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#113 – Living A Life Filled With Travel with Don George

Taking a trip every once in a while is good for the soul, but have you ever thought about what a life full of traveling experiences could do? Don George, legendary travel writer, editor, and author who has won numerous awards for his work, joins this episode to share what it’s like living a life filled with travel and creating unforgettable memories.

Don reveals when he caught the travel bug and got into travel writing, along with the travel piece that changed his career for the better. He also shares some of his traveling experiences and what he’s learned from the culture, an astonishing Mount Kilimanjaro story, and how he considers traveling a religion. Additionally, Don reveals details from his book, “The Way of Wanderlust,” lists his favorite travel destinations, discusses how his dad retired early to travel, and provides advice for other travel writers.

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Read Show Notes From This Episode (click to expand and read notes from the full interview)
    • Wes welcomes Don George to the Retire Sooner Podcast.

      Wes says Memphis feels a little like going back in time. Kind of a magical place. Wes says Don is the world’s most evangelist for travel writing. Asks him how he got the bug early on to do this. Don says he studied literature and writing and figured he’d go to grad school and become a professor. But then he went to Princeton and they had a Paris program. Went there for 3 months. He remembers walking through France in 1975 and having a realization that “I can’t just go back to my regular boring life.” He didn’t know what that meant but it eventually became travel writing. He fell in love with Paris.

      Don fell in love with Paris. Then later fell in love with Japan. They both laugh.

      Wes talks about a stint when he did a Scandinavia/Russian trip and being immersed in the culture.

      In Japan – if you say you’re doing something by yourself it’s almost like a slap in the face. The culture is very much about doing stuff as a group.

      Got married.

      The Kilimanjaro trip happened in 1976 before Japan. He made it all the way up. Very painful. Took 5 days. Reached the summit. Standing up there thinking “this is one of the most amazing moments of his life and he was doubled over in pain because of the lack of oxygen. Over 19,000 feet.

      Took a nonfiction writing class. Wrote about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. He had previously applied to a summer editing program at Mademoiselle magazine. Now he gave them his Mt. Kilimanjaro work. Then he went to Tokyo and there was a telegram waiting for him from Mademoiselle saying they had used his article. Paid him $500. A huge lightbulb went off for him. He had been unsuccessfully writing poetry. But here, with one travel piece, it got published.

      Later, in CA he got invited on a press trip to Japan. The Travel editor had decided to take a leave of absence. He called Georgia Hess to ask if she had gotten the story he sent in and she didn’t know about that but ended up hiring him. Amazing serendipity.

      Wanderlust. German word. His book “The Way of Wanderlust.” For him, travel is his religion. It’s the thing he believes in and it makes the world a better place. If we’re going to find peace in the world, we have to travel. Whomever the enemy de jour is, we need to go travel to them to talk.

      For 6 or 7 years Don was the global spokesperson for Lonely Planet. They’d always say, please buy our guidebook but then on one day, leave our book in the hotel and go get lost.

      Wes asks about travel during COVID. Don George wrote “Wanderlust in the Time of Coronavirus.” He turned his travel writing brain toward the places around him. Like walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. Things he’d always wanted to do. “If I didn’t know this town I live in, what would I do?”

      Wes asks Don about some of his favorite places. 1) Paris (where he lived). It’s a home for him. He goes and remembers that young guy who went there and discovered wanting to be a travel writer. Eats food at neighborhood places. 2) Greece

      Don’s father retired early. Wes asked if Don’s father read “You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think”. They laugh.

      Don’s parents took him and his brother to London when he was a kid. He just loved it. One of his dad’s main goals was to retire early and travel. He was able to do it. Retired at 60 and did it for 25 years.

      The internet makes people feel like they know the world better than they do.

      Advice for travel writers: Be honest. Report the good and the bad. Accuracy is very important. So your first assignment is to live incredibly deeply wherever you are. What am I smelling here? What am I hearing here?

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