Rolf Potts travels around
the world with no luggage

Misadventures in planning the adventure (Or: How I was upstaged by my own dog)

August 21, 2010 by Rolf Potts

I’m in New York at the moment, doing some interviews and a final bit of prep before I leave the city at just short of midnight to begin the No Baggage Challenge. That makes this the final day of an intensive preparation process that began last Sunday night, when my cameraman and traveling companion Justin Glow arrived at my Kansas farm to start shooting introductory videos. If the four days we spent in Kansas hint at anything, it’s that almost nothing will go according to plan — often in an amusing way.

For example, at the moment it feels like the Facebook buzz about the No Baggage Challenge is running neck-and-neck with Facebook buzz about my rat terrier Anna, who unceremoniously leaps out of my pickup-truck window (while we were going about 20 miles an hour down a dirt road) at around 1:15 in my introduction video. Upon re-watching the video several times, I’ve determined that the entertainment value here comes in my own reaction, which goes from blank horror at what happened to astonishment that Anna could be so foolish and compulsive. When I resume laying out the premise of the No Baggage Challenge in the next take, I stumble over a few of my lines because I’m still flabbergasted at what had just happened. (I’ve since heard from many people whose dogs have self-ejected from a moving car, but at the time I assumed this was a unique act of canine recklessness.)

An old show-business adage asserts that one should never work with animals or children. This didn’t bode well later that day when I went to my sister’s farm (2 miles from my own place) to record a segment about packing light with my 11-year-old nephew Cedar and my 8-year-old nephew Luke. As it turned out, the first take of video didn’t go so hot for two reasons: First, Uncle Rolf kept fumbling his dialogue (Cedar and Luke did just fine), and second, the boys were so detailed and articulate in analyzing which items should be packed that the video ended up lasting way too long for online broadcast. The second take (which you can see below) played out at lightning speed, since the boys already knew exactly what they did and didn’t want me to bring.

We also tried to shoot footage of me shopping for travel-sized toiletries at a Major Big-Box Store That Will Not Be Named, but we weren’t in the store for two minutes before we were accosted by security and asked to stop filming. Since I genuinely needed the toiletries, video or no video, I shared my shopping list with Security Guy and asked him to help us find the various items. After awhile he asked us what were filming, and by the time I’d convinced him that I was serious about traveling around the world with no luggage, we were being trailed by a small entourage of curious Major Big-Box Store employees. We managed to find everything on the list except for travel-appropriate underwear. After perusing multiple brands of men’s briefs that were too bulky or slow-drying to suit my purposes, Security Guy played his trump card. “So you want underwear that’s light enough to dry quickly and small enough to pack small, right?” he said. “That’s right,” I replied. He paused for a moment, furrowed his brow, and said, in all earnestness: “If you’re up for it, I think your best solution might be to wear women’s underwear.”

If only the camera were rolling at the moment. I ultimately opted against women’s underwear, however — if nothing else to avoid freaking people out in hostel dorms.

Finally, for those of your who asked: Anna is the little sister of my other dog, Martha, and they both have their own distinct personalities. Martha is serious, obedient, and a bit of an emotional eater (she’s usually a few pounds overweight, as you can see in the video). Anna doesn’t have a serious bone in her body, and she loves all of creation with such exuberance that she can’t meet another animal without wanting to be that animal. When she sees cows, Anna forgets she’s a dog and tries to be a cow; in the presence of cats, Anna slinks around with feline insouciance and rubs herself against your legs.

All of which makes me think Anna saw a bird when we were shooting that video and decided she wanted to fly.

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