My virtual book tour for Marco Polo Didn’t Go There ended just last week, and — while it was a lot of work — it ended up being quite the success. Over course of ten days, I visited online venues like Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Work Week and National Geographic Traveler‘s Intelligent Travel to answer questions and share stories and photos. CNN.com ended up linking my interview with Budget Travel’s “This Just In” from its front page, and both the New York Times‘ Ideas Blog and Arts & Letters Daily linked my Q&A at World Hum (which, while not an official part of my virtual tour, did coincide with the event).
During the course of this online tour, I answered all manner of questions about travel and travel writing, including advice for aspiring writers, my most shocking moments as a traveler, and the cross-cultural ramifications of wiping your ass. This was all great, and I loved tackling those kinds of queries.
What I wish sometimes, however, is that someone would ask me the kind of questions they ask rock stars in Blender Magazine.
Ever read Blender? It’s great stuff — a hilarious blend of music advice, brief celebrity interviews, and obsessively categorized music nostalgia and trivia. I mean, sure, I subscribe to The New Yorker, The Economist, Poets & Writers, and a whole pile of travel magazines — but when I return home from a journey to dig into my stack of magazines, I often find myself going for Blender first. It’s just good fun.
Since nobody ever asked my any Blender-style rock star questions during my virtual tour, I think I’ll ask those questions of myself right now. Here goes!
Blender: So, Rolf, when was the last time you trashed a hotel room?
Rolf: Actually, most travel writers don’t need to trash their hotel rooms, even when they’re feeling like rock stars. This is because writers like me start out as budget travelers, and for the most part budget hotel rooms are already trashed.
I mean, how can you hurl a TV set out the window when your room never had a TV set to begin with, and the windows have rusted shut? Why smash a chair against the wall when that chair falls apart when you simply sit in it? Why do ecstasy when you’re already on Imodium and mefloquine? Why abuse the service staff when you have so many cockroaches to contend with?
Even when I end up staying in nice hotels, my experience has taught me that I could never trash a hotel room to the same glorious degree you see when checking in at your average developing-country budget-dive.
Blender: Ever gotten drunk in the home of a celebrity?
Rolf: I have, in the purely technical sense. I’ll admit I don’t visit many celebrity homes, but my cousin once house-sat one of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s homes in San Francisco’s South Bay, and I occasionally went over to visit her and drink beers. I’m sure at some point in there I drank enough to technically be considered drunk — though I’ll admit it wasn’t one of those Dave Navarro Playboy Mansion moments where I, say, tapped a vein and sprayed my name on the wall with my own blood.
I think the most extreme thing I did while boozed up at Woz’s house was go into the garage and play his South Park pinball machine (which is pretty much the same thing I did when I was sober). Plus I passed out in a beanbag once, while watching Dogtown and Z-Boys on Tivo. Can Dave Navarro claim that? In Woz’s house? I think not.
Blender: You’re in the middle of a book tour now: Tell us, what are the groupies like?
Rolf: I don’t think I have groupies — at least, not in the traditional sense of hot young vixens that you take back to your hotel room and bang next to piles of cocaine and urns full of room-service Hennessy. I mean, for starters I usually don’t stay in hotels on my book tour; I usually stay in the homes of old friends, and my old friends tend to have wives and infant children who might intimidate any groupies that follow me home.
But on a more basic level, I don’t think book tours lend themselves to groupies. For starters, travel writers are too self-contained to travel with an entourage, and an entourage is essential for groupie-procurement. Plus my first book was a rather earnest-minded treatise about time-wealth and long-term travel, and it had a great reader response that has defied demographic stereotype. Thus, while it’s technically possible that some of my fans are sultry young sex bombs who only want to party, most of them tend to be gung-ho travel addicts who are stoked to tell me about their next journey to India or Mozambique or Paraguay.
So while a rock star might disappear after a performance to skinny dip in the hotel pool with a gaggle of aspiring supermodels, I usually end up drinking beers with, say, a 71-year-old woman who wants to bike across Central America, a 37-year-old married couple who want to take a year off and sail around the world, and a bunch of 21-year-old college students who are full of questions about living abroad. I think this is great — I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of human beings than a roomful of current and aspiring vagabonders from all walks of life.
Not that I’ve given up on the idea of groupies. I actually love the idea of groupies; it’s just a matter of timing and logistics. So if you’re a bodacious babe and want to be my groupie, just slip me a note with some rendezvous details after my reading and I’ll see what I can do. We might have to go to your place, though, since we wouldn’t want to disturb my friends’ slumbering infants.
Blender: What was your last brush with the law?
Rolf: Probably the time the Indian army caught me trying to smash up a blockhouse door along the Tibetan border and detained me overnight at an army base near a town called Pooh. The events that led to absurd encounter are too complicated to relate here, but fortunately I’ve detailed the whole story in my new book. Just read Chapter 5 for details.