Henry Rollins On The Importance Of Travel And Overcoming Fears

Henry Rollins is a travel legend. His grand adventures in the far-flung corners of the world have inspired countless travelers. Oh, and he’s also a rock ‘n roll god — with a career spanning four decades with S.O.A, Black Flag, Rollins Band, and a slew of iconic collaborators. Add in a thriving writing and spoken word career and there’s no denying Rollins’s standing as an urgent and wholly original voice in the American zeitgeist.

On a personal level, Henry Rollins has long been a big part of the reason I love travel. Looking back, when I first started traveling, I never really had a good answer as to “why.” I liked being somewhere new, experiencing new foods, all the usual things you say when you’re young and not really sure. It was during my early travels that I started reading about Rollins’s global wanderings. He inspired me to travel further and go places everyone back home told me were too scary or dangerous.

Since Henry Rollins was a crucial stepping stone to my life as an adventurer, I always hoped that one day we’d get to sit down and swap travel tales. Last week, that dream came true. Rollins spoke to me about travel, the state of our world, and still made time to drop in some good music recommendations.

As a traveler, where has fear helped you overcome obstacles? And how can we find a better balance of knowing what to fear and what not to fear?

I am not remembering when fear was an asset. Awareness of where I was, culturally, economically, ecologically, politically and historically has been of great use. Traveling with as much of this kind of information can allow you to visit a place that might be very different than what you’re used to and maintain high levels of respect and civility. With an awareness of where you are, you can get a lot more out of every moment and it’s good for safety.

I think travel is a deathblow to ignorance and bigotry. It’s hard to harbor fear of a place and its people once you’ve been there. It is true that for Westerners, there are some places where you could have a very, very bad time. One must be careful but there is no reason to fear any place. I would much rather take my chances on the night streets of Nairobi than in some parts of Los Angeles. I have found humans to be for the most part extraordinarily friendly and generous wherever I have been — often in places where I was told not to go.

Do you think planning can get in the way of adventure? That is, over-thinking something may cause you to say no to an otherwise great opportunity?

I would agree that too much planning can kind of chew the taste out of the gum but it depends on where you’re going. Alone to Islamabad, Pakistan, I am not up for too much adventure. I was there when Bhutto was assassinated. That was plenty enough adventure for me.

I would, like I said, be very aware of where I am. Respecting a people and a culture is a very big thing for me. So, perhaps you strike a balance in what you’re up for and what you think you’re ready to handle if things go south.