Rolf Potts on Travel Tactics, Creating Time Wealth, and Lateral Thinking (#41 & #42)


“War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.” – Rolf Potts

“If in doubt, just walk until your day becomes interesting.” – Rolf Potts

Rolf Potts is the author of Vagabonding (hear the audio book sample here), one of my favorite books of all-time.  It was one of just two books (the other was Walden) that I carried with me around the world from 2004-2005.  Those adventures led directly to The 4-Hour Workweek.

World travel doesn’t have to be a wealthy person’s sport. In this often hilarious conversation, Rolf and I dig deep into travel tactics, creating time wealth, “managing success,” and much more.  It’s a fun romp through every imaginable topic, from business to poetry, and from Wall Street to psychedelics.


You can find the transcript of Episode 41 here. You can find the transcript of Episode 42 here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

Ep 41: Rolf Potts on Travel Tactics, Creating Time Wealth, and Lateral Thinking
Ep 42: Rolf Potts (Part 2) on Travel Tactics, Creating Time Wealth, and Lateral Thinking

This podcast is brought to you by 99Designs, the world’s largest marketplace of graphic designers. Did you know I used 99Designs to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body? Here are some of the impressive results.

This episode is also brought to you by ExOfficio, which I’ve personally used since 2005 or so. They make ultra-lightweight, quick drying, antimicrobial clothing for men and women. Here’s my own ultra-light packing list, which went viral.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What are the most valuable lessons (or tricks) you’ve learned through travel? Please share your story in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes.

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Selected Links from the Episode

Part I

Part II

Connect with Rolf Potts:

Show Notes

Part I

  • Converting travel fantasies into realities and the time-wealth principle [2:30]
  • Deconstructing and defining success, money, and freedom [12:00]
  • The time-strapped billionaire paradox [14:10]
  • Resources to fight the fears associated with world travel [25:09]
  • How new collaborative consumption technologies affect the long-term travel experience [29:00]
  • JP Morgan’s trip to Egypt, and what we can learn about business on the road [40:56]
  • Vacations and their effect on creative output [42:55]
  • When to leave the optimize-for-efficiency mindset behind [44:32]
  • Can you replicate travel benefits with a “staycation”? [51:37]
  • Exploring appreciation vs. achievement [54:08]
  • Rolf Potts’ writing process + “Swoopers” and “Bashers” [59:54]

Part II

  • The breakthrough for Potts in his writing: structure learned from screenwriting tomes [1:00]
  • Vagabonding and the therapeutic use of psychedelics [7:00]
  • The art of getting lost, and the benefits of getting lost [8:05]
  • What it’s like to teach writing in Paris, and who is a good fit for the class [16:15]
  • Thoughts on a mid-career Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) [22:13]
  • “Success management” and her champions: Dave Chapelle and John Hughes? [35:26]
  • Rapid-fire questions: Grizzly Man, Con Air, the love of poetry, and more [41:45]

People Mentioned

Part I

Part II

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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344 Replies to “Rolf Potts on Travel Tactics, Creating Time Wealth, and Lateral Thinking (#41 & #42)”

  1. One of the best things I’ve learned about travel is that packing light does more than ease the checked bag fees and constant worries about losing your luggage. By taking the minimum of what you need, you disconnect from your ‘stuff’ and really open yourself up to the new experiences that await. #VIP

  2. The most valuable lesson that I have learned through my years of travelling is that there is absolutely no place worth visiting in a city where you are not at all ready to immerse yourself in the local culture. Travel is as much about knowing cultures as it is about introspecting and knowing yourself. And finally, it is about seeing the beautiful places. #VIP


  3. Sometimes, when I’m feeling naughty, I glance at the show notes before listening to the podcast. I’ll be interested to hear how you get on to the subject of Con Air. A long Nic Cage discussion? Can every podcast from now on have one of them?

  4. I’ve been waiting for one of your guests to answer your standard question, (and I paraphrase…)”Who comes to mind, when you think of the word success?”, in the way Rolf does so brilliantly. I’m 54 and my husband and I have been savoring life as nomads for the last 4 years. Bravo, Tim on bringing this eye opening topic to all your type “A” followers!

  5. Great post. Travel tip: When you go to a foreign land, at some point take five minutes or more and just sit with your eyes closed and just actively listen to all the sounds around you, don’t daydream. What do you hear? Do you know what it is? How does it affect you? What will you remember about the sound of this place?

    This practice also works with where you are right now. Try it.

    Re: Screenplay by Sid Field. Typo, his name is Syd Field.


    PS tried posting first via gravatar and it wasn’t working for some reason. Apologies if this double posts.

  6. As a person light on travel experience, take this for what you will. Talk to/ greet whomever you can while abroad, and not just locals. I made so many (unfulfilled) plans based on conversation with a Moroccan law student and a Japanese couple (who were thrilled to meet an American) when I was in France. Step one is to be willing to put yourself out there in conversation (see Tim’s hug experiment). Get over the wall of embarrassment or vulnerability, or better yet, embrace it and grow.

