I’m not when I see a book written. I’m like, a lot of work went into this book. And a lot of people might see this book and go, “Oh, well, he’s a travel writer wrote a book, of course, he’s just like, it just all works out.” And so thank you for sharing that. It didn’t, (Lesley laughs) it didn’t it took a little bit while. When you, can you first actually just for our listeners who might not know what a vagabond is. Can you just kind of explain that?

Rolf Potts
Yeah, well, I Vagabonding is my first book and, and it’s sort of what a lot of my readers know me for, it’s about taking time off from your normal life, to travel in earnest. It’s not just a vacation, but it’s maybe taking six weeks, if that’s the amount of time you can find or a year or half a year, or six years, whatever you can find to travel and make travel an active part of your life, not an escape from your life, but an escape into your life. And so I’ve been talking about that vagabonding style of travel for almost 20 years now. And I’ve written you know, four other books, but people still love to talk about the Vagabond ethos. And in the new book, The Vagabond’s Way, I’ve sort of returned to that. And I’ve really used a quarter century of, quarter century, 25 years. Yeah …

Lesley Logan
Yeah, that’s quarter century. Oh, my God … When we think about it, you’re like, “Oh, my God, that’s 25 years.” It’s a quarter century.

Rolf Potts
Yeah, no, 25 years of travel and thinking about travel and reading about traveling, obsessing about travel. And it also encompasses like, 3000 years of other people’s travels, to sort of bring this wisdom and inspiration about travel into the new book. And yeah, so so there’s, there’s a lot of different stations in my journey as a travel writer, but it feels like this really, really aggregates the full breadth of my career so far.

Lesley Logan
Yeah. So that’s a really interesting way to describe travel as not an escape from your life, but something to like, enhance and be part of your life. And I think a lot of people when they think of vacation, they’re like taking a break probably they are or what they do. And, and maybe that’s mostly the Western culture, that is the US because I find people in Europe take all of August off. And I remember I worked in jewelry. And if we wanted to get this several designers orders, and we had to tell people you must order before July 15. Because otherwise, they’re not going to touch it until late September. Like it’s just not going to happen. Right? Or like, when you’re dealing with people with any manufacturers in China, it’s like you better get stuff on a boat before before New Year, otherwise, it’s gonna take till March or April. So, I feel like a lot of people don’t know that your travel can just be part of enhancement of, of your life. And what why do you think that is? And like how can people kind of retrain themselves into using their travel to teach them something about themselves by their escape?

Rolf Potts
Well, I think they have to be willing to be open and to make mistakes and be messy about it. That’s something you can appreciate it. We were talking before we’re recording about Cambodia and how the best place to experience Cambodia isn’t necessarily that five star hotel that insulates you from the country you’ve come to visit. It’s actually maybe a homestay or just walking down the street until your day becomes more interesting than it was before. And so I think if you take nothing against the commercial travel industry, but if you see travel as a product that you buy, and you surround yourself with nice meals and air conditioning all the time, then it is going to be separate from your life. But you can, instead of escaping from your life escaping into your life is such a way that you really push the boundaries of who you are. And you challenge yourself in interesting ways on the road. And you you sort of integrate like, you integrate your hobbies, you know, like, if you like playing volleyball, well then find a volleyball game in Cambodia, you know, if you like cooking then find a way to cook a dish, and you don’t even have to take a formal class, you can, but you can just find the grandma up the street and ask her how she’s making her dish or Google Street front restaurant probably might not be used to a lot of Americans taking a curious interest in them. And so ask if you can hang out in the kitchen for a while and see how they do that. And really, the odds are that that’s gonna happen, because again, you’re not being a consumer of your travel experience. You’re taking control of it. And you’re following your heart and your interests and your curiosity.

