Confessions from “The Most Interesting Blogger in the World”
My beginnings were modest by comparison. For years I had produced an annual catalogue of adventure travel trips my company,
I was a keen evangelist for this kind of travel. I knew how transformative and positive these adventures were. I had witnessed my own change from a shy, hesitant unsure brume to someone quite different, and better, I believed. I had found purpose, confidence and vision. But it was more than just personal growth. This kind of active travel promoted interaction between different cultures and environments, which in turn stimulated respect and empathy. This kind of travel was not just good for the soul, but for the planet. I was a passionate proselytizer, and carried a satchel of catalogues wherever I went, handing them out indiscriminately, and like a Mormon missionary, trying to convert every passerby. But more often than not eyes glazed, excuses were made, and I was left alone in the trophy room.
Part of the problem, I believed, was the limitations of the catalogue. How could we adequately describe the power and the feeling of a three-week trek through the Himalayas in a couple of paragraphs, and a thumbnail photo? It was a pathetic simulacrum compared to the real thing. So, when, in 1993, I read that Tim O'Reilly launched something called The Global Network Navigator (GNN), the first commercial web publication and the first web site to offer clickable advertisements, I drove up to Sebastopol in Sonoma County, booked myself into a B&B, and skedaddled over to the O'Reilly and Associates headquarters. I worked with Tim and his team, and in a few weeks we launched what may have been the first travel website,
Nothing would ever be the same. I was most excited with the dimensionality and spatial capacity of the web in regards travel. Where once we were confined to a single photo and a few lines of text to describe the emotional resonance of a place and experience, now we had near infinite space to convey slide shows, videos, audios (snow crunching; camels braying; gamelan music), and whole narratives to share. It was the closest thing to being there, and eliminated a raft of barriers. But, it still wasn't real time. So, I decided to travel to the next level and create live coverage of one of our signature adventures: a private passage to Antarctica. It wasn't easy. We needed a portable Inmarsat satellite system, which I flew to Ushuaia, Argentina, and mounted on our boat. The signal, so far south, could barely reach the birds, but it did, and we set out on a two-week expedition in which we reported regularly with daily dispatches, photos, video, and live chats. Anyone, anywhere with an internet connection and a computer screen could virtually join our voyage.
The site we created still serves today:” target=”_hplink”>Mungo Park, perhaps the first on-line travel magazine. What a heady time this was. We covered the first descent of the Tekeze in Ethiopia, a crocodile infested river that boiled through the deepest gorge in Africa.
And I launched more sites that took advantage of the technology and talent and delivered compelling travel interpretations from scores of writers in the field: Well-Travelled for Slate; Great Escapes for MSNBC, First & Best for MSN, Richard Bangs' Adventures for Yahoo, and