  7. Bordering On Buddhist — I fly a lot — Africa, Cambodia, Latin America, China. And once I get there, I usually have to travel to remote places in all sorts of vehicles, some comfy and others NOT. I try to accept whatever comes, like letting it all wash over me, whether it is getting seated between two huge Ghanaians at the back of some airbus. You never know what is around the corner in some of these places, so letting it slap you full frontal is usually a pleasant surprise. #vip

  8. Funny thing is I only offer up one travel tip now because I’ve found that much of the travel advice people have given me over the years rarely ended up being true, but my single tip is always and I mean always have plenty of local currency. Doesn’t matter if you’re walking the streets of Paris or the back alleys of Thailand, cash is king and the only thing that will save you when you truly need it. Which leads me to my next point; one of the best/most economical means of getting local currency while traveling is to get a Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account, you can use the debit card at any ATM worldwide with zero transaction fees and zero conversion fees. #VIP

  9. If you are having back pain as you pack, see someone about it, get pills if you have to before you leave US. I didn’t realize that my back pain was going to end up as a severe case of sciatica and ended up in Portugal sleeping on the floor and unfortunately missed much of the exploring .


  10. Vagabonding is my favorite book of all time. It’s the first one I give to anybody I know who is thinking about world travel. And the first one I read when looking for a kick in the pants.

    3 Things…

    1. Scan all of your important documents and put them online somewhere, so when you inevitably lose them, you still have what you need to get home.

    2. Pack light. Very light. You can always buy stuff overseas… (that’s part of the adventure) except sometimes deodorant.

    3. If you log in to a computer in China, make sure you change your account password in another country ASAP.


  11. What I have learned from traveling, especially with friends, is not to spend the entire time with them! At some point enjoy some reading by the pool time, or exploring a place they don’t want to go to. It prevents you all from getting on each other’s nerves and from just doing things they want to do. It sounds simple but when in a group sometimes you feel the pressure of doing what others want and not what you want. #VIP

  12. As requested – favorite travel lesson or trick:

    “I didn’t need to travel (or do anything) to have the experience of boundless inner freedom I thought traveling (and/or anything external) would bring. ‘There is no spoon’ — no self who can figure out the great mystery!”


  13. My best advice is probably for hitch-hiking. It’s important to be as well groomed and put together as possible. Your location is also extremely important. Of course you want more traffic, but it’s also helpful if they are going slow enough to see and judge you (as not a stinky degenerate), and to be more willing to slow down and stop. They also need an easy place to pull over. Stop lights on highways are great because people stop and can see you smiling—which you should always be doing. Doing a funny little dance, a wave, or something to show you’re a nice, fun person can also help. Beware of cities. People are used to homeless asking for things and will pass you by. If you’re in a city, try taking public transport or asking the last ride to leave you outside of town. You don’t want to hitch with more than 1–2 people because that severally limits who can pick you up—and can seem threatening. Solo can work well, but the best situation is a guy and a girl. The girl makes the guy seem less dangerous, and the guy protects the girl. When someone pulls over, I always go up to the window, thank them and ask where they’re headed. Always speak to them before getting in. I feel you can read a person fairly well just exchanging a few words. If it doesn’t seem cool—don’t get in. Also definitely keep a knife on you and know how to pull it out and practice how you’d pull it out from the passenger and back seat. I usually keep a Gerber quick draw clipped inside the cuff of my pants so I could pretend I’m itching my foot or something—rather than pulling it out of my back pocket while sitting. Lastly, and definitely not least is a cardboard sign of where you’re going. Not always necessary, but often helpful. Whiteboard would be ideal, but then you’re carrying a whiteboard. It’s important to make the letters very legible (which also makes you seem less dangerous) and keep it short (ex: “NORTH” or “QUEENSTOWN”) so they know it’s not a sign about you wanting money. If you’re even remotely young enough to pull it off, writing “STUDENTS” on there helps quite a bit.

    I hitched from San Luis Obispo, CA to Victoria, B.C. and back over 7 weeks and also spent 8 months in New Zealand where I often hitched. While it saves money, it’s also exhilarating to rely on the kindness of strangers as your mode of transportation. When hitching in the US I usually estimate 2x the normal driving time and in NZ 1.5x the normal driving time.

  14. When traveling in smaller towns in Pakistan, as a foreigner you will often find yourself with a police escort who just shows up within an hour or two of your arrival (uninvited, of course) and follows you around mercilessly. Though you won’t get rid of him, he become a lot easier to deal with if you go on a 3-5 hour walking tour of the town with the guard in tow. Undoubtedly it’s more exercise than he’s had in a long time, and by the end of it he’ll be too tired to put up much of a fuss about whatever else you decide to do. #VIP

  15. When we have to check bags my girlfriend and I split our bags evenly with both of our travel gear so that if one bag gets lost we can both survive at our travel destination. As well carry bags have some gear to survive for a couple of days. We use travel bags so that it easy to separate when we arrive at our destination. Blue for me and yellow for her (our favorite colours).


  16. The best lesson that I have learned when I was travelling all around Bolivia: It doesn’t matter whether I am in the highest salt lake in the world or deep down in the jungle, as soon I have Internet, I can work where ever and when ever I want. This freedom is a huge part of my life now. #VIP

  17. My best thought on how to “see” a new city: when my wife was with me, I would go to business meetings for a day or two while she followed a few guidebooks and took the usual “tourist tours.” By that time she had figured out what the really good stuff was. So then we could spend a few days on her list of the best things. It made for good adventures as well as prime “togetherness” time.


