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5 Questions With…Rolf Potts

Today we return to our “5 Questions With…” series, and we have with us a real treat–travel writer Rolf Potts. Read on to get some insights from someone who has been around the globe–and gotten paid to write about it! When you get done checking out the interview, be sure and head over to Rolf’s site where there is more advice for aspiring travel writers.                                 – Catherine

Rolf Potts
Rolf Potts

1. What is your background in writing and how did you become a travel writer?

I got involved in travel writing by trial and error — by getting out and traveling, writing, and keeping at it until I got good at both.  My first break came in 1998, when I was living in Korea and I started selling freelance travel essays to Salon.com.  Eventually they made me a biweekly travel columnist — and this let to other freelance work for venues like Conde Nast Traveler and National Geographic traveler. 

By 2001 I’d gotten my first book contract, and “Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel” was published by Villard/Random House in early 2003.  I’ve since written general journalism and literary criticism, but travel-writing continues to be my main line of work.

2. In your opinion, what are the biggest mistakes writers make when they attempt to craft a travel piece?

They forget to use the techniques of narrative — character, foreshadowing, scene, etc. — and instead just recount their experiences in chronological order.  In the age of blogs, nobody needs a bland, “travelogue” recounting of what happened to you on the road.  You need to tell a story — you need to guide the readers’ experience of your journey, and deliver them insight as well as information — preferably in a lively and engaging manner.

3. Can you share any savvy travel tips with readers? 

Go slow.  Your experience of a place will differ according to the pace of your travels, and you’ll only get superficial impressions if you spend your journey rushing from place to place.  Rather than covering a huge amount of ground in a short amount of time, stick to one place and get to know it well — and get to know some people there.  Your stories will benefit exponentially.

4. What are the components of good travel writing? Continue reading 5 Questions With…Rolf Potts