Happy birthday, travel adventurer Richard Halliburton (wherever you are)

By Bob Schulman

Richard Halliburton (1900-1939)Richard Halliburton would have been 115 years old about now. But he only made it to 39, having drowned when a Chinese junk he was sailing on ran into a storm and sank somewhere in the Pacific. The junk was en route from Hong Kong to San Francisco, part of a publicity stunt.

Adventure-wise, it’s said he “out-Hemingwayed Hemingway” during his brief life. Few remember Halliburton, though, because he wasn’t that great a writer vs. the iconic works of “Papa” Hemingway. True, Halliburton penned a dozen or so books, some of which were to fire up young readers like myself (and at least one other guy I know) to become travel writers many years later. But it’s what Halliburton did during the 20 years after he dropped out of Princeton that earned him an albeit short stay in the limelight of the early 1900s.

For instance, he managed to get jailed for a while on Devil’s Island, climbed the Matterhorn, rode an elephant Hannibal-style through the Alps, served in the French Foreign Legion, hung out with pirates and headhunters, swam the lengths of the Nile and the Panama Canal and did all kinds of other crazy stuff.

Halliburton visited the harbor at Rhodes, where a colossus once stood. Photo by Bob Schulman.

I didn’t know it when I read Halliburton’s books as a lad, but I must have been bitten by the travel bug those many years ago. After college I wound up as a public relations exec for a string of five airlines over 30 years, then switched over to travel writing. Today I’m a part owner of a popular travel website – WatchBoom.com, a monthly magazine for baby boomers – and I freelance travel stories that appear in the Huffington Post, a daily print newspaper in Mexico City and a bunch of other pubs.

Running around the world, I often wonder if I’m moseying around in the footsteps of Richard Halliburton.

Travel journalist Robert W. Bone was inspired by Halliburton.I mentioned another guy I know who shares my admiration of Halliburton. His name is Bob Bone, and I found out his writing career was sparked by Halliburton, too, when I read his new book, Fire Bone! – A Maverick Guide to a Life in Journalism. In his novel, San Francisco-based Bone takes his readers along as he goes on four decades of writing assignments and adventures in better than 75 countries on every continent.

Like Halliburton, Bone has racked up a few adventures of his own. Like being shot at in Vietnam, climbing to the top of a mast at sea and planting a revolutionary flag at a world’s fair. What’s more, he shared a number of his exploits with gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson, who “admired (Bone’s) ability to live the kind of life that office drones dream of.”

Chances are you’ve read Bone’s stories in hundreds of newspapers, magazines, guidebooks and websites (including, I’m delighted to report, WatchBoom.com).

Fire Bone! is a must-read for anyone who’d like a taste of the world delivered in your living room by a real pro in the travel business. Check it out on Amazon.com


Cover image: Halliburton wrote about the Aegean island of Santorini. Photo by Bob Schulman.

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