  18. Hello Tim – I find that thinking out of the box attracts “out of box” thinkers on recent travel experiences . I apply every aspect possible of your finds and have greatly improved my network with rich people-data that have given me much better leverage in my decision making and creating valuable time for upcoming unexpected priorities. The freedom to capitalize on these new opportunities.

  19. In my travels I have learned that the desire and execution of “relating” with other humans has trumped any sort of “social media worthy” picture or phrase. Making an effort to experience an actual conversation, below the surface level, with not only the movers and shakers of the top tier, but the base level, straw hat weavers and cobblers etc, have allowed perspective that will never be captured in a photo. This is not simply meeting with locals for the sake of doing so. It is engaging with someone and being a willing participant in a moment of their life, and it not being all about you. It will contain a passion that allows you to speak of these instances for years and take those lessons and wisdom with you. #VIP

  20. The most valuable travel lesson I have learned is to say “yes” to most situations, not to feed into paranoia, and to speak, eat, and travel with the people who call the place you’re visiting home. #VIP

  21. Best Travel Tip Ever:

    Use a smaller backpack (medium size) to prevent packing too much and too heavy.

    It will also give you the opportunity to bring home souveniers !


  22. Favorite trick: Never check luggage.

    It costs an extra 1-2 hours per flight to book and retrieve them, plus you save 20-50 euro per flight.

    Bonus: People cannot believe you can travel the world on cabin sized luggage 🙂

    Kudos Tim the 4HWW changed my life!


  23. What I love about travel most is that it engages all of my senses, some that have been dulled and atrophied by routine and negligence. The most important lesson I learn from traveling is that I can bring home this pulse of awareness. This awareness that has more value than time and money saved.


  24. My personal favorite travel lesson I learned from Mr. Tim Ferris. Placing a weapon in your suitcase and declaring it to the airline, to NEVER lose your bags ever again! Simple and effective. #VIP

  25. Best travel tip: don’t eat at restaurants you have at home, like McDondalds. Enjoy the local cuisine because culture comes through food in the best ways! #VIP

  26. If you want to see the city in a new and exciting way take public transportation. The people you meet and the things you see will be totally different than taking a taxi.

  27. Traveling is so much easier when you let go of “needing” gear, clothes and other stuff and travel only with what is essential and fits in a backpack. The possibilities for what can happen in your travels become endless when you’re unburdened by the possessions you carry around with you because being nimble brings enormous potential to every situation.

    My own rule is simple: if I can’t carry it on the plane (this includes small puddle-jumpers), I don’t bring it. If you travel a lot, it’s pretty easy to figure out what you truly need if you can be completely honest with yourself. If you’re new to traveling and nervous about forgetting something truly essential, Tim’s ultra-light packing list is a great place to start.


  28. Best travel tip- pick window seat on side of plane you typically sleep on to get as close to your comfort zone as possible #VIP

  29. Can’t wait to listen to this, thanks Tim.

    QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What are the most valuable lessons (or tricks) you’ve learned through travel?

    GO FOR IT!

    Ok, so we are currently travelling the world with FOUR kids aged 9, 7 and a set of 3 year old twins, yes, crazy, we know!

    The same question comes up from people we meet along the way ALL the time, ‘HOW THE HELL ARE YOU DOING THIS?’

    Sanity aside, I guess most people (ok 100%) of people are clearly thinking about the financial aspect of our travels and can’t imagine how on earth it’s possible to fund such a lifestyle.

    Our answer…..

    The Sharing Economy!

    We homeswap our way around the globe and go where the successful swaps carry us, if you are a family that want to travel, then there is a way, THERE IS ALWAYS a way.

    So far we have swapped or booked to swap in England, Craotia, Dubai, Australia (7 weeks in 4 different properties) and New Zealand and are approaching more people all the time.

    Tip 2.

    Do not let your kids ‘stand in your way’, of travelling the world, that is YOUR mindset, not THEIRS, they would have a back pack on in a second!

    Do not use the following excuses……

    ‘They can’t leave their friends’

    ‘He/she just made the first team’

    ‘They need a routine’

    ‘Exams are next year’

    Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah


    Your kids are WAY more adaptable than you have ever given them credit for, make the leap, go for it and watch them blossom and watch your family become closer than ever.

    Hope this helps anybody on the edge, we have a blog outlining our experiences so far, which Tim has kindly retweeted in the past.

    Happy listening and happy travelling, and thanks again Tim for our new life!


  30. Eat local food, listen to local music, check out the local craftspeople, and don’t be afraid to get lost on public transportation. Getting lost helps you engage with the local people and provides wonderful future stories! #VIP

  31. The most important thing I have learned while traveling is to learn about the culture before I arrive, so I can act accordingly (even if it’s something as simple as the policy on tipping a server), and to think before I act or speak, and when I finally do, be confident and own it all the way. #VIP

  32. This is such a simple trick, but I’ll share anyway: i put all our travel paperwork (like boarding passes and itinerary in clear plastic Ziploc bags so they don’t get wrecked while we travel. We do a lot of adventure stuff like snorkeling and sailing and are always around water and messy kids so knowing no matter what the stuff that gets us home (i.e. those tickets, that passport) is safe and secure is always reassuring — and it only costs like 15 cents a trip.(Plus we reuse the same Ziploc bags again and again.)