Lesley Logan
Oh, yeah. So one way we take messy action, y’all cuz you’re like, “How do I do that with like travel? Like, there’s things that need to be planned.” So when Brad and I decided to go on our honeymoon, he wanted to go to Cambodia. And I was like, that’s an interesting place to go on a honeymoon. Where else can we go with that? Because I was like, “I don’t what are we doing there? I don’t even know.” And he was obsessed with this one National Geographic with the first one ever picked up was with the temples. And so we, we picked our flight to Southeast Asia, and then home from Japan, but not the flights in between. (Rolf: Nice.) And then, and then when we flew into Thailand, we picked our flights to the different islands wanted to go to. And we really did try to find the hotels that were more inside the villages or just different than what was like when you look up Google up a, like hotels near me, it’s like, where are the ones that are not paying the ads? Like how do we get to like the closest to you? What’s going on? And it is so interesting and to talk about cooking. That is a really easy way to go. And when you’re in these different countries, like they love that I or I’m one of the only Westerners that comes by and gets the roasted bananas. I’m like, and I speak enough Cambodian to like, get, get the ones I want. And they’re so they want to show me how it’s done. Because it’s very interesting. And I think it changes my life because it makes me realize like, how often do we get to share our gifts and the way that they get to share their as when we’re when we’re traveling. So I agree with the messy action. There’s ways to do it without freaking yourself out. So, you want, I want to get to your book really quick. And then we can bounce around the world with our conversation. But why did you choose it to be a daily read because I really this is very fascinating to me. Of course, I read my birthdate and then I and then I like bounced to Brad’s birthday. But I actually use that aggregate earlier. And it really is there’s so many great quotes and stories from other people’s travels. So how did you go about because that seems like a really big endeavor to find 366 things to write about?

Rolf Potts
Yeah, well, I loved aggregating it, because it went beyond my own point of view. You know, I could talk about a guy who travelled in Japan in the 13th century, and he had experienced something very human about travel, or a guy who lived 3000 years ago is in Egypt, or a woman who traveled in an age in Europe when travel wasn’t really proper for women. But her insights are relevant to today. Actually, the idea to have it in this format started during the pandemic actually met my wife during the pandemic. I have the weirdest pandemic love story. I was supposed to be traveling the world, she was supposed to be traveling the world, we both been in Kansas, which is where we were from. And we went from zero to let’s get married very quickly. But in the mornings, and this is still a habit we have to this day, we sit on the deck outside of our house here in Kansas, and we read to each other. And so we read like Mary Oliver poems, or Thich Nhat Hanh daily readings, you know, the Buddhist teacher. And this became such a part of our habit, a habit and such a part of our joy during the pandemic, that I realized that I had accumulated all of this knowledge about travel, both from travel and from reading about travel that why not just do the similar thing, why not create a book about travel that people can read every day, either with a partner with themselves, or you can skip around or read several chapters at once. But I liked that this as a ritual and I wanted to create a book that was a ritual actually another book we read during the pandemic was Ryan Holiday’s Daily Stoic, which literally each page is a different quote by a stoic and a reflection about that quote. And so I decided to do a travel version that would compel people to think deeply in sort of beyond that consumer level of travel for each day of the year. And if you don’t, if you want to read it in less than a year, that’s fine too. But to sort of create this ritual that even when people are at home, they can think about travel and how it inspires people and how it can change your way of being in the world.

Lesley Logan
I mean, like it is, it is really cool. I I know, I know that people listening are they love the daily ritual, they love morning pages, some of them have different things that they they do their gratitude journals, and so I found this like, “Oh my God, this is something else they could do.” I wonder you know, I think it’s hilarious. You guys met in Kansas that is not at all where I pictured you being from. So (Lesley laughs) but I wonder like, for the person who you know, is gonna pick up this book, maybe they’re not used to traveling alone. Or maybe they have fears around it. I mean, obviously, as they read this book, I think that those fears will be quelled, but like, what, what are some ways that people could be a vagabond without necessarily going on it, on a, I mean I want you to go to Cambodia with me, everyone. But what are some that you can do to like start that travel and escape into yourself like, what what would be those 101, 102 level travels that they could do?

