Profiles

The Endless Pieces of a Life’s Adventure

The Story of Don George

In the summer of ’77, in-between his Greece adventures and his plans for creative writing

school in the United States, Don George decided to climb Africa’s highest peak. He made this decision after visiting Amboseli National Park in Southeast Kenya. Ten days later, George and his friends trekked their way to Marangu, the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. Four days after that, they started up the mountain.

George and his three friends, Nicos and Takis, two Greek brothers, and an American named John, had never climbed above 12,000 feet. Mount Kilimanjaro is 7,340 feet higher, making the air much thinner.

The journey takes five days to complete, reaching the highest African peak on day four. Around 700 feet from this peak, George laid on his back, never feeling worse in his life. He was at Gillman’s Point and had pushed there with little strength for sunrise.

As he laid on the cold hard ground, 18,635 feet in the sky, the first rays of light began to peek over the mountain signaling a new day. He recalled later, in his book, “The Way of Wanderlust, that those moments are “something no one else has ever experienced or will ever experience.” George was only 22 years old at that moment.

Now, over 30 years of professional experience later, George has gone on adventures in over 90 countries in six different contents. He has worked for Lonely Planet Publications, San Francisco Examiner, Salon.com. He is currently the Editor at Large and Book Review Columnist of National Geographic Travel Magazine, Editor of National Geographics Expedition’s online magazine and Special Features Editor and Blogger for Gadling.com.

Don George placed the first piece of his lifes puzzle in Middlebury, Connecticut. His parents raised him in their dream house, a place George’s father had invested all his saving to

build. His father was an accountant and good with numbers, but not words. George credited his literary side to his mother. “She was a reader and a conversationalist,” he stated and would often sit him down after school to hear his thoughts.

He lived in Middlebury until 22, the green hues of the trees and energetic landscapes giving inspiration to his work. In George’s book, his mom stated that as a child he used to go for walks in the wood and call them adventures; he would say, “can we go on an adventure now?” He traveled some as a child, taking a yearly summer trip to places like Virginia and Lake Ontario, where he would spend his time outdoors. “My parents gave me that travel gene,” George said when referring to his wanderlust.

George was a reader and picked up on the importance of words, young in his life. While attending Watertown, a private high school, George had an English teacher who infused the love for literature into him.

During his time in Watertown, he became the editor of the school’s literary magazine, often writing poetry and stories. By the time he was 18, George claims he loved words, and “the more [he] read and more [he] learned, the deeper this love got.” By the time George entered college, he said he believed he would become a poet.

In 1971, George began college at Princeton University. He took a class called the Literature of Fact, his senior year with John McFee, a writer for the New Yorker. McFee mentored George and inspired him to find that “writing non-fiction can be just as pedestal worthy as writing poetry or fiction.” For the first time, George considered writing in a different light.

By the final term of his senior year, he concluded he didn’t know what he wanted to do. His friends, applying to medical and graduate schools, had a clear path, but George wasn’t as

sure. He had studied French English and American Literature and reasoned that he would probably end up a professor. However, George still sought adventure.

Attempting to avoid the inevitable, George took a Princeton fellowship for the summer in Paris. Here, he had stepped outside and realized that the real learning comes from people, not classrooms. After Paris, George continued to evade a mundane 9-5 and went to Greece to teach for a year.

While this plan allowed him to postpone figuring out what he wanted to do, it also gave him more international experience. By the time George decided to go back to the states for creative writing school, he had an arsenal of travel writing stories in his brown leather travel journal.

The night that will stay with him forever, is the when he stayed up all night in his Greece apartment, going back and forth between creative writing school and comparative literature school. The deadline loomed on the horizon, and by the time the sun finally rose, he stated, “I realized I needed to give [creative writing] a shot, and I’ve never looked back.”

