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.

Do you enjoy this podcast? If so, please leave a short review here. It keeps me going…

Subscribe to The Tim Ferriss Show on iTunes.

Non-iTunes RSS feed

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.

Leave a Reply

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)

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

  1. Tim, thank you for reminding me of the concept of “Exploring appreciation vs. achievement.” I often lean heavily toward achievement at the expense of appreciation. I’m getting to a place where the two concepts are present to a degree but I don’t know if they are balanced (or if balance makes sense there).

  2. Regarding travel lessons – I learned that other countries take a different approach to time and work. For example, the traditional month of “August vacation” in France offers an interesting contrast to the limited vacation policy common in Canada and the USA.

  3. Howdy Tim. Stephen here – long time listener, first time caller. 🙂 I recently listened to your podcast with Rolf Potts, and you mentioned that you would like to read more poetry, but that you had had some bad experiences with pretentious folks attempting to convince you that you had to appreciate a certain type of poetry (the kind that I call prose), or else you just “didn’t get it.” I’ve been writing poetry for several decades now (off and on), and I also feel the same way about silly prose that people try to pass off as poetry.

    All of my poetry rhymes. This particular poem was one of the first I wrote, and even though I hadn’t yet seen Robin Williams in “Dead Poets’ Society” it sort of follows his character’s reasoning for why men write poetry. Memorize this, recite it to girls, and many of them just melt. I’m currently writing a book which will be a tribute to the female form in poetry and prose. Since I can’t paint or sculpt, I have to paint my pictures with words. 🙂 This one is in praise of that most noticeable and glowing part of a woman – her smile. I hope that you enjoy it, and that it kindles a bit more interest in poetry. Enjoy!

    Her Smile

    By Stephen R. Melvin

    I love her for the way she smiles at me,

    For when she does, that’s all I see.

    The way the sun shines in her hair,

    Her grace, she’s here, now there, now where?

    Pearls are set like gems in stone,

    And the sound coming forth-a bell like tone.

    Each chord, each note, each tale, each word,

    Like nothing ever have I heard,

    A figure full like a cup o’erflowed,

    Her harvest rich is a field well sowed,

    The hands? They are gentle yet strong, so complete,

    To me her legs, to a starving man wheat.

    Her eyes which seem to touch my soul,

    All these things extract their toll.

    Yet they all pale when she smiles at me,

    For when she does, that’s all I see.

  4. Hey Tim, was really keen to grab a pair of Exofficio underwear after listening to the podcast, jumped on the website and saw they only ship to the US. Australian resellers are at least double the price. Great show though, keep it up! Love listening to it!

  5. Travel is eye opener. There are endless possibilities open up by just traveling and paying attention to what’s different.

  6. Ramblings from when I listened to this 🙂


    ‘Listening to Tim and Rolf this morning, I felt sad and perhaps a little guilty as they discussed their experiences as writers. The personal struggles they feel trying to ‘bash’ out their thoughts. Perhaps I’m doing it wrong, or what I’m producing is not of the quality or resonance they strive for, but my experience of writing so far is the complete antithesis. Surprising myself even, the words and thoughts and feelings flow as though a voice speaking to me/through me and form naturally in front of me. I am not restricting myself in anyway, however, so our end goals are very different. They are trying to convey, connect, and relate information in a way that helps as many people as possible. To tell a story. It perhaps cannot afford to be a meander through the woods, along a stream, pause to feel the grass in between their toes. Optimizing for efficiency comes to mind. I guess my approach so far is of vagabonding through my writing. Collecting experience as I go to, weave into my consciousness and my story. Ultimately it is my playground, my experiment and any benefit to others is secondary. Perhaps this will change as I evolve. I do very much want to improve my writing, of course. There is just something in being present in writing too, to allow what is to be, and not to will it to be something from the past or expect it to provide for a future.

    There is such a wealth of untapped knowledge that I seem to be finding by simply reading/writing/listening. I am so grateful and relieved even to understand the ways in which this allows me to unravel and remake myself in my own little mental laboratory.’