Rolf Potts
Well, you could throw open your door and walk out the door until your day becomes interesting. I often give that advice in the context of international travel, you know, get away from the itinerary and just walk in this new place and become fascinated by it. This is something you can do at home. And it’s funny, I mentioned my my wife during the pandemic, when we couldn’t really travel internationally. Like she has cousins in Norway, we couldn’t go there. But there’s a town on the Kansas prairie here called Little Sweden. So we decided to walk there, it’s 22 miles away, it took us seven hours. But it was so fun. I’ve never, I’ve never experienced that 22 miles in that way before. I’ve … it’s always been racing by outside of a car. And so I talked to people and I saw little, little cow herds, and herds of horses that never even noticed before. And so I’m not saying that everybody needs to throw their door open and walk 22 miles, you could walk around the block, or you could go to another neighborhood and try a pub. I quote Alastair Humphreys, he calls these micro adventures, we’re basically, instead of sleeping in your bed, you sleep in your backyard, instead of instead of going the same route to work every day you walk to work through a different route. And this is just a way of sort of getting the training wheels in a certain sense for the bicycle that is your long journey. And you just get into this habit of curiosity. And you start to dream about traveling, you start to anticipate further journeys, and you sort of give yourself permission, which in a sense, it’s not really about making a ton of money, but it’s making enough money to make a journey happen. And so permission is a huge part of it. And it’s part of what a lot of those meditations are in The Vagabond’s Way. But it’s about slowly, even if you can’t leave on a big international trip tomorrow. Creating rituals that make that big trip seem more possible.

Lesley Logan
I am obsessed with this. This is like 100% being it till you see it like being the vacation and being the escape before you can actually get on the plane and, and you my husband, will listen to this, can we do a recap episode, but he would drive a new route to work every single day all the time, like (Rolf: That’s great.) all the time. No, in LA, you pretty much want to do that because there’s so much traffic or like, I wonder if this turn is gonna get me. Wunder if I’ll find a new route here. But it is a way to get like to see parts of your own city that most people don’t even know like. And we moved to Vegas in the pandemic and we didn’t actually have a car. And people thought was so weird. Like, how do you live in Vegas with a car I’m like, “Well, you can walk places like it’s not … there’s a sidewalks.” It’s not like LA there’s actually sidewalks to walk on but but I found like living in a new city gave me that permission to have these little mini adventures because I didn’t know anything. So I’m like, this is an adventure, you know. But we can do that today where we are and you are right. It’s the permission part is the hardest part. Because a lot of people think that they have to wait and save up for the big trip. Or that if they’re not going to some particular like known place that maybe it’s not safe to go or maybe they need to be part of a group. And so doing those little micro adventures where they have to be resourceful, and they get lost, and they have to figure out directions is really a great way of practicing it.

Rolf Potts
Yeah. I think oftentimes people think they need to get a big trip out of their system. And I thought this way when I was younger, you know, I thought that I would work hard my whole life and then retire from work. And then I could travel as I thought. But you know, my grandfather was a Kansas farmer. And he’d worked harder than anybody ever knew in my life. He started farming when he was 15. You know, he quit school to start farming at that age. Well, grandma had Alzheimer’s by the time he was ready to retire. And I don’t know that he dreamed of travel necessarily, but he just wasn’t able to enjoy his retirement with a woman he loved in that way that he thought he might have. And so I realized when I was young, that I needed to create this time. And so my first vagabonding trip eight months around North America, I thought I would get travel out of my system. But I really just sort of learned that it’s easier and safer and cheaper than I thought it would be. And you don’t need to just have one dream trip and then be done with it. So I think that you can start by you’re talking about solo versus group travel, you can go on a group trip that’s one week long to Croatia, just to get a taste for things and odds are, you’re gonna learn that you don’t really need that group trip that these restaurants are available to anybody who walks up and asks for food, you know, and that you can actually stay longer you kind of want to stay longer and you can maybe find a way to spend a month or two on the road too. And so baby steps, I’m all for baby steps. (Lesley: Yeah.) I think sometimes we think I’m going to do my dream trip and then I’ll have my dream trip. Well you can have a little lot of little micro trips that lead up to a dream trip and they will inform that dream trip that will make it so much more dynamic than you ever would have imagined when you’re sitting at home dreaming about it.

