How do you become the traveler you know you can be? What is the first step on the road to travel? Rolf Potts has the answers to these questions in his back pocket, and he’s more than willing to share; in fact, he’s been giving people this advice for years. Rolf is also one of the reasons Hayden himself got into travel, as Rolf and his book, Vagabonding, crystallized what Hayden had been thinking about travel for his whole life until that point. It gave him the push to become the traveler he knew that he could be all along. Rolf Potts - travel writer, adventurer, teacher, vagabonder, and legend - is the one you want to be at your side when you need that push into travel. He knows that vital first step to becoming the traveler.
Rolf Potts revisits us to tell a story about the people you meet when you travel - both those you want to meet, and those you dread meeting. Rolf traveled to Namibia, which he had heard was quite isolated and severe. What was most famous was the sand dunes, of course, but Rolf was intrigued by the Skeleton Coast, also commonly referred to as the Gates of Hell or the Land God Made in Anger. The road basically disappears, so it is pretty much impossible to drive the entire way along the Skeleton Coast to the border, and, as such, Rolf didn’t expect to see many people in this place. The coast is lined with shipwrecks, each of which has its own turnout off the highway. Ruin after ruin, all the way up the coast, giving a haunted, romantic feel to those who view the rotted ships and those very human feelings. Rolf visited one of these particular ships and encountered Namibian guys who wanted to sell him souvenirs, tribesmen who sell polished rocks to tourists to make a living. He had a great conversation with a group of them that granted him an even deeper human feeling than the ships had, through the grace of human connection. He had never dreamed of this part of Namibia, this very real village life, until he turned away from the shipwreck and started talking to people.
Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding, the book that helps you along your path, doesn’t want to tell you who to be. Like travel, he doesn’t try to change you; he just wants to help you be a more authentic you. When you’re around people, you’re not your authentic self. If you go somewhere you’ve never been before, however, without anybody you’ve ever met before, you can get out of your comfortable and protective patterns and help reveal your true self as you change over time. Breaking out of typical patterns and thinking about the important parts of who you really are are inevitable results of travel. Saying yes to things can help contribute to this, as well, but you should analyze the reasons you might say no, and use those reasons to see whether yes would be a good idea first. Hayden and Rolf discuss this in depth, as Hayden will say yes to anything while Rolf Potts is more of an introvert. Blindly saying yes to everything, Rolf believes, can be a dangerous thing, more likely to result in something more commercial, inauthentic, or risky. You ought to think your decisions through and not hold yourself back from spontaneous human interactions if you want to have them. In fact, never hold yourself back - especially not from traveling. Rolf Potts shares an anecdote about his grandfather that taught him life was never going to reward him, and so he had to create his own space for what he wanted to do, which was to travel. There is always the space to travel if you can make it.
“Vagabonding starts now,” says Rolf Potts. “It starts when you decide to do it.” Once you’ve made the decision, and it is solely your decision, you’re no longer beholden to the fear and compulsion that you have to stay in the daily grind. You can reinvent your relationship to work and make time for your interests and travels. Rolf Potts argues that freedom is tied to labor, that he feels that, once he had spent enough time working, he had earned the leisure time and monetary ability to travel. “We’re all born with winning tickets if we actualize our time well,” he tells us. When he was working, he could think ahead to the road trips and travels he was earning by doing so. He believes you can earn your journeys so long as you do not live vicariously through others, either. This is your life, and you only have one. Rolf Potts shares what he believes is the first step on the road to that life of travel. He believes people see the future as an excuse for justifying the present. You have to stop making excuses and just take his advice. There’s a world out there waiting to be traveled, if you just decide to do it.
When should one travel? When they are young, while they are unattached and have all the time in the world? When they are middle-aged, and in the thick of their “normal” lives? When they are old, and it seems that all things have passed them by? The answer, of course, is “yes.” An honest “yes” to all of the above, and Mark Wolters knows better than anybody how important it is to be honest. He believes that you should truly travel right now, because you never know what can happen later. If you get a chance, he thinks you should take it. He offers honest and genuine travel advice on his YouTube channel, Wolters World, and assists people as they begin their own travel adventures through the world. “As they say,” Mark reminds us, “you only live once.”