  33. If you need to get somewhere in India, but don’t wanna pay for rickshaw driver who’s liable to try to rip you off, talk to the cops. They love getting to know westerners and likely to offer you a lift. #VIP

  34. I have yet to try this, but in the book Life Nomadic by Tynan ( he mentions that when he can afford it he buys a business class or first class ticket, making sure it is fully refundable first, to get access to the premium lounge. From which he uses the lounge wifi to refund his ticket and buy an economy class ticket, which means he can stay and enjoy the food and splendor of the lounge for free.


  35. Love your blog, Tim! Best travel lesson I’ve learned – don’t be afraid of new experiences! Take the bus or the subway and see how other people live their everyday lives, visit the little market or food stand and try something you have never seen or heard of before, try to speak the language, smile at strangers (in a foreign country it might be the only language you have in common!). Soak it all in and appreciate the opportunity to see, hear, smell, taste and feel NEW things you may never get to experience again!

  36. Thanks Tim!

    Really wish I could read this instead of listening. Much faster/easier. Even if it was an automatically generated transcript with plenty of errors, no problem.

    We are currently vagabonding about, living on a sailboat, while working part-time remotely over internet/telephone, and also working to build a business. Definitely still learning how this remote traveling lifestyle works. Sometimes it’s really a challenge, but always better than a beige cubicle in an office. Your blog and book is really helpful for ideas on how to make it this life work and also inspiration/validation when it all seems too crazy to be possible.



  37. Leave room in your travels for serendipity… travel without a map while in a new city. #VIP

    P.S. My best friend and I did this while in Venice… in a rainstorm… in shorts… We ended up getting soaked to the bone and lost down dead end canals. However, this is by far one of our fondest memories of traveling together that transports us back in time and fills us with joy and laughter.

  38. This is how I like to travel. At the turn of the century, my husband and I gave up our Brooklyn apartment to move to Los Angeles. In the month before we had to move in, we stayed in a lovely bungalow in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, MX. It cost less to travel there and live for a month with a rental car than to maintain any residence in the States. I get to teach this to my kids now. We always travel where we can cook our own food and we need little else.

  39. A travel lesson I learned was do not be afraid to ask for help. I didn’t do something in Japan because I was too embarrassed to speak my broken Japanese but looking back there were plenty of times people helped me without even asking. #VIP

  40. Although eating at some of the great restaurants of the world is a fun part of travel, it’s hard to beat the experience of finding a local shop or market, buying a picnic lunch, and eating a meal while people watching in a public place. City, country or beach: you get a much less tourist-y sense of the destination.

  41. Best Travel Tip? “Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore.” By which I mean, first, let go of any idea that the place you are visiting will be anything like “home”. Second, strike any strict itinerary and just go with the flow. Third, seek out a neighborhood and jump into the local culture and customs, respectfully. #VIP

  42. THINK. This simple directive is the most valuable travel lesson I’ve learned. At home, it is easy to get caught up in routine and run on auto-pilot, rarely actually thinking. When traveling, taking a second to consciously think about your situation has so many benefits: it helps you get more out of the experience, it increases flow, and it can help you get out of a less than fun travel situation.

    When your train is cancelled due to strikes, thinking helps you develop a new plan rather than panic. When your phone that you’re using to navigate on the way to your destination begins to die, thinking helps you memorize the directions and borrow the plug on someone’s front porch. When parking a rental car in a foreign city, thinking about where you’re parking helps you find it in when you’re ready to hit the road again (learned that one the hard way). When you’re going to a national park with expensive meals, thinking helps you save money because you pack your lunch and snacks. #VIP

  43. If you want to meet people go to a small city in China or India or some place else that has no touristic features what so ever. The people will be so much more genuine and interested in you compared to places that has more foreign visitors. I am fortunate enough to have to go to weird places way off the beaten track in my job and it is always an interesting experience! It may lead to a lot of misunderstanding, confusion, anger, happiness, strange food, love and attention! So its a bumpier ride but fun as hell!

  44. Packing tip:

    Use old protein powder bottles for packing your liquids, gels and toiletries. Ziplocs are OK but when things go atomic in your luggage you’ll wish you had used hard sided containers.

    BTW those huge bucket sized bottles are way too big for my comfort so when I need a new container I just buy stuff in smaller sizes.

    ~ Victor


  45. I travelled for six months around Europe last year in a van, this is my tip:

    #1 You can sustain yourself off others waste. This is not as gross as it sounds 🙂 If you look out for supermarket waste bins you can find a wealth of food that is still great. And, you can eat very healthy. Bonus!

    Not only is this environmentally friendly, but we used to feed the homeless doing this in Vienna, Austria. There is no excuse not to travel.



  46. Hello Tim! 🙂

    Recently traveling in Peru we had to be very careful of choosing legit taxi drivers because there were a lot of people being robbed. I learned to look at the credentials that were posted on the passenger side of the windshield to see if they were up to date and also to simply ask the driver for credentials, as well as picking a nice looking car. Traveled throughout the country for a month and didnt have one incident. #VIP

    Safe travels friends,

    Sam G.