Lesley Logan
Yeah, I am, so similarly, I don’t think I got my passport till I was a little over 25. Because yes, it was somewhere in my early 20s, that you ended up having a passport to leave the states to go into Canada or Mexico. So I had to get one. And I didn’t really feel like it was on an international trip until I went to Brazil. Like I don’t know why that felt like it’s like it doesn’t doesn’t feel real if I can still drive there. So I flew in and I ended up doing Rio by myself, which was its own adventure. But one thing I did learn, that I didn’t know is it doesn’t have to be as expensive. And you mentioned that earlier. But like, if you like volleyball, find volleyball, I’m gluten and dairy free. So even just searching for restaurants that could offer those things took me off these beaten paths. And I found other bloggers who had traveled before me, who had said, “Go to this restaurant, they have gluten free stuff.” And so I found myself at this art school in Rio, there was no one else that wasn’t a local and I got to experience this beautiful place. It was this old mansion, and I went on this hike. And I had was able to hire a guy to walk me up to hike me up to Christ, the Redeemer versus take the tram up to Christ, the Redeemer. And I would never have had that adventure. Had I not like Googled something that was important to me while I traveled and found other people’s trips and other people’s like journeys and like oh, and it was so much easier than I expected. And, and I didn’t realize that you could it didn’t have to be the most expensive trip I made a could be something that I could actually afford. And I realized then I was like, “Oh, international travel isn’t that hard, it felt hard because I hadn’t done it.” And then once you do it, you’re like, “Oh, I could take, I could stay a little longer.” So I have been back to Rio a couple times. And I would love to take Brad but we keep bouncing around to other places. So I had to share that because if you if you do have something specific that you can look up, there’s something that you really love, you’ll find things that are so unique, and you end up on these interesting corners in these cool places.

Rolf Potts
Yeah, little missions are great. Like when I was in Rio, I tried to learn Samba. (Lesley laughs) And I was terrible, like it was I failed as a Samba guy, but sort of that emboldened me to go to clubs with a dance salsa, or Samba and to hire a tutor to teach me Samba. And she invited me to different festivals around town, you know, I sort of it gave me a community, which is really fun. And just those little details, gluten free, whatever if you give yourself a mission or a mystery to solve, then suddenly, you’re in that neighborhood that isn’t catering to tourists. It’s cheaper. People are as interested in you as you are in them. And like every place there’s these mysteries like in Rio when I was there, like mannequins in stores are curvier. Like the the beauty, the vision of beauty in Brazil is not sort of this super skinny thing that you see in mannequins in the United States. It’s like, yeah, these these are bigger curvier mannequins. And that’s cool. And so it’s like, if you see a city as a mystery, or if you use a certain desire or interest or even a limitation, to explore the city through that way, you find all sorts of delightful surprises along the way.

Lesley Logan
Yeah, but oh, my goodness, it’s like, I’ll tell you a really funny story. It didn’t feel funny at the time but it’s it’s funny to look back to. So, in Thailand, you know, they have their little motor group of motorcycles and motos are like Vespas, basically, to pictures, everyone, and I would see like three or four people on these with the driver. And Brad and I are like, “Oh, well, we want to ride on one, the two of us,” which like, he’s six foot, I’m five, nine. Right. So so but we’re like, because he has a motorcycle back in LA when we lived in LA. And so I rode on back, like, “Let’s do it together.” So it was our last day in Bangkok. And we had I love vintage shopping. So we every time we go international, we look for a vintage shop. And then I try to find something unique and amazing. And so we’re off the beaten path somewhere random and just finished our vintage shopping, we see a guy on a moto that you could hire. And so we think that we’re negotiating two people, one bike, and then both drivers each hand has a helmet and we’re like, “Oh, well, I guess we got a really good deal on two people and two bikes, but that’s fine.” We’ll go because we didn’t want to disappoint the other person. So we get on the bikes. And we’re driving through and my husband’s driver goes left and mine goes straight. And I was like, “This is not okay with me. This feels very unsafe. This feels like brokedown palace. Oh my God what’s that to happen?” And so your brain is like going these like mile a minute. And we stop at a stoplight and I was like, okay, hold on. If he was kidnapping me probably wouldn’t stop at a stoplight. And I am tall enough to put my feet down. And he could just go and I could just be standing here. So if at the next red light Brad is not back, I’m gonna just do that. And so we’re we’re on this tour. We’re just trying to find this one restaurant and I look over this is we have to poach a red light and I see in the glass my husband’s moto come up behind me. And I was like, “Okay not being kidnapped today.” And I don’t say this is like scare anybody but it was just like, it’s interesting, the adventures that could happen. And it’s more like no one was trying to do anything evil. It’s just my brain went there. And it was a hilarious thing, which my husband then pulled his phone out and recorded the entire drive to where we were going. But we, we saw a very unique part of town. And we tried to go on a little mini mission that went terribly wrong, but it’s a story that we have. And I, I’m appreciative of it, because, you know, it’s not every day that you get to go see parts of Bangkok and experience that life.

