Rolf on home and faith (and on television)


I’ve covered some new thematic ground in recent articles and interviews of late, including a meditation on the idea of making a home for World Hum. Entitled “A Vagabond Finds a Home,” this short essay reflects on the challenges of my latest adventure — renovating a house in Kansas after over a decade on the road:

Years of travel had taught me numerous skills—how to shop for food when you only know 10 words of the local language, for example, or how to perform certain bathroom functions in countries that don’t sell toilet paper. Unfortunately, I’d learned very little about carpentry, so my first few weeks of house renovation were as bewildering and exhilarating as a visit to a strange country.

The house, I explain, doesn’t spell the end of my travels so much as it expresses some of the lessons and values I’ve learned in my travels. My essay is accompanied by an audio slideshow that is co-narrated by New York Times travel writer Matt Gross, whose essay “No Direction Home” rounds out World Hum‘s home-themed Thanksgiving-week feature.

Elsewhere in the media world, I was recently interviewed by The Wittenburg Door, a satirical magazine which published my first-ever freelance story 15 years ago. Though The Wittenburg Door might best be described as an evangelical Christian version of The Onion, the interview is non-satirical, and explores some interesting issues of religion and travel:

American evangelicalism is a very young tradition that has its own culture-specific language and idiosyncrasies. The Christians of Ethiopia or Palestine, on the other hand, are part of a local tradition that goes directly back to Christ and the apostles. These people have a lot to teach—and if you’re talking instead of listening around Old World Christians, you’re missing out on a golden chance to better understand your own faith and traditions. This can be humbling—and it isn’t always comfortable, because it forces you to look beyond the comfortable clichés of American evangelicalism.

This learning experience needn’t be limited to the Christian world. You can learn a lot about faith in general from sincere Buddhists or Muslims or Sikhs. This doesn’t mean you have to become a Buddhist, Muslim or Sikh; I’m just saying that if you approach them with respect as a person of faith, there’s a lot both parties can learn.

Full interview online here.

Finally, a TV documentary covering the Drive Around the World expedition (for which I was writer-in-residence in 2003-2004) has now debuted internationally. You won’t be able to see it on U.S. TV yet, but it is airing on Asia’s Adventure One channel, Australia’s National Geographic Adventure channel, Europe’s Extreme Sports Channel, and Life TV in the UK. Since I took part in the journey as a journalist for the initial leg (and since my travel ethic doesn’t always jibe with that of the expedition), I don’t have a very prominent role in the documentary. Still, you can see some character-reel footage of me buying fireworks on the El Salvador – Honduras border at YouTube. (the narrative kicks in around 00:30; please pardon my tragically shaved head).

The show also has a website, ODYSSEY: Driving Around the World, which features resources about the expedition and show, including promos and outtakes featuring the various people who took part in the expedition.

Posted by | Comments (7)  | November 29, 2007
Category: Rolf's News and Updates

7 Responses to “Rolf on home and faith (and on television)”

  1. justin Says:

    So how were the “mucho grande” fireworks?

    As a kid, we would go down to Mexico to buy the palomitas, which were also wrapped in a massive amount of newspaper. Surprisingly, I was let down with their lack of overall force — especially considering their size.

  2. Rolf Says:

    Oddly enough, I don’t remember the cost of the fireworks, because I was buying them for the film crew. Since they couldn’t go on-camera to buy them, I was recruited for the job. And man were they powerful, as you’ll see if you watch the teaser on the show’s website.

  3. brian Says:


    Congrats on the house! Still, don’t go retiring from the road just yet…please. There are those among your fans who live vicariously through your wanderings, and both we and the blogosphere in general would be poorer for your absence. I realize your response will most likely be: hit the road yourself! I’m working on it.

  4. Rolf Says:

    Thanks Brian, and good luck getting out onto the road! House notwithstanding, I’m still out traveling — and as much as I like my house I’ll probably only see it a couple months a year. More of a “home-base” than a traditional “home,” but I’m happy to have it!

  5. Joel Says:

    Rolf – As a fellow traveler and writer who also attended a college rooted in the evangelical tradition in the early/mid-90s — and has been influenced by that — I really enjoyed reading the interview in the Door.

    I spent most of my teenage years as a missionary kid in Papua New Guinea, which all in all was a great experience and gave me a pretty deep love for the world, travel, and other people. (Was pleased that Travelers’ Tales published a story from my MK years in their 2006 anthology.)

    Well, I mostly just wish to say the interview was informative, another glimpse into how you write and why. I suspect that one of these days our paths will cross. I look forward to it.

  6. Rolf Says:

    Glad you enjoyed the Door piece, Joel. My sister is married to an MK, actually, so I’m familiar with that subculture. Maybe someday a magazine will let me write about it!