  47. Hey Tim, and readers,

    Taking a month long trek across Spain with my girlfriend in December. She’s very well-traveled in the area as I am NOT. I’ve only ever been to Mexico for a weekend, otherwise I have no experience traveling outside of the states. I’ve been feeling very anxious about the trip, mostly about safety and the usual travel anxiety that comes with flying somewhere foreign. Any basic tips or advice on how to ease my worries? – I can speak broken Spanish enough to order a drink or meal, and she speaks fluently, so it’s not necessarily the language barrier that I’m afraid of, but really this ornate deep-seeded feeling of being away from american soil. Any tips or advice would be appreciated!

    -Tim, LOVED the recent episodes of the podcast, it was right up my ally and totally what I needed to hear with my current situation. Rolf sounds like a great dude and as always the resources and information you guys discuss is invaluable. Thank you so much for everything.


  48. #VIP the best trick/tip I ever learned was COUCH SURFING. I got the local scoop, it was free, often times my host would show me around or at least tell me where to go, great food, friend for life. I am still friends with people i surfed with years ago. I also had space to do some work before I ventured out into the land of oz. Also, always start at the market square!

  49. I think my biggest travel tip is to absorb the new experiences that come with seeing a new place and a different culture. Travelling is a privilege and can deeply effect the way you look at the world if we let it. It’s important to take in as much as you can and take the time to reflect on your trip. Life is a one way trip and if we don’t meditate on what we’ve done, it’ll just be another forgotten memory. #VIP

  50. to keep comfortable on a plane, I basically wear pajamas hidden beneath a very nice coat and knee boots. #VIP

  51. I returned home with my mom to Cairo; we’d been away ten years. She desperate to reunite with her land, and me frightened of not being accepted, with my Arabic now heavily coated with an English accent. Best lesson was given to me by our doorman at the hotel. A large, robust man with little schooling asked me to teach him a new english word daily in exchange for him teaching me an arabic word. He was amazingly warm and I’ll always remember his pride in helping me with arabic. Don’t shy away from stumbling on correct pronunciations and focus on connecting, natives are welcoming and gracious.

  52. Don’t eat at any recognizable chain food restaurant and resist the temptation to spent the last of that countries currency before leaving, exchange it or keep it as a souvenir.

  53. Ask locals where they go out to eat. I’ve found some amazing little mom/pop restaurants full of local flavor and great food. Often the atmosphere is just okay, but usually the food makes up for it! #VIP

  54. My best travel trick: Take less stuff.

    The less you carry the more enjoyable, flexible, relaxed, inexpensive, and freeing your travel will be.


  55. Best travel tip is skip the big restaurants and eat the street food from the local food carts. It is so much better and gives you a real sense of flavor for the city.

    This was especially true in Thailand as we ate the most amazing foods from the craziest of vendors and the only time we got sick was when we splurged and ate at a 5 star resort that was recommended to us. #vip

  56. When you first arrive in a new city, go for a jog or walk and familiarize yourself with the immediate surroundings. Instead of covering all the attractions, immerse yourself in 1-2 a day so you can fully appreciate it.

  57. Before a trip, I try to read a book by someone who lived in or loved the city I’m visiting. I had a book of Henri Cartier-Bresson photographs, and while wandering Istanbul, happened upon this incredible staircase he had photographed (the Camondo stairs). It adds a bit of extra romance to random walks through a new place! #VIP

  58. About halfway through this podcast, I paused it and composed an e-mail to my boss about a different (more time-consuming, managerial) position I was being considered for and sent a respectful decline without hesitation. My current position let’s me live the life I want to live RIGHT NOW – enough financial security, no stress, and with a flexible schedule that allows me to travel if I so desire. So, I turned down a promotion (and some benefits) so I could take advantage of my current “time-wealth” and pursue the things I really care about with art and creative projects. Not a the decision people usually make with conventional wisdom, but I’m confident this is best for me. Thanks for this episode!

  59. Top 10 Travel Tips –

    1. Travel to countries alone that DO NOT have McDonalds or Starbucks to really blow your mind (e.g. Burma, Tunisia.)

    2. Take only 1 change of clothes in a small Camelbak backpack for hydration while walking and exploring. (News flash – they sell underwear overseas in a pinch.)

    3. Ask the waiters to bring you their favourite dish on the menu. (Don’t even bother looking at the menu.)

    4. Comfortable sneakers or Vibrams are a must along with ExOfficio clothing and possibly a Tilley hat and shades.

    5. If you want to meet other travellers the best spot is immediately upon arriving to a city (i.e. baggage claim, bus depot, train station). Be the leader and help everyone get to the modest hotel you’ve picked out beforehand.

    6. Get an early start to the day (6am) and try not to be too far from your hotel as the sun starts setting. (Know what time the sun sets there.)

    7. Always be the last one on the plane so you can – stretch at the gate, go to the bathroom, scour the plane for an aisle seat if not full, ask the gate attendant if you can upgrade at the last minute and make sure you have your bottle of water.

    8. Vitamin C powder (1,000 mg) every morning so you don’t get sick.

    9. Have enough local currency in your pocket upon landing to get you to the hotel in a cab so you don’t get hustled a the airport. You can always change money in a safer environment later.