Rolf Potts
Yeah, no, and you put yourself there’s so much not knowing in travel, you know, there’s so much like, this money looks like play money. I’m not really sure what’s it. The you know, this street car in Bangkok has is serving what I think are grasshoppers, and I’m not sure and I’m going to try. Or, you know, my husband is not there. So where am I going? It really, it compels you to put trust in the kindness of strangers, and it’s yields rewards almost all the time that you’re just in a place where you’re, you’re like a kid again, like you’re not really sure what’s going on. You don’t know all the words of the language. But and Thailand is a great example. That’s a great starter city in Southeast Asia, you know, (Lesley: Yeah.) more so than Myanmar, Cambodia, just because good roads, it’s a friendly place. You know, I just love that as an entryway into Southeast Asia or Asia in general. (Lesley: Yeah.) And it’s pretty chill too. You know, there’s I’m sure there is crime in the city. But the travelers I talked to felt pretty safe in Thailand …

Lesley Logan
Well 1,000%. Yeah, I mean, like I live, it’s really funny what people think about safety because my brain did have that moment. And then it’s like, “Wait a minute, this person would not stop at a stoplight if they were trying too” (Rolf: Just a good detail. Yeah.) You know, like, it’s just like, really important. But like, also, you know, where you live right now and people who listen to this, listen, live all over the world. But gen general where are you live right now has its own issues of safety. And I used to live across the street from the federal building in Los Angeles. And we moved to Las Vegas, they were trying to put us in like take us to like suburbs. And I was like, “I don’t this feels really weird. It feels very clean. This is a this actually feels really uncomfortable for me.” Where where we are about out these houses like oh, it’s an anon safe area. It’s like, well, what does that mean? Because I grew I lived for seven years across the street from people like shooting up and getting drunk. I mean, like, like, what are we talking about? What’s unsafe here, like “well some breaking in” and I’m like, that’s fine. But I think we we can build up in our head, what safety and unsafety can be. And what you find out is most of these places, they’re so excited to actually share their city with you. And as long as you’re being a little bit more wise, then you know, you can experience some great places. But I would say yeah, Thailand was very good starter Southeast Asia. Cambodia, Siem Reap is a great place because it is very much about the tourism, but you get out to the countryside, you definitely want to hire someone, I wouldn’t personally go by myself yet. I probably will now that I’ve been there 15 times. But you know, I think I think it’s cool to put yourself in that space where you can be curious. And then also challenge yourself to see that well, people are really nice. Like you said, they’re really kind. And we tend to not think about that.

Rolf Potts
Yeah, I think oftentimes the the negative things that happens to tourists kind of happened in tourist zones. There’s people there, the the scam artists congregate in tourists, I’m not knocking to reason there’s, there’s, there’s a reason why, you know, Angkor Wat or whatever, (Lesley: Yeah.) it is a thing. It’s amazing there, but, you know, they’re used to tourists, and they realize that tourists are sort of have a lot more money than them. And so that’s where the scams are, that’s where the pickpockets are. And there’s ways to defend yourself get against that. But if you sort of wonder like 600 yards off the beaten path, you’ll be like, the first outsider they’ve seen in a long time. And there’s there’s no economy in you know, those people have no pickpocketing skills, they have no scamming skills. They’re just like, this is the most interesting thing that’s happened to me this week. Here’s this is this pasty American wander around asking me questions about this food, and I’m gonna get grandma and we’re going to we’re going to teach her how to fix it. Right. (Lesley: Yeah.) And so that is, and actually, you’re right, you know that well. And the logic that applies to any city in America applies to cities internationally, don’t go to don’t get drunk and go to dangerous neighborhoods at bad times of night. Use your common sense and be curious and be friendly and ask questions. And people it’s so great. I mean, this holds true from Kansas to us out of the world. If you take an interest in people people will be flattered that you’re taking interest in them (Lesley: Yeah.) and they’ll share your life with you. It’s the kindness of strangers just blows me away again (Lesley: Yeah.) and again.

