S5E13: The Gates of Hell – Rolf Potts: Author | Vagabonder | Traveler

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.

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The Gates of Hell

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, Vagabonding, and Saying Yes to Adventures

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.

Deciding When to Travel with Rolf Potts

“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.

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