    10. Buy some local garb on Day 1 and leave the MP3 player and guidebook in your hotel room. Grab a map and walk everywhere and try out some local phrases with the locals. Be a traveller, not a tourist. Enjoy!


  60. Travel-vagabonding skills are wonderfully applicable Life Skills (career/entrepreneurship sensibilities, relational skills, mind and body health)! Thanks Tim! Minor suggestion about the above Rolf quote: God has better ways of teaching us geography (war and it’s subsequent racist-skewed perceptions is not one of them; that’d be the devil’s way).

    Travel on!

  61. I travel to Thailsnd often for close Combat courses. I travel very light, dispensing with anything not needed (like underwear). Whenever I go out I take just enough money for my needs to save hassle if my pockets are picked or I get hustled. #VIP

  62. The only travel item I can’t live without: noise cancelling headphones. And they’re not just for air travel. Long hours of interstate noise have the same debilitating effect, so I use them in the car for point-to-point driving (not for sightseeing).

    OBTW, if you’re doing long hours on US Interstates, Starbucks has the best bathrooms bar none. They are single person (think private) and always clean.


  63. In my world travels, here are a few #VIP tips that work for me:

    1) I pack everything that goes in my backpack (including clothes) in Ziplock bags. Not only is it airtight and compact, but it also organizes my gear and keeps everything waterproof when caught outside with only a backpack climbing waterfalls in the New Zealand rain.

    2) Even though food can be a huge part of the cultural experience, I pack enough granola bars so I don’t have to go somewhere for breakfast. Not only does it save lots of time but it also saves money (but I do go out for coffee). I also shy away from giving beggars money, and food is something I can share with them along with a smile.

    3) Earplugs come in handy for more than just crying babies and loud engines on an airplane. They pack very small and can help in those cheap rooms you booked.

    Thanks Tim. Hope this can help you and your readers.

  64. Really enjoyed the part of the discussion about not micromanaging travel! I think we all have a tendency to want to do this, but embracing the uncertainty is the most difficult and most rewarding part of travel, in my opinion. As such, my favorite travel lesson is that even when you attempt to micromanage your travel experience, you will never succeed. Your experience will ALWAYS be interrupted by something unexpected and unplanned whether it’s a missed ferry, a rainy day when you planned to go to the beach, or a museum that’s closed for restoration. It’s inevitable. So you might as well go with the flow and not waste your time micromanaging when you’re at home focused on efficiency 😉 #VIP

  65. I really appreciate this interview. Great to have that follow up and hear his thoughts.

    Rolf is a first-rate guy and you are the one who got me on to his writing a long time ago in the early days of this blog.

    So, I somehow managed to get up the nerve to ask him for an interview. He graciously consented to a skype interview while he was teaching at Penn. (It can be on youtube searching for “ninja interviews rolf potts”). He was very kind and generous; a rare kind of maturity and goodness that can make you want to join in his optimism and listen to him deeply. It could be a mid-western mentality, too.

    From the beginning, I found a simpatico vibe with Rolf philosophies on life and living well. I researched him and read everything of his that I could find online, and found out that we have similar once-upon-a-time conservative Evangelical background early in life (i.e. church camp, etc) and that continues to flavor our lives similarly with a unique perspective on experiencing the world and others as we attempt to live beyond the powerful drive of selfishness. For Rolf, the institutional bits have been jettisoned, but undoubtably the grace and spiritual formation remains.

    Quality stuff on the podcast. Thank you.

  66. My travel tip: Ditch the headphones. Listening to podcasts (even Tim’s), your favorite playlist, or those language lessons have their own place and time. Listen to the sounds of the street instead. To the chatter around you. And you’ll not only be safer, you’ll truly be immersed in the culture of your destination. You’ll have a better shot at meeting locals. And eavesdropping is free entertainment! On the train, sitting on a boulevard bench, or relaxing on a sunny beach- ditch the headphones. #VIP

  67. I grew up in NYC and took a punt moving to New Zealand for one year in 1990 – best thing I ever did and nearly 25 years later I am still here. Some of the many things I have learned about travel…

    1. Speaking more and more loudly in English won’t make it any easier for someone who does not understand you

    2. If you try to speak the local language, even reading it from a book, you will find many people who didn’t speak English a moment ago suddenly can speak English just fine – they just want you to acknowledge their culture a tiny bit.

    3. Wear an ‘All Black’ training jersey and everyone in France loves you lots!

    Love the blog Tim!



  68. Bring Monistat. You don’t want to be miming what you need with hand gestures to the pharmacist who doesn’t speak your language (well, you don’t speak his/hers) in front of a bunch of people in a crowded foreign pharmacy. It’s embarrassing. You also don’t want to miss out on doing things like rafting down Cambodian rivers or late-night swims in Spanish inlets, and you never know when things like that can lead to the aforementioned pharmacy mortification. There, I said it. I’m sure there’s a guy version of this too. #VIP

  69. The most important lesson I learned while visiting 25+ countries – MEET people and more importantly KEEP IN TOUCH afterwards. How you do that? Take genuine interest in people, listen, and offer help. Cool folks are alway open-minded and have a good taste in people, so it’s fairly easy to spot them. People from different cultures and backgrounds are a great source of ideas and perspective and of course provide an amazing support network both personally and professionally. For example, I now receive the best advice on new music, nutrition and self-discovery pains from a guy in South Africa that I accidentally had a 14-hour conversation with over 4 bottles of Pinotage. Or people I met while working in Sri Lanka turned out to be connected to folks in Ukraine that were instrumental in my recent project. Tim, to your issue of never going back to therapy, international friends provide invaluable advice as they are more removed and not as invested in your problems as your close friends at home, plus they are often available to talk when no one else is because of the time difference.