Lesley Logan
Yeah, so there’s one one thing we did we do off the beaten path in Siem Reap is there’s a pagoda that’s way off the beaten path. It’s beautiful like you would you would when we pull up it’s not that they don’t see buses because they come in on buses for the new moon and and the full moons for holidays. But I came in and it was a high holiday for them, and we went to offer the monks food because the monks cannot, for anyone listening to this, no, no, they cannot touch through there has not been offered to them. So food can be there, they can’t eat it. So we go and we are trying, no one taught us anything. So Brad is like lifting up a spoon and he’s lifting up the ball, like lifting anything. And we’re just like, “Okay, I’m like, lifting up the soda, like all the things.” But you do this amazing ceremony for them. And then we sat down. And because we were out weighing in the countryside, we were very, we were more interesting to them and they invited us for lunch. And we had this very, very, like normal for that side of town, that side of the country lunch, which is very interesting for us. And it was so cool to share that experience. And you’re right, we probably were the talk of the town for a bit. And especially Brad, because he was with like four women in the country side.

Rolf Potts
Yeah, I think I think I like that you guys weren’t quite sure how the ritual went? Because especially in those areas, you’re given forgiveness, you know, people will look at you and it’s like, okay, this guy is doing the ceremony wrong. But he’s clearly not from here. And I bet he is pretty cool. And so I’ve had great experiences like that in Myanmar and other on the other side of Thailand from from Cambodia. (Lesley: Yeah.) I’ve been to festivals, I write about it in the new book in The Vagabond’s Way about during rainy season, when I thought everyone was saying, “Don’t go to Myanmar that month, you know, it’s gonna rain every day.” Well, it rained every day. And that meant that there weren’t that many tourists there. And that meant that everybody at Vagon, which is their big field of monuments, they were just they took more they had more time for me. Right. And, and that was the cheapest pitcher of beer I’ve ever had. It was about 40 US cents. (Lesley laughs) It was nice, delicious pitcher of beer. And and yeah, it’s funny how you get two travelers in a room together. And one story sparks a story for them. (Lesley: I know …) So your your Cambodia story reminds me of my Myanmar story. And it was it was delightful.

Lesley Logan
We wanted to go there so much. Um, so you, you mentioned that so in the book, you have like you said, you went to Myanmar on the season when some people said not to go. So what are some other tips that you have kind of maybe you shared in the book, but like, what are some things people can think about that are probably off the beaten path. So traveling, maybe not, when it’s normal, maybe getting out of the tourist areas, because it probably is a little safer. And there’s more interesting things, and people are more interested in you, and you can be interested in them. What else do we have?

Rolf Potts
Well, I don’t want to knock the beaten path too much, because it’s beaten for good reasons I talk about desire trails, like there was this German scholar who’s he couldn’t figure out why there are all these shortcuts across the college green where he was studying. And so he had the landscaping department resod it and then a couple months later, they come back with their desire trails that those are the those were stewards, students wanted to go, those were the shortcuts. So the beaten path is beaten for a reason. But you don’t have to go that far from the beaten path to find something that is more authentically, French, or Thai or Ugandan than what is right in the tourist district. And it’s really about giving yourself permission and thinking, well, if I can buy this plate of food for $10, on the tourist trail, I wonder if I can get it for a fraction of that price, like a 10 minutes walk in this direction. And so really just realizing that there’s no prescription you can, you can sort of do what you want. You’re in a city full of people who live here and who have to buy clothes and have to buy food. And you can go into those non prescribed tourist neighborhoods. And in addition to having more spontaneous experiences with people who have time for you, you also save money, you know, staying in hotels where local people stay rather than staying in the big giant air conditioned complexes. And so really, it goes back to a word I come back to, again is permission, give yourself permission to take that trip, give your permission, yourself permission to take time and give yourself permission to just sort of follow your curiosity instead of your itinerary.

