I grew up in LA, went to college in San Diego, and aside from the odd family trip didn’t travel much until I backpacked for six months, from Mexico to Ecuador back in 1996. That trip involved hazardous bus rides and mystical treks into misty jungled mountains. It involved sketchy back alley tour guides and, well, I got lost in the Amazon. I came home, different. My perspective was wider, and yet I was less content.
How could I just get a job and settle down when I knew how big and bright and sad and interesting and spectacular the world really was? When I hit the road again in 1998 – this time to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, I was working at a dead-end job at a non-profit and had no real bead on my future. On the flight, I read an article about Zanzibar in Islands Magazine. It was wondrous. I followed the author’s trail until I saw the island’s sugar white beaches and striped turquoise sea for myself. That night, I turned to the Contributor’s Page and thought, who the hell is this guy and why does he get to do this for a living? The lucky bastard! Then I thought, why not me?
Forget for a second that I had no experience, had never written an article and had no contacts in journalism whatsoever. I just knew I wanted to write my way around the world. Over the next decade-plus I teetered on the verge of financial ruin, was served several eviction notices and became a neurotic insomniac, but I also wrote my way around the world. Eventually, I became a better writer, and I made a better living. Mostly thanks to the people I’ve met in refugee camps and minefields, sea gypsy villages, and surf breaks, dive shops and rice paddies, in the stifling ghettos of new oil states, and working class neighborhoods on Kauai. Also, thanks to Lonely Planet, which saved my ass when I was about to go completely broke.
Most recently, I’ve written a narrative non-fiction book about competitive freediving and the death of American freediver Nicholas Mevoli for Crown Archetype. If you feel it, drop me a note, and follow me on Twitter and Instagram @adamskolnick. And thanks for reading!