Richard Bangs is a judge for the We Said Go Travel Gratitude Writing Contest. Share your story in our sixth international contest. Enter now until Thanksgiving. This story about him is from Outside Magazine. Sponsored by Tudor.
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.