When Mark Wolters studied abroad in Argentina, his goal was to meet locals. Lucky for him, he did, and almost immediately, when he met two local girls who invited him to a gathering outside of town that weekend. Unfortunately for him, though, he abruptly got very sick that week; he managed to get himself under control long enough to go meet these girls for their party that Saturday, but, maybe, he should have just stayed. Having not gone to the bathroom in four days, Mark Wolters arrives at Saturday night with everything hitting him all at once, affecting him to the point of tears. He manages to get on a train (without a bathroom), reach a station (also without a bathroom), and make it into Buenos Aires (where everything is closed - ipso facto, without a bathroom). Everything is closed up except Mark that Sunday morning in Buenos Aires, so he just decides to take matters into his own hands - with a handful of wax napkins, a hole in the ground, and without any clothes. From then on, Mark Wolters made sure to memorize all the maps of a location when he travels, because (in his words): “You never know when you’re gonna have to go.”
Mark Wolters made himself into a human guidebook over the course of many years. Like so many travelers, according to Hayden, Mark began with a countercultural attitude. He grew out his long, luxurious hair as an original self-defining statement about himself, gathered a punk-rock attitude that may have contributed to his travel desires, and decided to explore the world in any way that tied into this life. The romantic nature of travel directly ties into the romanticism of rock music, he believes, which leads him to announce that the soundtrack to Mark’s travel life would prominently feature “Why Don't We Get Drunk” by Jimmy Buffett, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. Mark gives travel advice by being honest, throwing in little extra tidbits, and reassuring others that anything they do will be worthwhile if they make it so. Mark Wolters even manages to give the much-experienced Hayden advice for his ride through Europe later this year, spreading bike-related advice specific to various locations throughout Europe, flavored with anecdotes and jokes from his life and from his friends. Mark Wolters does love to give genuine, honest advice.
Mark Wolters is the owner, founder, and star of the YouTube channel Wolters World, telling the honest truth about places - the good, the bad, what to do, what not to do. Having began the channel in 2010 with videos to help the woman who would become his wife learn Portuguese, Mark has only evolved his content since. He decided to do something different with the YouTube channel when he got a guidebook that made a small town sound fantastic - until he got there, and everything was closed, small, and a huge letdown. Mark Wolters sat down, and he thought how horribly disappointing it would be if someone who only had so much vacation time wasted it on places they had only read good lies about. He was inspired by this to create honest travel videos - telling people the truly good and the truly, truly bad things about places he traveled to. He believes in making sure people have the best travel experience possible. To travelers, Mark Wolters is a friend who will be honest and truly help you out. It’s difficult to find truthful stuff out there, he thinks, so he goes out with an open mind and gives his completely honest opinions to others. After all, if you only include the good, you’re just making a commercial.
What is there awaiting travelers in the desert? What is there out in nature, waiting to reconnect with man? Eric Trules has discovered it, he thinks. That nothingness that means something: a nomadic way of life, a connection to nature, a cooperation with the land, a lack of civilization that means an increase in humanity. Eric Trules has been a professional in the performing, literary, and filmic arts for almost five decades. He’s worked as a dancer, in the theater, as an actor, and even as a clown. In his life outside of his work, he takes what he’s learned in his decades of performance and applies it to his thinking about travel. Trules’ show, “e-travels with e. trules,” contains musical scores, sound effects, and everything in between, and his magnificent voice telling his amazing stories. Living in Echo Park, California, and traveling all over the world, Eric has learned how to make others laugh, how to help life happen, how to parent his nephew, how to make travel his medium, how to make oneself vulnerable, and how to connect people in challenging times reconnect again. Life awaits you in the desert, if you are brave enough to seek it on your camel safari.