    To more pragmatic tricks. While men are functional, women are beautiful, so travel light and packing tips are quite different for the ladies. Back in the day I moved to the states with a backpack and $100 in my pocket, but since I am older now and prefer a certain level of comfort, my compromise is carry-on only for up to one month of travel regardless of the season. So here is what I learned:

    1. Make-up and personal hygiene items occupy almost a half of the luggage space, but they don’t have to. We often have misperceptions of what amounts of that stuff we actually use over a given period of time. So for a month long adventure I am able to get away with 2oz of shampoo, conditioner, and sunblock (I have long thick hair) and 0.25oz of face cream, foundation, and eye cream. That works if you buy high quality products and don’t go overboard with amounts of make-up that you use (you shouldn’t do it anyways). 3 oz travel containers that are sold in the stores are not only ugly, they are way too big for what you need, so I save tester bottles and samples. Also, turned out that if you have those liquids in your carry-on in the zip bags, you don’t have to take them out and can have more than one zip bag.

    2. Be simple and functional. Simplicity is the key and you don’t have to sacrifice looking good and feeling comfortable when on the road. Black jeans or pants and basic tops never fail for me, or if you only bring the stuff that you really like and wear all the time. Again, if you buy nice, simple, high quality clothing, they won’t look stretched out and will work for multiple occasions. Cool accessories, more sophisticated make up, and replacing sneakers with cute flats can easily create a whole new outfit if you want to go out (ditch the heels, I suggest dance and walk as much as you can). Choose multi-functional products. For example, sunblock that already contains mosquito repellent if traveling to hot countries where malaria is an issue. Another example (sorry for too much information), I have this one sports bra that looks great and super comfy, which I can wear on the daily basis with regular clothes, use as a swim top, or work out in.

    3. Avoid extremes: do not pack for every occasion and do not follow the principle that you will just buy everything you need upon arrival. To the first extreme, see #2. But what if…? Well, if a grandma had a dick she would be a grandpa, so just relax and be simple and functional. No one will know you wore the same outfit yesterday. As for the second one, we are fairly spoiled here in the states with super cheap prices on super nice stuff. Even in developing countries, do not expect that it’ll be cheap to buy clothing – on the contrary it is often way more expensive. Plus shopping takes precious time away from your activities – I had to spend almost an entire day when my luggage was lost (hence, carry-on only!).

    Okay, while I have a few more, I think this is way too long already. #VIP

  70. Love your posts. Keep up the good work.

    Everybody everywhere is just seeking live from family and friends. We all have hurts as well as joys.

  71. When I travel I use a small to medium sized soft-sided cooler as my carry on bag. It usually has plenty of room for all my stuff, the insulated sides protect my laptop, the strap makes it easy to carry and when I get to where I’m going I have a way of keeping food refrigerated….or at least a cold beer on the beach. #VIP

  72. I want to read this but I get too antsy to travel and get depressed because it doesn’t happen. Tip when I am able to travel: make small talk with the staff at the hotel…be seriously interested in where they are from and what they like/dislike about the place you are visiting. This can lead to perks or at the very least you made a new friend ( that’s a perk, too right?) #VIP

  73. Another great podcast Tim, thank you.

    As for the travel tips, it’s easy to over pack but you’ll never regret an extra pair of undies! #VIP

  74. Not as cool or philosophical as others, but the ONE BAG philosophy…. not dealing with luggage makes the entire trip better! Not having half your wardrobe with you makes the trip better. Not having your luggage found in Nashville after 2 days in Tampa, makes your trip better.

    Also, carrying only ONE BAG gives you the excuse to also wear a Fanny Pack…. Fanny Packs kick ass!!!!

  75. I haven’t even started listening and I already love the quote: “If in doubt, just walk until your day becomes interesting.”. #VIP

    I am downloading now and can’t wait to dig into these. I never picked up his book and I feel like this is going to be what breaks that wide open.

  76. The best lesson I learned is:

    The TV (CNN, MSNBC,etc.) and many state departments are wrong. The world isn’t out to get you, kill you, kidnap you, steal from you. Most people are good and trying to live their lives the best they can, just like you try to live yours in your home country. Do you think of stealing a person’s wallet, purse or fanny pack (haha) from someone when they ask for directions? They’re not thinking that either.

  77. My favorite travel advice is this: Start conversations with those around you. Ask interesting people questions. Start conversations with ordinary people. Ask directions from passersby. Ask, ask, ask, listen, listen, listen. This has helped me build meaningful relationships, made for hilariously-interesting stories, and gets me out of comfort zone. My goal for my next travel adventure is to do this at least once a day and journal about each experience.