Lesley Logan
Yeah, I am. It made me think of like, one of the things that I love about travel is we don’t, we don’t often we don’t actually upgrade our phones to allowing us to take in calls unless we’re on Wi Fi, wherever we are. And so what I love (Rolf: Great strategy.) because you can get very present. And you know, now you can download Google Maps on your phone, zoom in really quick and then zoom out and it will stay on whether you’re online or offline. It’s really easy, but but we I really love it because that walk from my house, even in my own village where I stay, or I have our house. I that walk from my house to where I’m going to go get my coffee that morning. And that coffee shop does have Wi Fi, it’s 15 minutes long river no one can get a hold of me, no one can ping me. I can’t be distracted. I can’t be scrolling. So I only can take in how the city has changed since the last time I was there. And I think like it’s so if you can do it, it’s so worth doing because even when I was in Australia, which everyone speaking English, it kind of like was a Melbourne it’s not actually like a very I mean it’s a beautiful city to me. It’s new but it wasn’t like this unique thing, it looked like New York. Right? But not having any Wi Fi forced me to like look around and get curious in a place where I could make a lot of assumptions. And I find that to be a very cool thing to give yourself permission to do like, just, you’ll get on Wi Fi, there’s Wi Fi everywhere, you just gotta go pop and ask a question, but it allows you to get stay more present.

Rolf Potts
Yeah, getting out of your smartphone habits is huge, because those are habits of home. Like when we’re bored at home, we pick up our phone, when we when we, when we’re lonely at home, we pick up our phone, but you’ve paid all this money go to the other side of the world, and you sort of had the same instincts, you’re bored for 10 minutes in Melbourne or Cambodia, and you’re looking at your phone, really? So that’s a great strategy is just not buying the data and not being reachable. And my wife this summer did one step further. We were in Paris, and she decided she was going to use an old school paper map. And so while we had Wi Fi, when we were in the house, we were staying, she she did have to research the restaurants she wanted to go to but then she drew a little a little dot on the map and we used our paper map to find our way around Paris. And we weren’t distracted. If we saw something beautiful and took a picture, we couldn’t text it to our friends or posted on social media. That paper map forced us into a sort of presence in Paris. That was really delightful. And it’s a good it’s a good travel hack in a way just like yeah, don’t buy the data plan. Don’t, don’t be reachable. Find a way to cut yourself off because you’ve paid good money and you’ve dreamt about this place. Be there. Don’t distract yourself with your phone. Don’t text somebody else. Don’t post on social media. Just take that time in the middle of the day when you’re not connected to Wi Fi and commune with the city, commune with the place where you’ve come so far to be.

Lesley Logan
Yeah, oh my gosh, I like I need to get on a plane right now. Somewhere somewhere cool. So your books amazing. I’m I’m am doing the daily parts, because that’s why you wrote it. And I kind of like I it’s not going to be every day that I can get on a trip. But I do want to give myself permission to dream about them or find mini micro trips. So thank you for writing this and bringing this to us. Is there anything else people should know about this amazing book you wrote?

Rolf Potts
Well, just that that it’s a daily reading book, but you can use it. You can you can skip around, you can start with your birthday, you can start with Christmas, you can do whatever it’s, it’s not prescriptive. It’s basically 366 ideas about travel and how it can enlarge your life. There’s an ethos to the book, but it’s not a prescriptive ethos. And so find your own way of being a traveler and pick it up. As I say in the introduction, if after reading a few chapters, you fling it aside because it doesn’t fit in your luggage for a trip you’ve decided you can no longer postpone. Well, then it’s done its job, right. (Lesley: Yeah.) Yeah, and so …

Lesley Logan
I love that. You were, and when I read that I was like, “Genius.” And I and I love that you gave another permission slip for people to not finish the book before they they hit the road.

Rolf Potts
Absolutely not a requirement at all.

Lesley Logan
We’re gonna take a brief break and find out where people can find you follow you learn more about traveling with you.

Alright, Rolf, where do you like to hang out? Where can people buy your book? What’s what’s going on?

Rolf Potts
Well, I’m an old school author, website guy, rolfpotts.com, which I’ve owned since 1998, is still the best place to find about my work. All of my books, articles. It also links to my social media accounts at @rolfpotts on Instagram or Twitter, although I don’t use social media a ton, but it’s a good starting place, I guess. And you can ask for it at your favorite bookstore, you can buy it online, but I’m a big fan of independent bookstores. And so call your local store and say, “Do you have this book?” And if not, “Why?” Because I’m curious, and to be inspired about travel.

Lesley Logan
Oh, I love that. And I too, I think like small bookstores, thank goodness for them because they keep neighborhoods interesting and curious as well. Okay, so I am jealous that you own your url because mine mine is actually owned but I think a travel writer, (Rolf: Okay.) write my name.

