No baggage challenge visits Queenstown
23 Sep 2010
An award-winning American travel writer on a ‘luggage free’ journey around the world touched down in Queenstown this week - the last international port of call on his five-week whirlwind ‘no baggage challenge’.
Intrepid travel writer and blogger Rolf Potts, who has been published in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, The Guardian, Salon.com and Slate.com, will spend four days in New Zealand’s adventure capital before making his way home to the US.
Potts’ ‘no baggage challenge’ has seen him circumnavigate the globe with no luggage except for what he can carry in his 18-pocket jacket. He is travelling with a cameraman and recording the trip on his blog - rtzblog.com - with video and posts.
The innovative traveller’s Queenstown itinerary will see him ‘zip’ high above the treetops on a flying fox, do a canyon swing, fly and cruise Milford Sound, and ride down the Shotover River in a jetboat.
"The flight into Queenstown showed me the most stunning view I have ever encountered upon arrival into a country. New Zealand is positively gorgeous and its reputation precedes it," says Potts.
This is his first visit to New Zealand, although Potts says that he has been recommending it as the perfect holiday destination to his readers for years.
"I feel so comfortable here because Kiwis have such a light-hearted approach to life. It makes the journey worthwhile."
Rules of engagement
Potts’ mission was to travel to 12 countries across five continents carrying only the bare minimum - toothbrush, essential toiletries, a few items of clothing, an iPod touch, camera, passport and credit cards.
Potts says that the challenge is not a mere publicity stunt. It is a chance to discover and experience the world on his own terms.
"At a time when intensified travel-stresses and increased luggage fees are grabbing headlines, it’s an experiment to determine how much we really need to bring along to have the trip of a lifetime."
He has devised a few ironclad ‘rules’ along the way, including no bags at all on the trip, not being allowed to stow items with his cameraman, and not being able to mail essentials ahead of time to his next destination. He is, however, allowed to borrow items from others and can buy small souvenirs to post home along the way provided it doesn’t break any of his other rules.
Potts is a veteran travel writer who has spent much of his adult life holidaying on a shoestring budget. In coming up with the challenge, he wanted to show other travellers that it was possible to have fun without carrying excess baggage.
"I also see the journey as a field test for a more philosophical idea - that what we experience in life is more important than what we bring with us.
"This is an idea that goes back to the initial travel-dreams of my childhood. When I was a kid dreaming of faraway places, I didn’t imagine what I would pack - I imagined what I would do," says Potts.
His worldwide adventures have so far involved drinking a cold remedy made out of elephant poop in South Africa, having a traditional straight razor shave in Egypt, and sampling authentic tapas in Madrid.
To get around the issue of having so little clothing, Potts has also taken a unique approach to laundry.He showers twice a day, taking his dirty clothes into the shower with him to wash at the end of the night.
Potts’ trip has attracted huge interest from international media. He has been profiled on ABC News and USA Today in America, and 12,000 people watched his ‘packing for the trip’ video blog.
NZ’s adventure capital
Queenstown is known as New Zealand’s adventure capital because of its proximity to activities such as the bungy, canyon swinging, jet boating, skiing and snowboarding.
It also has a thriving gourmet food and wine scene and some of the world’s best golf courses and luxury accommodation. Queenstown was originally called ‘Canvas Town’ - and like many others in New Zealand, started life as a gold mining town.
The town was virtually abandoned in 1865 due to a mass exodus for the Westland gold rush, but came back to life in the 1870s, renamed Queenstown as locals and visitors alike said it was "fit for a queen".
Queenstown has about 220 adventure activities year-round, from the world-first A J Hackett bungy, to rafting and jet boating on the Shotover and Kawarau rivers, and mountain biking. In winter, the town transforms into a ski resort and hosts New Zealand’s largest snow party - the Queenstown Winter Festival.
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