Everett Potter ’76: Where Does a Travel Writer Go on Vacation?

Veteran traveler Everett Potter was surprised to experience culture shock in Katmandu, Nepal.

Travel writer Everett Potter ’76 has the kind of job that most people only dream of — getting paid to travel the world, sample the best hotels, or ski at the finest mountain resorts.

But earning a living in this rarified specialty takes much more than a taste for the good life. It takes moxie, an entrepreneurial spirit, and the ability to produce.

“You’ve got to keep thirty-eight balls in the air at the same time,” says Potter, who lives in Pelham, New York, with his wife, Gayle, and their six-year-old daughter. “As a freelance writer, you are your own boss. But you also have seventeen editors you are writing for, and they demand your full attention. You are constantly on deadline; you hit the deadlines; and then you hit them again.”

For twenty-five years, Potter has been hitting those deadlines. He’s a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, Ski, New York Magazine, and Forbes Life. His column appears in USA Weekend, and he publishes a weekly blog called Everett Potter’s Travel Report (everettpotter.com).

He also writes regularly on travel for Diversion, an online magazine for physicians. His April 2009 piece on “15 Ways to Save Big on Your Next Vacation” encouraged travelers to negotiate discounts at hotels, use public transportation instead of renting a car, and use farecompare.com to find the lowest airfares.

“Everett shows readers how to get the most travel for the dollars they have,” says Tom Passavant, editor-at-large at Diversion. “He’s a true professional at a time when travel writing seems to be the province of anybody who travels.”

Last May, Potter returned from three weeks in Nepal, which he toured with adventure-travel

specialist Antonia Neubauer, who has built libraries in some of the poorest countries of the world. He’s co-authoring a book with Neubauer about her experiences.

“It was very hair-raising travel, landing on tiny airstrips in the mountains,” he says. “And just when I thought I’d never again experience culture shock, I experienced it in Nepal. Katmandu is pandemonium personified. … It was a veritable mosh pit of cars, trucks, motorcycles, pedicabs, motor scooters, bicycles, pedestrians, dogs, and assorted livestock on narrow lanes better suited for oxcarts, all attempting to go in different directions at the same time. That’s not to mention constant horn blasting and the air filled with [the scent of] diesel fumes, chilis, and garlic from open doorways.”

Potter didn’t plan to become a travel writer when he was earning his master’s in English in Madison. He was going to write fiction. He says he wrote a few novels, but none were published. While working in the art business in 1984, a friend of a friend who worked for a trade publication in the travel industry asked him if he’d like to travel to Shandong Province in China, which was then quite undeveloped and just opening up to tourists.

He wrote a story, then sold another to the Washington Post. A year later, he was in Tibet; he sold more stories; and his freelance career was rolling. Soon he was on work trips to Europe, Asia, and Central America.

Potter’s personal vacations, however, are anything but glamorous. He likes to take his family to his rustic cabin on a lake in western Maine, where he has to put a pipe into the lake to get running water inside.

“I go fly-fishing, and take my daughter out on the lake to swim,” he says. “It’s an old-fashioned, 1950s getaway and the perfect antidote to the New York magazine world.”

Published in the Winter 2009 issue

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