Rolf Potts
Well, I have a weird name. Is not many Rolf Potts is in the name …

Lesley Logan
I know, shockingly, Lesley Logan with an E Y has been taken before which I was like, “Oh, I know. I know.” Anyways, it’s okay. That’s why there’s .co. Okay, be it till you see it action item. So bold, executable, intrinsic or targeted steps people can take from this episode, what do you have for us?

Rolf Potts
Well, one thing is that that dream trip that you’ve been thinking about it, it really starts when you decide it’s going to happen. Even if you don’t have enough money or, you know, the wherewithal for a couple of years that I once you’ve decided it’s going to happen and that you’re not going to make any more excuses, then it becomes real. And psychologists say that the pleasure of travel starts in the anticipation phase. And so that’s a fun thing. Even when you’re working hard maybe you don’t even like your job but you’re saving money you’re saving X number of dollars every week for this trip that you’ve been dreaming about. The trip is started in a certain way, it becomes real the moment you decided to make it happen. That’s that’s one of my pieces of advice. And it’s it’s a very optimistic one because how fun is that that your trip decides once you decided it’s going to happen? Right? (Lesley: That’s amazing.) Yeah. Tied into this a little bit is the second one which is make plans, research your trip travels, to your tier delight, it’s good to be prepared but it’s also good to throw out your plans when you’re inspired by the place where you’ve arrived in. I think sometimes we plan our trips too carefully. And it’s like, well, I sort of want to do this cooking class, or I want to go to this place that all the travelers are raving about. But my itinerary says, I should go here. So I’ll probably go here. No, that’s fine. Give yourself permission. Regardless of how detailed your itinerary is, give yourself permission to throw it away, the moment you find inspiration. And oftentimes you find inspiration, five minutes after you walk off the plane and you smell this new place. Right. So find that balance between making plans and then breaking those plans from inspiration. And my third tip, and this applies to everything in travel is just slow down. I know you’re gonna have like 50 things that you want to do in a place like Cambodia, or Italy, or Peru, or wherever you go. But don’t try to pack them into a small space, let your days breathe, slow down and realize that even having lunch on the other side of the world is a travel experience. Even if it’s not on your bucket list this restaurant that you didn’t know about until 10 minutes before and it’s kind of delicious. Allow yourself to slow down, enjoy that place. And as much as traveling through the place, let that place travel through you a little bit just just sit still and be present in that place. And that’s really comes with the permission to let yourself slow down and enjoy yourself.

Lesley Logan
I I pictured myself in seven different places, as you were saying all those things. I love them so much. Y’all how are you going to use these BE IT action items in your life? How like, let us know. So you can tag @rolfpotts, you can take the @be_it_pod. Share this with a friend who you wish you could go vagabonding with or or or has had a trip on their mind that they haven’t taken action on because you know, it really is an escape into yourself. I love how you put that Rolf, you have an amazing way with words which is why you’re a writer. But also this has been a very fun conversation me to picture all the places I’ve been and the places I want to go. So thank you for this and everyone until next time, Be It Till You See It.

Lesley Logan
That’s all I’ve got for this episode of the Be It Till You See It podcast. One thing that would help both myself and future listeners is for you to rate this show and leave a review. And, follow or subscribe for free wherever you listen to podcasts. Also, make sure to introduce yourself over on IG at the @be_it_pod on Instagram. I would love to know more about you. Share this episode with whoever you think needs to hear it. Help us help others to BE IT TILL YOU SEE IT. Have an awesome day!

Lesley Logan
‘Be It Till You See It’ is a production of ‘As The Crows Fly Media’.

Brad Crowell
It’s written, produced, filmed and recorded by your host, Lesley Logan and me, Brad Crowell. Our Associate Producer is Amanda Frattarelli.

Lesley Logan
Kevin Perez at Disenyo handles all of our audio editing.

Brad Crowell
Our theme music is by Ali at APEX Production Music. And our branding by designer and artist, Gianfranco Cioffi.

Lesley Logan
Special thanks to our designer Jaira Mandal for creating all of our visuals (which you can’t see because this is a podcast) and our digital producer, Jay Pedroso for editing all video each week so you can.

Brad Crowell
And to Angelina Herico for transcribing each of our episodes so you can find them on our website. And, finally to Meridith Crowell for keeping us all on point and on time.

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