After graduating from creative writing school, George went to Japan on another two-year fellowship. However, between leaving for Japan and graduating, he connected with a woman who worked for Mademoiselle and gave a writing sample of his Mount Kilimanjaro trip.
Giving his writing sample was no fluke. George remembers telling the editor at Mademoiselle that he would be in New York for two weeks to meet up but was actually in Connecticut and drove up when she said she was free.

Later that year, he won a two-year fellowship to teach in Japan. When landing, George had received a notice saying that room had opened up in Mademoiselle, and they published his piece. George officially entered the travel writing world. After two years in Japan, George

returned to the states and began working for the San Francisco Examiner as a travel writer, his first official travel writing job.

Looking back onto his life, he stated the people made the most significant impact on his life; “people want to help you.” While flying to Japan, George met a woman who sat with him for 13 hours, telling him about Japanese culture and allowed George to talk about his fears about living there for two years.

“People often restrict themselves” said George, causing them to settle for less than they want. George intuitively knew that if he restricted himself and kept fear from allowing him to meet people like the Japanese women or the three friends he went to Mount Kilimanjaro with, he would not be where he is in life today.

George is not the same youthful man who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with zero training, but his energy rivals most 20 years old when he speaks of his adventures. George is currently living in California, enjoying the beauty of being close to home, and taking the time to explore his back yard due to the COVID Safety Guidelines. However, he plans to visit Japan next March and lead an expedition for National Geographic.

George has no plans to slow down. He wears smile lines around his eyes like badges of honor. They speak of adventures and people that are continually adding to what he refers to as the puzzle pieces of his life. But like every great explorer, George knows this puzzle will never be complete. When referring to his life’s puzzle, he states, “every day I learn something new, every day I add onto that puzzle, and every trip I make, there’s new pieces to add, so it’s ongoing and never-ending.”

Geroge said he hopes that the up and coming generation will continue to write 3,000 word plus pieces and not become complacent with Instagram posts. He hopes to “see travel writers who lose themselves in a place, just to find themselves again.”

Every travel experience is a new time for George to watch a sunset and know that no one will ever experience what he’s going through at that moment. That is enough to motivate him never to stop.

In the summer of ’77, in-between his Greece adventures and his plans for creative writing

school in the United States, Don George decided to climb Africa’s highest peak. He made this decision after visiting Amboseli National Park in Southeast Kenya. Ten days later, George and his friends trekked their way to Marangu, the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. Four days after that, they started up the mountain.

George and his three friends, Nicos and Takis, two Greek brothers, and an American named John, had never climbed above 12,000 feet. Mount Kilimanjaro is 7,340 feet higher, making the air much thinner.

The journey takes five days to complete, reaching the highest African peak on day four. Around 700 feet from this peak, George laid on his back, never feeling worse in his life. He was at Gillman’s Point and had pushed there with little strength for sunrise.

As he laid on the cold hard ground, 18,635 feet in the sky, the first rays of light began to peek over the mountain signaling a new day. He recalled later, in his book, “The Way of Wanderlust, that those moments are “something no one else has ever experienced or will ever experience.” George was only 22 years old at that moment.

Now, over 30 years of professional experience later, George has gone on adventures in over 90 countries in six different contents. He has worked for Lonely Planet Publications, San Francisco Examiner, Salon.com. He is currently the Editor at Large and Book Review Columnist of National Geographic Travel Magazine, Editor of National Geographics Expedition’s online magazine and Special Features Editor and Blogger for Gadling.com.

Don George placed the first piece of his lifes puzzle in Middlebury, Connecticut. His parents raised him in their dream house, a place George’s father had invested all his saving to

build. His father was an accountant and good with numbers, but not words. George credited his literary side to his mother. “She was a reader and a conversationalist,” he stated and would often sit him down after school to hear his thoughts.

He lived in Middlebury until 22, the green hues of the trees and energetic landscapes giving inspiration to his work. In George’s book, his mom stated that as a child he used to go for walks in the wood and call them adventures; he would say, “can we go on an adventure now?” He traveled some as a child, taking a yearly summer trip to places like Virginia and Lake Ontario, where he would spend his time outdoors. “My parents gave me that travel gene,” George said when referring to his wanderlust.

