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Traveling Around the World, Without Luggage: Rolf Potts

Locations in this article:  London, England Madrid, Spain Paris, France

It’s not unreasonable to expect an independent traveler to pack light. But could you make it all the way around the world without any luggage whatsoever?

Rolf Potts, world traveler, reporter and author of Vagabonding and Marco Polo Didn’t Go There, took on the challenge. Read on to find out how …

Peter Greenberg: I have a pet peeve about being charged for checked bags. And in fact earlier this year I demonstrated a product on CBS based on the concept of necessity being the mother of invention. It was called the Scottevest. Imagine a vest that has 23 pockets, and you wear your luggage. Literally. It will hold shoes, underwear, electronics, everything. Of course, you have to take your jacket off before you go through security anyways. But you never take any bags on board at all.

Now, of course, you walk around looking like the Michelin Man. But you know what? If that’s the game the airlines want to play, why not? Rolf Potts is now traveling around the world in 42 days with no bag. Where are you right now, Rolf?

Rolf Potts: I am in the lobby of a hotel in Fez, Morocco.

PG: And what are you wearing?

RP: Well, I’m not wearing my Scottevest tropical jacket now. I’m wearing cargo pants and a T-shirt and taking a rest. It is 105 degrees here and Ramadan, so food is hard to come by. I’m just sort of resting in the shade right now.

PG: I certainly hope you packed some food in your vest.

RP: I do have some food. You can get some food and eat it indoors, but of course eating in public is probably not very polite since most of the Muslims in town do not have the same privilege.

PG: Exactly. Let’s talk about this challenge you’re doing. I know less is more, but what have you packed inside that vest?

RP: The vest has about 18 pockets. I really packed the bare minimum because even if I’m going with no luggage at all I don’t want to overpack my vest. Like you said, I don’t want to look like the Michelin Man, and I don’t think I do. I have a couple bottles of detergent; I have an iPod and a Bluetooth keyboard to keep up with the No Baggage Challenge blog, which is where I’m documenting this journey. I have an extra T-shirt, two extra pairs of socks, an extra pair of underwear, and a few other items. Most everything fits in my upper body too. I guess have toiletries: contact lenses, glasses, saline solution, sunscreen, and lip balm, but really not too much. I’ve learned that you don’t really don’t need that much to have a pretty awesome time when you travel.

PG: So basically you have two changes of clothing?

RP: I do, yes. Every night I’ll wash the set that I’m wearing, and then by the next morning I put it into my pockets. And then the pair that’s in my pockets I wear.

Can’t quite travel this light? Get more tips in our Luggage & Packing section

PG: So Rolf, you’re actually a fashion statement. It’s the same statement every day, but it’s a fashion statement.

RP: It’s an every other day fashion statement. But to be honest, my daily wear doesn’t look that much different anyways. It is very simple and minimalistic.

PG: Now here’s a question: Don’t you trigger every terrorist profiling sensor when you’re flying on international flights with no checked bags and no carry-on bags?

RP: You know, you would think so. I haven’t yet. I flew from New York to London, and then from Paris to Madrid. I took a ferry to Morocco yesterday. I actually haven’t shaven, I’m a single man, I have no bags, and one-way tickets around the world. But so far it’s been perfectly fine.

PG: You and the Underwear Bomber have that in common. He had no checked bags either, and nobody stopped him. This is bizarre. But you haven’t been stopped at all?

RP: I haven’t. I’m traveling with a documentary videographer. He got stopped at Heathrow and some other places for filming in places where they didn’t want him to film. But just traveling luggage-less I’ve just blended in. It’s been a pretty-laid back experience so far. Although I’m only seven days into the trip, so I have 35 more days to be profiled I guess.

PG: I want you to get back to us in about 25 days, and tell us if you and the videographer are still talking to each other. This is is going to be interesting to see how this all plays out. I know this is a minimalistic approach to the world, but it does prove a point.

RP: Just that you don’t really need to pack everything and the kitchen sink to have a great time. I think people overpack on a trip to one city over. So part of the point I’m making is you don’t need to have a bunch of baggage get between you and your experience of the world. I’m aiming to have an awesome time with no baggage at all for 42 days.

PG: A couple of years ago I was talking about what people try to bring on planes, and I literally went to Home Depot, and I showed up to the airport at LAX with wheels on a kitchen sink. And they actually let me on. I actually brought the kitchen sink.

RP: That’s very impressive. I don’t have room in for that in my pockets right now, which I guess is part of the discipline. If you can’t fit the kitchen sink then you can’t bring the kitchen sink.

PG: You got it. Journey on and we’ll talk to you in about 25 days.

By Peter Greenberg for Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio. More information about Rolf’s trip can be found at his No Baggage Challenge blog.

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