Keith Bellows

of National Geographic Traveler

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a Canadian citizen, Keith Bellows was named editor-in-chief of National Geographic Traveler magazine in January 1998 and a vice president of the National Geographic Society in March 2000. Under his stewardship, the magazine has been nominated for two National Magazine Awards, won more than 60 Lowell Thomas Awards for best travel writing (it has been named best magazine eight of his 11 years), and seven Folio Awards for Best Travel Magazine. As a tip of the hat to new media, Traveler has won an iTunes People’s Choice Award for Best Podcast of 2006, for which Bellows wrote two scripts. Its Intelligent Travel won a 2007 Travvie and a 2009 Lonely Planet Award as best travel blog.

In addition to editing Traveler, Bellows developed a major spinoff of the magazine’s website built around the award-winning special issue 50 Places of a Lifetime. He also writes “One on One,” a regular interview column with compelling figures—Al Gore, hotelier Ian Schrager, Steve Case, Dolly Parton, futurist Andrew Zolli, Island Records founder Chris Blackwell—who have something important to say about how we travel and where we go. He helped position Traveler as a leader in sustainable travel and has made it the travel photography magazine (it runs the world’s biggest travel-photo contest, the only travel cellphone photo contest, and a series of city-based photo seminars regarded as the best in the business). He also helped create journeystreams, an innovative open-source Web program to help students tell stories.

Prior to joining National Geographic, Mr. Bellows was developing Internet content as early as 1994. He worked for Rupert Murdoch’s Delphi Web service; as creative director launched BabyCenter.com (now owned by Johnson & Johnson); was the executive producer of Excite.com; and was founding partner of WestWorld Media, which developed Metallica’s first website and created the college-based Campus Voice.com.

He was the editor of the Smart Health/Smart Parenting Division of the New York-based Meigher Communications, and he was founder of the Media Development Group, Inc., which created print properties for Disney, Utne Reader, Vegetarian Times, and others.

As President/Creative, Whittle Communications, he was the editor of its flagship Special Reports magazine and executive producer of the companion “Special Reports TV with Joan Lunden” (combined, America’s largest TV/print network at the time, with more than 40 million consumers). In his 14 years at Whittle he launched and edited 30 magazines.

He has written for Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Parenting, AARP, and many other magazines. He also wrote The Canuck Book and the 1998 Winter Olympics ACCESS Guide for ABC-TV.

His new book, 100 Places That Will Change Your Child’s Life, is part of a program he is developing to encourage parents, corporations, and schools to view travel as a critical learning tool. It was released in February of 2013.

Mr. Bellows is a graduate of Gordonstoun School (Scotland) and Dartmouth College. He lectures extensively around the world (and is part of the National Geographic Speakers Bureau), and his more than 200 television appearances include the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, and a regular segment on National Geographic Today.

Two years ago, National Geographic Traveler contributing editor Carl Hoffman shared with me an idea for his next book. It struck a chord because when I was ten I was drawn to the subject: the mysterious disappearance in 1961 of Michael Rockefeller in what was then Netherlands New Guinea. Did he drown? Was he shredded by a crocodile or shark? Or, most grisly, was he eaten by cannibals?

National Geographic Traveler magazine publishes 14 international editions in 12 languages. I read–or look at, when there’s a language barrier–them all. They are a window on the world, reflecting the personalities, interests, dream destinations, and visual expressions of their readerships.

Last summer I brought a wisp of my childhood to our dinner table, a game called Geography that my family played when I was growing up. Each person would name a place starting with the last letter of the preceding destination: me, SwedeN; my mother, NormandY; my sister, YellowstonE; and so on. Playing this game, my…

In more than 50 years of airplane travel I’ve logged hundreds of hours in airports. I note this as I sit, facing an unexpected and lengthy delay, in Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. My instinct is to spend as little time as possible here, yet these days I’m conflicted. This is no longer the drab place that 20 years ago offered travelers a handful of newsstands and fast-food joints. These days, Atlanta’s airport, joining many others around the world, is a little city with a broad range of diversions. Now the question is: Should I stay or should I go?

When I became editor of National Geographic Traveler magazine 15 years ago, the word “ecolodge” suggested places that were so pared down and dutiful that many travelers were regarding them as the domain of the backpacker — all basic furnishings and uninspired food. Therefore it is astonishing to see how much the lodging industry has changed in little more than a decade.

My daughter Mackenzie just turned 7. At her birthday party at the Playseum, she stood in front of a child’s version of a world map—no country names, just illustrations of objects like whales and palm trees and pandas. I watched, astonished, as she pointed out dozens of places—Paris, Antarctica, China, Australia. Then it dawned on…

Last week I took our two kids, Chase and Mackenzie, for an inexpensive and easy escape to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Unlike Martha’s Vineyard or the Hamptons, it’s short on celebrities and long on cornfields and regular folks–a bucolic place to play out the last days of summer. Here are some scenes from my Chesapeake Bay…