“It is the expectation itself that robs a bit of authenticity from the destinations we seek out.”
– Rolf Potts
One of the best ways you can travel meaningfully is by reading travel fiction/non-fiction on the country/countries you intend to visit.
I got interested in Rolf Potts when I heard he was the “Jack Kerouac for the internet age” and had written an essential travel book called Vagabonding. Truth be told, I didn’t find Vagabonding very helpful but I picked up his collection of 20 short stories to see whether it would change my mind. The book spans his real-life adventures in several countries and arguably his most famous piece, Storming the Beach, is about planning how to storm the movie of the same name on location in Phi Phi Leh, Thailand.
Some of the stories show how the best stories come from being open to the road like Road Roulette or from misadventures like Turkish Knockout, Be Your Own Donkey, and Up Cambodia without a phrasebook. I especially liked the shattering of preconceptions in Tantric Sex for Dilettantes. It was also nice to see a travel story on Grenada: Seven (or So) Sins on the Isle of Spice although it wasn’t as juicy as the others.
What I liked most about his stories were the endnotes. Here, Potts explained why he had to write his story in a certain way or leave out certain details for his narrative arc. I think this shines a light on how writers have to create a story from the tangled strands of a real lived experience. The endnotes also sometimes explained his motivations for writing the story. It felt very behind the scenes and I totally loved it.
Verdict: great read!
Have you ever read Marco Polo Didn’t Go There? What did you think about it?