It’s Israel, in May of 1999, and travel is easy. As a result, Eric has the idea to go out into the Sinai Desert, the home of camels, Moses, and the Red Sea, and have the sun bake the life out of him and suck the logic out. The best of Israel comes to the Sinai Desert to escape their day-to-day lives, because the sun, the earth, and the sea will slow you down until time is lost and you have no desire to return to civilization. He went to a camp on the Red Sea and adventured for himself, feeling the desire to walk in the steps of Moses and Joshua and to sleep under an endless starry sky. First, he needed to get enough supplies and camels to make the journey he wanted to take both possible and worthwhile. He composed a team of people willing to uncivilize themselves in the desert, and together they took a camel safari. They followed the same path that the Jews followed all those years ago, witnessing the same journey they did, navigating broad spaces, narrow canyons, and the changing day as the sun shifted. Eric found an oasis here. He realized that there is nothing in the desert: no politics, no borders, no religions. There is only a nomadic, respectful, dependent way of life, which requires a cooperation with the land and which has existed for thousands of years. In the desert, modern civilization and its instant conveniences disappear. In the desert, you realize how distant we have grown from nature, and how much we have lost touch with ourselves in the process, and with the very things that make us human. You gain independence from nature in civilization, disrespecting and ignoring mother nature and ourselves in doing so, and you lose your sense of awe in the power of the natural universe. Eric experienced a rare perfect moment under the orange desert moon. He remembered there was bloodshed in this land now, and that only hatred and history causes problems like these, nothing inherent. Everyone could benefit from taking a camel safari into the desert and forgetting about civilization.
Making a fool of yourself will help others to laugh, and Eric Trules knows this to be absolutely true. After all, he took a little French in high school and purposefully butchered the language in a humorous way just to make his French audience smile. He made himself vulnerable in doing so, in making himself a person trying to communicate rather than someone who does not wish to understand. Language opens people up makes connections between different cultures and individuals. As a clown, Eric Trules formed a company of New York clowns who traveled the city, completely out of context, and disrupted reality, creating public theatrical mayhem to make the everyday experience something bigger, comical, lighthearted, and relieving. If you put yourself out there, you show people a different side of life. He does consider his full-time job being “Mr. Mom,” however, as he is a father to his Indonesian nephew from Sumatra. He wholeheartedly believes in the mantra: “Life is what happens while you’re waiting for other plans to work out.” Eric Trules once asked a woman for directions and ended up marrying her, so he understands the value of taking risks, making yourself vulnerable, and seeing what comes of it. He also sees the value of compromising different outlooks and styles in life with those around you, your partners in life. Vulnerability is key.
Eric Trules has been building his podcast since Y2K. He has a long background as a performing artist, writer, and storyteller who has been focusing more and more on travel stories for a while now. He started a travel blog back in 2000 in an internet coffee shop in Southeast Asia that went by the same name as his podcast now. He wanted to capture the flavor of where he was and what he was doing for his friends, and so one of his friends helped him create and design his blog for him. After this, he began to perform on stages, both in Los Angeles and internationally, telling his stories everywhere. Witnessing this, a student of his told him that they preferred hearing him tell stories over reading them, and suggested that he create a podcast. Since then, he has gotten students to help him with sound design, sound effects, and music composition, collaborating to convey his voice, his tone, his vibes from his travels, contributing information and music and sounds and tales that relieve people from the other horrible stories they hear in the news. Composers are able to achieve sensations and emotions of places just through music and, by listening to these stories, they’re able to compose such beautiful sounds and inspire their listeners. Eric Trules strives to inspire. In fact, his stories, he says, have two tracks: to help listeners travel vicariously through his story and the music and the feel, and, for those who have traveled a lot, to strike a memory chord for those who have been to where he’s traveled. Travel is his medium, and he wants to help everyone divided by borders, religions, politics reconnect again through their mutual humanity, by learning about other people through these travel stories. He hopes that his stories connect people in these challenging times and over challenging barriers. One of Eric’s maxims that he offers his students is that vulnerability is their greatest strength. Your wounds and your lives and your deepest stories are your treasures that you have to share with people, and the same is true of any story being told. Vulnerability puts you in place as an underdog and changes how people react to you, and helps you leave your house in the morning to take the risk on travel.