Monday, April 12, 2010

In Step with Everett Potter


Everett Potter, editor-in-chief of
Everett Potter's Travel Reports and a columnist for USA Weekend magazine, will be hosting our Dartmoor to Exmoor Walk on September 26-October 3, 2010. We caught up with Everett recently to ask him some questions about his life and experiences in travel.

The Wayfarers: Who (or what) inspired you to become a travel writer?

Everett Potter: I’m not sure there was one point in time, but reading had a lot to do with it. Reading Jules Verne as a boy, and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World.” These were books that I remember vividly. As an adult, I think the inspiration was reading Paul Theroux's "The Great Railway Bazaar” in the late 70's, followed by a slew of other books that had a strong travel component, books like “The Snow Leopard” by Peter Mathiessen and then discovering classics like “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush,” by Eric Newby, “A Time of Gifts” by Patrick Leigh Fermor and “Letters from Iceland,” by Louis MacNeice and W.H. Auden. My first professional trip, which was as much about luck as anything else, landed me in China in 1984, in Shandong Province, which was just opening to the West. It was like parachuting into the past.

The Wayfarers: What is your favorite form of travel?

Everett: Walking. It just doesn’t get any better than that. My idea of a good time is arriving in a new city, getting a city map, and setting out for hours. In the countryside, walking is always the best way to go. That’s especially true in Ireland and the British Isles, in France and Switzerland and Italy. Nothing against bicycles, but walking at a four or five mile an hour pace seems to be ideal for observing. My second favorite form of transport would be skiing, but that’s fairly limiting. Followed by trains. But regardless of how riveting the view, trains always put me to sleep.

The Wayfarers: Which country or destination have you seen change the most in your years of travel?

Everett: From firsthand experience, I’d probably have to say Ireland. I first went there in the mid 1970's and for all intents and purposes, it could have been the early 1950's. When you rode a bus in the country, it would be loaded with baby chicks and mail and crates of vegetables. It could take a couple of days to work your way up the West Coast.

In Donegal, where my grandmother came from, I met several childhood friend of hers who still lived in thatched houses. I went back to Ireland dozens of times in the 80's and early 90's. Nothing much changed. Country pubs were still sleepy, towns in the West were redolent of the 19th century, and the farmers parked their Ford Cortinas on Grafton Street in Dublin like they’d gone to a cattle market.

Then fast forward to the 21st century and a decade plus of the Celtic Tiger and you’d be hard pressed to recognize many cities and towns, thanks to an aggressive building boom. The highways are enviable, you’re more likely to see high end BMW’s than buses, and Dublin is every bit as chic as any European capital. But I can’t help but feel that something – a few things – have been lost. My advice is to travel in the West, where you’re more likely to encounter remnants of the past.

The Wayfarers: What is the most unusual experience you have had on your travels?

Everett: Hard to say – was it a terrifying 36 hour road trip through the Himalayas last spring, on a crumbing Nepalese road that had just opened in the deepest gorge in the world? Or the kismet of walking down a street on a balmy night in Rio de Janeiro and catching a world class bossa nova band playing on the street? I think it’s the latter – it’s timing and coincidence that make for magical, memorable or unusual moments. Like standing on a cliff on the Isle of Skye in the Hebrides and watching a whale shark, all 30 feet of him, rise up from the ocean. Sailing out of New York harbor with my wife and daughter on the maiden voyage on the Queen Mary 2, with the Queen Elizabeth 2 at our stern the entire way across the Atlantic. Or meeting Princess Diana with Richard Branson. Now that’s a story ...

The Wayfarers: What is your favorite book on travel?

Everett: Probably the last good one that I read. Too many to name, but I liked “Dark Star Safari,” by Paul Theroux, his book on Africa. Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods,” the funniest travel book ever. And Jonathan Raban’s “Passage to Juneau,” about sailing the Inside Passage (and much more).

The Wayfarers: What is your most enjoyable vacation activity?

Everett: Do I get two answers? If so, in winter, it’s skiing with my wife in daughter, either in one of the great Utah resorts like Alta or Deer Valley, or in the Swiss resort of Villars. In summer, it’s going to our cabin on a lake in Western Maine and listening to the loons. It’s a “camp” in Maine-speak. You dive off the dock into the lake, go kayaking and fishing and live in t-shirts, shorts and Tevas. There’s no insulation in the walls but there is broadband. Well, we do like to stay in touch.

Editor's Note: If you'd like to join Everett on the trail, contact The Wayfarers on 1-800-249-4620 to secure a place on our September 26 - October 3, 2010 Dartmoor to Exmoor Walk. If you are intrigued by Everett's description of Ireland, you may like to consider joining our Ring of Kerry Walk in the southwest of Ireland.
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EVERETT POTTER, editor-in-chief of Everett Potter's Travel Report, is a columnist for USA Weekend magazine, which is distributed to more than 600 newspapers and has 23 million readers. He is a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, Travel & Leisure Online, New York, Town & Country, Martha Stewart Living, Virtuoso Life, Endless Vacation, and Forbes Life.

A former columnist for Diversion, Luxury Spa Finder and Laptop magazines, his writing has appeared in a variety of other publications, including Outside, The Wall Street Journal, Conde Nast Traveler, Conde Nast Traveller UK, Elle Decor, Centurion, Bride's, National Geographic Adventure, Food & Wine, Aspen Magazine, Metropolitan Home, Manhattan inc., and Delta Sky. Potter contributed to ForbesTraveler.com and worked as a consultant on the Forbes 400 list of the World's Best Hotels.

From 1988 through 2005, Potter authored a weekly, nationally syndicated column that was distributed by The New York Times Syndicate. From 1993 to 1997, he was the first contributing editor for travel to SmartMoney: The Wall Street Journal Magazine of Personal Business.

Potter has made dozens of guest appearances on television and radio and has been seen and heard on NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC, CBS, Fox, Bloomberg Radio and NPR's All Thing Considered.

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From the lush islands of Britain to the shores of the New World, The Wayfarers continue to create new paths for the walking enthusiasts. The unique Walks that began in 1984 in England now span Europe, the United States and New Zealand with invigorating itineraries, new destinations and distinctive ways of experiencing the special culture of life in the country. New walks include Pentillie Castle, The Dolomites, Sicily: Agrigento, Marsale & the Isle of Mozia.