Punk Icon Henry Rollins On Backpacking in Iran, Visiting Antarctica and Other Travel Adventures
Henry Rollins loves traveling even though he has been on the road for years with Black Flag, the Rollins Band and as a spoken word artist. Here, the adventurous Rollins — who has as many frequent flyer miles as a network correspondent — reveals what it’s like to backpack through Iran, experience Antarctica and why less is usually more when it comes to travel.
What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken?
It would have been last year, the trip to Antarctica. That was the most moving journey I have ever been on. My surroundings were so different than anything I have ever been around. There would be moments where I would just stare in disbelief.
What's your worst travel story?
Being stuck with some losers in a van in Burma a few years ago. Amazing country, bad company.
What's your secret to a successful trip?
Research the area before you go, so you can save time and be culturally aware of where you are. It’s always good to be as polite as possible, so you want to read up on the ways of where you’re going.
Where have you always wanted to go but haven't yet?
Countries in the central part of Africa. Central regions of Vietnam, rural parts of Mongolia and New Guinea. There are a lot of places I would like to go.
Name a place you’ve traveled, which shattered preconceived perceptions.
I was in Iran for a week, Tehran specifically. I had a great time and learned a lot. There is some distrust of America but not of single Americans, at least for me there wasn’t. I found the city to be beautiful and all the people I met happened to be very cool. I would like to go back there someday. The Iranians I met were very aware of the military power of America and didn’t want anything to do with it.
What country has changed the most over the years?
I have been to Russia six times so far. It’s always different. I was there a few months ago and found it to be very Western compared to 20 years ago when I first went. Putin is loved and hated but holds a strange attraction for many people there. I think their DNA misses Stalin and he’s the next “strongman.”
What is the longest flight you've ever taken?
I think it would be Los Angeles to Dubai.
You lead a fairly spartan existence, but years ago you told me that you indulged in a BMW. Any travel indulgences on that level, or do you keep it pretty spare?
To be clear, it was used but a solid ride nonetheless. I don’t have an interest in spending money on extra legroom or fluffier pillows. I keep things around me pretty mission-specific.
Since you travel so much, do you collect points and if so, how do you
use your frequent flyer miles?
I have over a million miles on United right now and I use them on upgrades. I have done two trips to Australia and six to Europe this year, so they add up and come in handy.
What packing tips can you offer?
Bring less. A lot of people overpack. I am often carrying my own stuff for weeks, so I try to keep things minimal as long as it doesn’t interfere with my objective. Camera gear is a pack you can usually lighten by a lot.
Window or aisle seat?
I like the Raffles chain in Asia but don’t really have a preference. I stay in mid-level places. I don’t need much.
Day flight or red-eye?
I fly as early in the morning as possible to get it done.
What's the last stamp on your passport?
I am currently in South Africa.
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