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Remembering Keith Bellows, Adventure Advocate

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ATTA Balkans 2015

Keith Bellows in Macedonia during AdventureWeek Western Balkans.
© ATTA / Gregg Bleakney

The adventure travel industry lost a great friend this last weekend. Keith Bellows, former Editor of National Geographic Traveler, passed away. He crossed paths with the ATTA many times over the years, speaking at the Adventure Travel World Summit and most recently traveling with us on AdventureWeek Western Balkans. I shared the stage with him a time or two and he was a wonderful, valuable resource for us when discussing the future of travel, the pain points in the tourism industry and much, much more.

“Travelers have largely overlooked the Balkan region which has long been shrouded by a troubled past.” he said in his editor’s note introducing his readers to Albania, “But its enigmatic nature may prove to be its most potent drawing card.” It was this fine attention to the far edge of travel that made him such an excellent advocate for the potential of adventure travel.

“Every time we talked, Keith sparked my imagination and encouraged me to believe that we, as parents, should encourage young people to travel and experience the world. He argued that there is no better education in the world than to bring our children into nature, to visit other cultures, to travel abroad and to experience life outside the traditional classroom. His earnest, unfettered, unfiltered, and unapologetic pursuit of exploration is a gift of hope to our world.”

— Chris Doyle, ATTA Executive Director – Europe

If you think of the tourism industry as a ball on a field (that gets battered about — sometimes progressing, sometimes getting kicked back), Keith was one of those people who moved the ball forward every time he touched it. He cared about the preciousness of place and people and that showed in his work. Reading the numerous posts about him over the weekend, I think the characteristic that shone through brightly was his ability to be an encourager. He helped other individuals move forward with the same effort he kicked the ball forward for the tourism industry.

ATTA Balkans 2015

Keith Bellows in Macedonia during AdventureWeek Western Balkans.
© ATTA / Gregg Bleakney

Recently I checked in with him, knowing he was having some health challenges and he was appreciative but characteristically said the last thing he wanted to talk about was himself. He wanted to talk about how he was reinventing his career. Always moving forward.

We spent a week together in wintertime Norway with Kristian Jorgensen a few years back. It was an amazing trip that included an unforgettable backcountry snowshoe hike that ended with us sitting under a glacier. We sat there in the spooky, blue light, contemplating how the air being released from the ice being was thousands of years old. We joked how some of that air was probably exhaled by Vikings. It was a moment both fresh and ancient.  We will always remember Keith and be thankful for all he did for us personally and for the world at large.

Read more about Keith Bellows’ life and career.


Norway in winter: (from left) Kristian Jørgensen, Shannon Stowell, Keith Bellows, Jan Per Styve

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