George was a reader and picked up on the importance of words, young in his life. While attending Watertown, a private high school, George had an English teacher who infused the love for literature into him.

During his time in Watertown, he became the editor of the school’s literary magazine, often writing poetry and stories. By the time he was 18, George claims he loved words, and “the more [he] read and more [he] learned, the deeper this love got.” By the time George entered college, he said he believed he would become a poet.

In 1971, George began college at Princeton University. He took a class called the Literature of Fact, his senior year with John McFee, a writer for the New Yorker. McFee mentored George and inspired him to find that “writing non-fiction can be just as pedestal worthy as writing poetry or fiction.” For the first time, George considered writing in a different light.

By the final term of his senior year, he concluded he didn’t know what he wanted to do. His friends, applying to medical and graduate schools, had a clear path, but George wasn’t as

sure. He had studied French English and American Literature and reasoned that he would probably end up a professor. However, George still sought adventure.

Attempting to avoid the inevitable, George took a Princeton fellowship for the summer in Paris. Here, he had stepped outside and realized that the real learning comes from people, not classrooms. After Paris, George continued to evade a mundane 9-5 and went to Greece to teach for a year.

While this plan allowed him to postpone figuring out what he wanted to do, it also gave him more international experience. By the time George decided to go back to the states for creative writing school, he had an arsenal of travel writing stories in his brown leather travel journal.

The night that will stay with him forever, is the when he stayed up all night in his Greece apartment, going back and forth between creative writing school and comparative literature school. The deadline loomed on the horizon, and by the time the sun finally rose, he stated, “I realized I needed to give [creative writing] a shot, and I’ve never looked back.”

After graduating from creative writing school, George went to Japan on another two-year fellowship. However, between leaving for Japan and graduating, he connected with a woman who worked for Mademoiselle and gave a writing sample of his Mount Kilimanjaro trip.
Giving his writing sample was no fluke. George remembers telling the editor at Mademoiselle that he would be in New York for two weeks to meet up but was actually in Connecticut and drove up when she said she was free.

Later that year, he won a two-year fellowship to teach in Japan. When landing, George had received a notice saying that room had opened up in Mademoiselle, and they published his piece. George officially entered the travel writing world. After two years in Japan, George

returned to the states and began working for the San Francisco Examiner as a travel writer, his first official travel writing job.

Looking back onto his life, he stated the people made the most significant impact on his life; “people want to help you.” While flying to Japan, George met a woman who sat with him for 13 hours, telling him about Japanese culture and allowed George to talk about his fears about living there for two years.

“People often restrict themselves” said George, causing them to settle for less than they want. George intuitively knew that if he restricted himself and kept fear from allowing him to meet people like the Japanese women or the three friends he went to Mount Kilimanjaro with, he would not be where he is in life today.

George is not the same youthful man who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with zero training, but his energy rivals most 20 years old when he speaks of his adventures. George is currently living in California, enjoying the beauty of being close to home, and taking the time to explore his back yard due to the COVID Safety Guidelines. However, he plans to visit Japan next March and lead an expedition for National Geographic.

George has no plans to slow down. He wears smile lines around his eyes like badges of honor. They speak of adventures and people that are continually adding to what he refers to as the puzzle pieces of his life. But like every great explorer, George knows this puzzle will never be complete. When referring to his life’s puzzle, he states, “every day I learn something new, every day I add onto that puzzle, and every trip I make, there’s new pieces to add, so it’s ongoing and never-ending.”

Geroge said he hopes that the up and coming generation will continue to write 3,000 word plus pieces and not become complacent with Instagram posts. He hopes to “see travel writers who lose themselves in a place, just to find themselves again.”

Every travel experience is a new time for George to watch a sunset and know that no one will ever experience what he’s going through at that moment. That is enough to motivate him never to stop.

George looking back onto his life, stated, “The wonder is always there, and the pieces to my puzzle are endless.”