  78. This is a small tip on traveling light if you need to shave while you are on the road (i.e., on business trips). I’ve found that Somerset Shave Oil comes in a very small package, lasts a long time (only a couple of drops per use) and works very well. Ran across it initially in the UK, but you can buy it online now and it is available in the US. #VIP

  79. Just wanted to let you know I’m a big fan of the podcast and feel like I learn a lot from the people you bring on the show. Unfortunately the way you pronounce s’s straight into the microphone sounds like they are slicing into my ears and give me a bit of a headache. Please look into changing your delivery or your equipment to compensate.


  80. From hitchhiking with a man in Hawaii while he drank a six-pack, to a stranger opening up her home in the Caribbean to me and treating me like family I have realized that we are all seeking the same things in life: purpose, companionship and happiness. #VIP

  81. Here’s my very best tip: Even as you grow older and more affluent (possibly much wealthier) – DO NOT STOP backpacking!

    I mean more than just carting a backpack as luggage into the newest Sheraton. I mean staying in hostels… eating street food or potential-hidden-gem local small cafes/warung/trattoria/… walking/biking/public transporting your way around instead of cabs … long-way-around itineraries and follow-your-nose explorations rather than the “top 10” TripAdvisor lists … hanging out and talking to young, middle aged, and older people alike.

    I write the following only to show my point: I now make several hundred thousand a year, and am incredibly fortunate to have the chance to do so. So it’s critical that I don’t lose sight of reality at home, and definitely not while travelling: Business Class, keeping to yourself or the guide-book route and nothing else… air-conditioned ‘luxury’ digs and more-of-the-same highly priced, un-local restaurant dining — you’ve just wasted a precious opportunity to learn something new about an all new place.

    Take it from me: Travel always, and travel small!

  82. Independent travel makes you friendlier out of necessity when meeting new people, and carries over to when you’re at home because you know it only takes a few seconds of courage to say hello! #VIP

  83. TIm, I was thrilled to see this episode in iTunes this morning. I really liked the discussion of the word “Flaneur”. While in Venice with my family, I took a long walk myself to parts of the city tourists rarely visit. It was the opposite atmosphere of the crowded st. mark’s square. Your posts and episodes on writing habits has really encouraged me to begin writing more, so thank you! #VIP

  84. #VIP – When I travelled on my gap year, I found it very cost effective to strike a deal with organizations doing trips. If I can get along x number of people can I go for free? Slip on the company branded t shirt and get out on the street – Great way to meet people and talk to people that you wouldn’t normally do and gets you on trips that may of been out of budget. Ive been rafting, trekking, even internal flights etc thanks to this techique. I found just a mornings work in a busy area secures you a seat on the next adventure…#VIP

  85. My Travel Lesson: Take Less.

    All you need is your passport, a credit card, clothes on your back, and an open mind. Trust me. Welcome the discomfort of change. And, if you really feel you need something when you get there, you’ll discover how the locals have solved that problem.

    Additionally, traveling with less allows you to go more places more easilly. It makes it easy to say yes to hikes to remote monasteries or secluded fishing villages. And, it begins to let you focus on what is important: Not things, but experiences.

    Take less.


  86. One tip that should NEVER be overlooked, EVER…. Anti-motility Medication! A new country generally means a new cuisine; and its better to have them and not need them, than need them and not have them! #VIP

  87. The power of flexibility, an open-jaw airline ticket, an easygoing travel companion, packing light and a 21-day unlimited off/on Eurail pass.

  88. I never got poetry in school either, but got into it after an adult education class where the tutor got us to do one simple thing: read the poem for 10 minutes. A poem’s meant to be read: the sound’s important, but also the mood it creates. Try some Sylvia Plath’s ‘Lady Lazarus’, or some of the Metaphysical poets like Robert Herrick’s ‘To his Coy Mistress’ (a poem about a 17th Century PUA trying to get his leg over) and just read the thing for 10 minutes. However, one caveat: a poem’s not a code to be broken, but a glass of wine to be savoured.

  89. Hi Tim.

    My best travel tip is to never miss an opportunity to strike up a conversation with a local. Life is all about making friends, learning the stories of others, and sharing your own. I rarely spend money on food while traveling because I frequently get invited to share a meal with the families of my new friends. Those moments are usually more beautiful than gazing at any landmark.

    Also, my favorite part of this podcast was when you said, “A writer will do anything to avoid writing.” The exchange you had with Rolfe on this subject was hilarious! Not to mention, here I am commenting on your blog when I’m supposed to be writing a 4,000 word essay. Oh . . . the irony.


  90. Excellent post. Our favourite travel trick (esp when travelling to North American destinations with large outlet malls) is to bring old clothes and replace them with new ones as required. There are always loads of Charity Bins for the good clothes we don’t seem to wear (neglect).


  91. Hi Tim.

    My best travel tip is to never miss an opportunity to strike up a conversation with a local. Life is all about making friends, learning the stories of others, and sharing your own. I rarely spend money on food while traveling because I frequently get invited to share a meal with the families of my new friends. Those moments are usually more beautiful than gazing at any landmark.

    Also, my favorite part of this podcast was when you said, “A writer will do anything to avoid writing.” The exchange you had with Rolf on this subject was hilarious! Not to mention, here I am commenting on your blog while I should be writing a 4,000 word article. Oh . . . the irony.