Rolf Potts’ Big Pockets

During one of my recent stays at the HI-Santa Monica hostel, I was reminded again of Rolf Potts‘ trip around the world, with no luggage.

Mr. Potts is one of his generation’s gifted travel writers (author of Vagabonding and Marco Polo Didn’t Go There). For his six week trip, he relied solely on a vest and a pair of pants with enough over-sized pockets to hold a couple days’ change of clothes, plus basic hygiene items. No baggage. The trip generated wide press coverage, and an awareness that still lingers in conversations among hostel guests.

The “No Baggage Challenge” should hold special meaning for independent travelers. Those of us who for months have traveled with a backpack know there’s an adjustment that goes well beyond the weight on your back. A backpack’s relatively small, fixed space literally forces choices about what matters most. And you must live with those choices every day.

As Americans we are not practiced in a world with limits. Yet during backpack travel, practicality becomes a necessity. A daily budget is the norm. Items with multiple uses (body wash that doubles as laundry soap) or that can be used multiple times (grey clothing, which shows less dirt after wear) become precious because they free up packing space for a few other things. Fashion and extravagance quickly take a back seat to functionality.

So why do so many willingly set off to be part of this brave new world of dull hued clothes and less stuff?

The adventure of travel holds its own abundance.

Whether Mr. Pott’s big pockets carry more or less than a backpack is not so much the point; both require making choices around limits and functionality. Rather it’s the valuable lesson our sort of travel delivers: you can choose to wear grey, yet lead a vivid life.

By | 2018-04-19T17:39:47+00:00 March 7th, 2011|Thoughts From the Road|0 Comments

About the Author:

Since 2000, Russ has been the CEO of Hostelling International USA (HI USA), a nonprofit, member organization founded on an enduring belief in the power of travel to foster a deeper understanding of people, places, and the world around. The HI USA hostel network is consistently recognized as one of the best in world by the International Youth Hostel Federation and by independent rating agencies. Russ has been a featured speaker at national and international conferences on topics ranging from experiential education to nonprofit management. Russ serves on the Boards of the UNWTO, US Travel Association, and WYSTC.

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