Travel Inspiration Series: Drew Potts

Travel inspires us. I cannot get enough of hearing people’s stories of why and where they travel. More importantly though, how traveling transforms who they are. I sat down with my Australian friend Drew, a seasoned traveler and student of wisdom, to talk about his life journey thus far.

Me: Welcome Drew. Thanks for sharing some of your time with us today. Let’s start with where you’ve been, so our readers have some sense of your experience.

Drew: You want me to list them all? Six continents. Probably about two and a half years away from home. Fiji, Samoa, the U.S., Nepal, Greece, Israel, Turkey, Norway, Germany, France, Spain, England, Italy. That was last year.

Me: Do you have a favorite place?

Drew: Not because of the actual place, but the people in that place. Searcy [Arkansas] because of the culture and people and memories there. Then Nepal for all those things as well. That was so different.

Me: What would you say your journey is about?

Drew: For the last thirteen years I’ve been going through and trying to find my calling, through studies and lots of different occupations, but my times of travel have been very significant in providing clarity with who I’m supposed to be. The two major long trips I’ve been on overseas have been intentional in that I was going to that place for a specific reason.

Me: Where were those trips to?

Drew: The U.S. and Asia.

Me: What captivates you about travel? Why do you go?

Drew: I look at the world and I see how sheltered the world can be by keeping ourselves in a certain geographical location and not really widening the perspective of what is actually going on in a grander scope of civilization. As a teenager I never really thought about traveling. In my 20’s I got the urges that I needed something. Something different. Definitely the trip in 2006 to the U.S. was like, “I need to get amongst the Christian world in another country.” The trip to Asia was, “I need to get away from Western civilization, expose myself to Eastern civilization.”

Me: Did you find what you were looking for?

Drew: It’s not that I’m looking for something. I recognized that I needed to go; I needed to do these things. And you learn along the way, ”Okay this is what I needed, this is why I’m here.” You have those awakening experiences along the way.

Me: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a traveler?

Drew: [Laughs] Oh man. This is ridiculous. My first time overseas was in 2004. I was 21 years old. I just met a girl a few weeks before I was leaving to go on a three month, round-the-world trip and it was the first kind of girl I was seriously interested in. So I was trying to get to know her while I was on this trip, when I should have just been forgetting about everything and so I found myself trapped. My sister hated traveling with me. We’re in Egypt, we’re in Switzerland, we’re in France, in these amazing places doing these amazing things and I’m there, “Oh, she hasn’t texted me back. Oh, she didn’t want to talk with me… we didn’t get to talk… I don’t have internet access to email.” So that was one of them.

Me: What have you taken away from that experience?

Drew: Every time I’ve been overseas, I’ve been praying that I would have the peace to be where I am, mentally, in every way. To try and not be controlled by what’s back home or what I’m missing out on or the luxuries of the life I thought was better. To get past that “grass is greener” mentality and enjoy where I’m at. It is still hard to get past that.

Me: How do you deal with that? How do you root yourself in this moment when things are so different?

Drew: I guess it’s easier these days with Skype and technology, they kind of feed the craving of not being so homesick. But also, being someone of faith, it was something I’d pray about as I was trying to immerse myself in the place I was at.

Me: Shifting from the challenges, what have been some of the most memorable moments of your travels?

Drew: I did a bicycle tour through France. Went over with a few Australian friends, met a few really awesome English friends. It was ten days of cycling to different chateaus, playing ultimate Frisbee in the afternoons, singing at the end of the day. It was a real awesome time. One of the guys over there, I met up with the year after in New Zealand. The year after that we went back to England and went on another trip. And I went to his house in England this last December and helped him move. So just having those ongoing relationships is really meaningful.

Me: Seems like community is a big part of your travels. You know, the people you meet along the way or even just those you run across in the right place at the right time. Highlight some of those experiences for me.

Drew: Oh man. So when I was at Harding [University, in Arkansas] last year, my brother told me there was this guy I needed to meet. Really awesome guy, similar features, he was doing sports science like me. Anyways, I was in the bathroom at a basketball game and we were at the stalls and I got talking with this bloke next to me and he said who he was and I said, “I’m supposed to meet you!” [Laughs] He was like my only friend for the next 4 or 5 months during my time there. Someone who was intentional about being interested in who I am. I was just Skyping him yesterday because he’s someone I want to keep in contact with for the rest of my life. It’s pretty cool.

Me: If you had to give one piece of travel advice, what would it be?

Drew: You know, I look back at how many dollars I’ve invested into all this. Probably around $60,000 over the last ten years, but I can’t put a value on the growth I’ve seen because all those moments have been instrumental in who I am today. If you need to do something, save up, invest, because you’ll reap the rewards as a person and you can’t put a dollar on it. I look at some people, and I’m not judging, but I see them in their early 40’s and it seems like they have this desire to do much more, but they’re locked into family and mortgages. While you can, travel. Think about the reason why you do it. Start a journal – WHY I’M GOING at the top of the page – and six months later when you come home, see where you’ve come and what you got from that experience.

You know, there are so many volunteering programs these days because people just want to do something to make this world a better place. Like at that monastery [in Nepal], there were some people there for 3 or 4 months because they wanted to be somewhere, do something nice in a different world.

Me: So, where to next?

Drew: Don’t even ask me that! I love the idea of doing a stint in Japan. Or doing grad school in Memphis.

Me: Why Japan?

Drew: I like the idea of living somewhere Eastern. I could teach. But then all the things around that: the temples and the practices of the people. That intrigues me, so I like the idea of immersing in that culture. It would be a challenge.

Me: Thanks for your time and for inspiring other travelers to journey themselves.

Drew: No worries.

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