For more than 40 years, no one has done more to shine a light on the globe’s most intriguing corners for workaday adventurers than Richard Bangs. Now 64, the father of American adventure travel is proof that old-school adventure is as alive as ever.
Photo: Didrik Johnck
Every once in a while, in every industry, there comes along a game changer. One whose ideas, innovation, and, most important, courage take ordinary people into extraordinary new worlds, sending them home with epic tales of wonder and triumph. These true adventurers brave harsh and often hostile environments to pave the way for new frontiers. Their stories, told around campfires in the wilderness, inspire millions of others to pioneer their own paths. This legend, commonly referred to as the father of adventure travel, carries with him a certain admiration that rubs off on the many who follow him into the most remote regions of the world …
The Big Bangs Effect
The adventurer wore cutoff jeans, a T-shirt, and an old leather belt as he piloted the raft down one of Africa’s more treacherous rivers. Out there, the three best tools a man could carry dangled from around his waist. Pliers could tighten the boat’s stubborn valves and hoist a hot Dutch oven out of the coals. The Buck knife made quick work of rope, meat, and wood. A metal cup with a hook-shaped handle marked him as a genuine river man. It was as functional as it was iconic, a vessel for breakfast gruel and evening drinks. Get thirsty during the day and straight into the river it’d go.
This river, the Awash, was no place for soft men. It was 1973, Ethiopia, a country on the verge of civil war. You couldn’t just browse a catalog and buy a trip like this. You needed friends in embassies to hold your gear and muscles to load it onto the tops of rickety buses. No Western adventurer had ever been down the Awash, a 750-mile lick of big water muscling through the Horn of Africa. There were hippos and crocodiles and venomous snakes. The land was unforgiving and harsh.
This adventurer, Richard Bangs, felt at home in such a place, he was a curious man who would later become a lion in the adventure world. His passion for seeking out unknown rivers and magnificent cultures was outdone only by his desire to let others share in those authentic discoveries, too. If adventure travel has an American legend alive today, Bangs is it.
Lisa Ellen Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. She is the founder of the website WeSaidGoTravel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. Niver is a speaker at the Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Dallas Travel and Adventure Shows for 2023. Her podcast, “Make Your Own Map,” has been watched in more than 11 countries on 4 continents. Niver is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, Inc. Look for her memoir in Fall 2023 from Post Hill Press/Simon and Schuster.
You can find Lisa Niver talking travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, Satellite Media Tours, The Jet Set TV and Orbitz travel webisodes as well as her YouTube channel, where her WeSaidGoTravel videos have nearly 2 million views.
With more than 150,000 followers across social media, she has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on Twitter and listed on IMDb, and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club.
As a journalist, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors and been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She has been a judge for the Gracie Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media, and has run 15 travel competitions on her website, publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries.
For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty times.
Niver has published more than 2000 articles, in more than three dozen magazines and journals
including National Geographic, Wired, Teen Vogue, HuffPost Personal, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, AAA Explorer Magazine, American Airways, Delta Sky, enRoute (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, BuzzFeed, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, USA Today, TODAY, Wharton Magazine, and Yahoo.
National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards
2021 Winner: Book Critic: Ms. Magazine “Untamed: Brave Means Living From the Inside Out”
2019 Winner: Soft News Feature for Film/TV: KTLA TV “Oscars Countdown to Gold with Lisa Niver”
2019 Finalist for: Soft News, Business/Music/Tech/Art
Southern California Journalism Awards
2022 Finalist: Book Criticism
2021 Winner: Technology Reporting
2021 Finalist: Book Criticism
2020 Winner: Print Magazine Feature: Hemispheres Magazine, “Painter by the Numbers, Rembrandt”
2020 Finalist: Online Journalist of the Year, Activism Journalism, Educational Reporting, Broadcast Lifestyle Feature
2019 Finalist: Broadcast Television Lifestyle Segment for “Ogden Ski Getaway”
2018 Finalist: Science/Technology Reporting, Travel Reporting, Personality Profile
2017 Winner: Print Column “A Journey to Freedom over Three Passovers”
Social Media Presence
YouTube Channel: We Said Go Travel (1.7 million views)
Short form video:TikTok, Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels, YouTube Shorts
Twitter: lisaniver (90,000 followers)
Instagram: lisaniver (24,000 followers)
Pinterest: We Said Go Travel (20,000 followers and over 70,000 monthly views)
Facebook: lisa.niver (5,000 followers); We Said Go Travel (3,000 followers)
LinkedIn: lisaellenniver (9000 contacts)
2 responses to “The Father of Adventure Travel: Richard Bangs”
I loved the line ‘Out there, the three best tools a man could carry dangled from around his waist.’, but I didn’t realize the author was going to list actual tools. I thought it was a reference to needing great courage.