  7. I absolutely love travelling and I’ve been travelling a few times a year for the past decade (even when I was broke as a student). I think that the best thing about travel is the inspiration and different perspective that it offers. It’s very often truly eyes-opening.

    My tip is to make sure you write down your ahas and valuable observations on the spot, before you forget them 🙂

  8. Yes, please! I second the motion for another Rolf Potts interview. The commentary was great, the banter personable and entertaining and the subject matter true to heart. I’d love to hear more like this.

  9. I love to travel…I noticed when I travel you meet people and sometimes I connect with someone like I knew them in a pass life..

  10. amazing, inspiring stuff, I might do that workshop. I read Vagabonding a couple of years ago but I have grown a bit cynical as of late, but now I feel inspired again to automate my business and get completely off the grid for a few months just flaneuring around Europe

  11. Hey Tim and Rolf just wanted to thank you for this podcast. Listening to it half a year ago I decided to plan a hitchhiking adventure from the Netherlands to Japan, funded by my company which I outsourced inspired by the 4 hour workweek. [Moderator: links removed]

    Thank you again for all the inspiration and the freedom this brought to my life!

  12. George Orwell’s essay ‘Why I Write’ is something I continually come back to and it was a real eye-opener when I first read it

  13. @Tim… just wanted to say I absolutely LOVE your show notes. As interesting as your podcasts can be, I honestly wouldn’t make it through many of them, but with the notes, I can jump around the the bits and pieces that grab my interest. Mega thanks!

  14. [48:19] am I the only one hearing Dave Chappelle’s voice screaming in my head: “Muthaf@%&a, I was in Con Air too!!!” ? 🙂

    Great episode, Tim!

  15. I so agree on the fact that the change in scenery could help with your productivity. Working from office everyday at the same desk could really take a toll and I have personally felt it that working from different places like cafes, restaurants even bars could really enhance your productivity levels. If you go to a different city that’s even better.

  16. Best episode ever! I’ll surely look to know more about Rolf Potts, everything he says is so wise! And what I really liked about him is that he surely has a lot to brag about, but he doesn’t. Instead, he preaches simplicity.

  17. Everyone warned me French people were snobby after I announced plans to travel there. I maintained my disbelief until I arrived and was immediately treated to a snobby waitress at the first restaurant we stopped at. Still, I was unwilling to trust in this stereotype so I struck up a conversation with her after satisfying my tummy somewhat on. I found she lightened up quickly and even sat with us a while to chat. What I discovered wasn’t that she had assumed we were Americans, instead it occurred to me that we had not acknowledged her as a person (beyond hello and a quick smile) before ordering (we were hangry and hadn’t but had bad airplane food that day). Here, we expect you are paid to do your job and will do all that is required to excel at it or lose it. The interaction with your server is a coordinated dance designed to grant minimal comfort and timed to maximize efficiency. In North America we ask people what they do immediately after meeting them. Over there individuals wish to be recognized as people and not their job first. Ask them about how they are doing, learn about their family, background history, something about their individuality before getting to the task at hand and the moody waitress becomes quite sweet. I did this over and over and tested and retested and it changed my trip entirely. They do things differently there. People first, work second – if you get that wrong, you are the snobby asshole, not them.

  18. Hey Tim. Any chance you could stop referring to men as ‘germs’ on your intro? I live in a country (UK) where the biggest killer of men is suicide, masculinity has been made into a disease and men are being displaced from the face of society (unless they have a ‘woke’ identity).

    I’ve spent my entire life sat alone thinking about suicide and there is nowhere to turn for help because the entire fabric of society is built on misandry. What would be helpful is if men who have got ahead would stop throwing men who haven’t under a bus for their own self-aggrandisement. It would be nice if I could just listen to your podcast without being dehumanised further than I have been all my life or than I am elsewhere every day. Cheers.

  19. Tim, In this article about Rolf Potts, you have a link for your ultra-light packing list, but the link does not seem work any longer. The link takes me to the Ex-Officio web page, to a screen that says page cannot be found