Richard Halliburton: The travel writer’s travel writer

By Bob Schulman

Richard Halliburton (1900-1939)Chances are you never heard of Richard Halliburton. Nor of his escapades around the world during which he’s said to have “out-Hemingwayed Hemingway.” Nor of his dozen or so books that not only enthralled readers from Memphis to Mumbai but also inspired many budding travel journalists (like myself, a youngster at the time) over the years.

Richard Halliburton died 78 years ago, having drowned the way he lived – while chronicling what it was like to sail from Hong Kong to San Francisco on a Chinese junk. It sunk in a storm somewhere in the Pacific.

Halliburton was just 39 years old at the time.

But what a life he led for 20 years before that. For instance, he rode an elephant Hannibal-style through the Alps, climbed the Matterhorn, swam the lengths of the Nile and the Panama Canal, served in the French Foreign Legion and hung out with pirates and headhunters. And – catch this – besides all kinds of other crazy stuff he somehow managed a stay in jail on Devil’s Island.

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 six airlines over 30 years, then switched over to travel writing. Today I’m a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post, a newspaper in Mexico City and a bunch of other pubs.  

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

Travel journalist Robert W. Bone was inspired by Halliburton.Running around the world, I often wonder if I’m moseying around in Halliburton’s footsteps. During my travels I’ve run into perhaps a half-dozen other writers whose itch for travel was sparked by Halliburton. One is Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Robert Bone, whose bio includes four decades of adventures in better than 75 countries. In his latest book, Fire Bone! – A Maverick Guide to a Life in Journalism (https://www.amazon.com/Fire-Bone-Robert-W/dp/0990509109), he shares a number of his exploits with gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson, said to have “admired (Bone’s) ability to live the kind of life that office drones dream of.”

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. Fire Bone! is a must-read for anyone who’d like a taste of the world delivered in their living room by a real pro in the travel business.

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