Richard Bangs

Richard Bangs is the co-founder / Chief Adventure Officer of Steller, a pioneer in travel, digital media, e-commerce and has been called the father of modern adventure travel. In the early 90s Richard produced the first internet travel site - MTSobek,, the first travel CD ROM - The Adventure Disc, and the first virtual expeditions - Terra Quest.

He was the founder and editor-in-chief of Mungo Park, a pioneering Microsoft travel publishing effort, and was part of the founding executive team of He was the publisher of Expedia Travels Magazine, executive producer of Expedia Radio, and founder of Expedia Cafes. He served as president of Outward Bound, founded for Slate, and was founding editor and executive producer of Great Escapes, another Microsoft Travel initiative. He ran and founded First and Best for MSN, and founded Sobek Expeditions, which in the early 1990s merged with Mountain Travel to become Mountain Travel Sobek. 

He recently co-directed the IMAX Film, Mystery of the Nile, and co-authored the Putnam book of the same name. His recent book, The Lost River: A Memoir of Life, Death and the Transformation of Wild Water, won the National Outdoor Book Award in the literature category, and the Lowell Thomas Award for best book. 

Richard executive produced and hosted the Emmy-winning PBS series, Richard Bangs’ Adventures with Purpose, and his companion book, Adventures with Purpose, won the 2007 best book award from NATJA. His latest books are Quest for the Sublime (2008), and Quest for the Kashah (2009).

In 2007, he won the Mark Dubois lifetime achievement conservation award and in 2008 the CINE Golden Eagle Award for the special, Quest for Kaitiakitanga, and six Tele Awards for Quest for the Nile, Quest for the Sublime, and Quest for the Kasbah. Quest for Kaitiakitanga was nominated for an Environmental Media Award (“The Green Oscars”) for best documentary, and won the annual Platinum Award from HSMAI (Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International). His film Quest for the Viking Spirit won the 2009 Gold Lowell Thomas award for best documentary; and the same award for 2010 for the India show. Also, the series won two Emmys in 2010 in the History/Culture categories.

In 2011 Richard won the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Gold Award for Hong Kong: Quest for the Dragon—2011; the 2011 CINE Golden Eagle Award for Greece: Quest for the Gods; and two Telly Awards for Hong Kong: Quest for the Dragon. 

Richard’s show Quest for Harmony won the Gold in the Destination Marketing Category of the 2012 Travel Weekly Magellan Awards, as well as two Bronze Telly Awards, and the 2012 Lowell Thomas Award. His special, Richard Bangs’s South America: Quest for Wonder, won two Telly Awards for 2013; and the Cine Golden Eagle for 2013.

3 words to describe Nature? 

Essentiality. Sublime. Divine. 

I would add diversity, variety, irregularity, indefiniteness, and vastness, and the feelings they provoke.

3 things Nature taught you? 

To be mindful of all living things.

To travel softly and responsibly.

That water always beats stone

3 most treasured Nature spots?

The curled lip of a rapid on a wild river

A steep and distant canyon

The full-moon rainbow above Victoria Falls

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel...? 

Something on the other side of thought and language.

When you see a forest, it makes you feel...? 

A pleasing kind of stupor and imagination.

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel...? 

A fizzy, faintly erotic feeling of terror. It is violence and terror mingled with exultation.

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel...? 

A kind of supernatural calm that charms the senses and the mind into a forgetfulness of oneself and of everything else in the world.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel...? 

An alternation of hope and fear, an agitation in the heart, a reminder that life is more intensely lived the closer one gets to its extinction. I never feel so alive as when I sense the possibility of death.

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel...? 

A tingling with a pulse, an unaccustomed tune that adds a new excitement to life. Elements of disturbance, awe, horror, risk, danger, and pleasure.

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person? 

A river person

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being? 


Share with us a childhood nature memory? 

My father never really cared much for the outdoors. He preferred a cozy chair and a fat book, a night at the movies, maybe a ball game on TV, certainly restaurant food. But one weekend when I was a small boy he took me camping. I don’t remember where he took me, but it was by a river, a swift-flowing stream, clear and crisp. I have a faint memory now that my dad had a difficult time setting up the tent, but somehow worked it out and he was proud of the task. With some soda pop and our fishing poles, we went down to the river to have one of those seminal father-son bonding experiences.

 The air told me first that we were someplace special. It whooshed, delivering the cool message of a fast river on a hot summer day. Then a muffled sound came from behind, back at camp, and we turned around and could see through the trees that the tent had collapsed. My dad said something under his breath and started up the hill, then turned back to me and said, “Don’t go in the river!”

 They were the wrong words.

 At first I put my hand in the water to swish it around and was fascinated by the vitality, the power that coursed through my arm, into my chest, and up into my brain. I looked in the middle of the stream, where tiny waves burst into a million gems and then disappeared. It was magic, pure magic. I stepped into the river to my waist and felt the water wrap around and hug me and then tug at me like a dog pulling a blanket. Another step and the water reached my chest and pulled me down wholly into its vigorous embrace. I was being washed downstream.

Effortlessly, the current was carrying me away from confinement, toward new and unknown adventures. I looked down and watched as a color wheel of pebbles passed beneath me like a cascade of hard candy. After a few seconds I kicked my way to shore perhaps a hundred yards downstream. When I crawled back to land I had changed. My little trip down the river had been the most exhilarating experience of my life. I felt charged with energy, giddy, cleansed, and fresh, more alive than I could remember. I practically skipped back to the fishing poles and sat down with a whole new attitude, and secret.

When my father came back, he never noticed anything different. And I didn’t volunteer anything. The August sun had dried my shorts and hair, and I was holding my pole as though it had grown as an extension of my arm since he left. Only my smile was different—larger, knowing. I grew in that little trip, like corn in the night.

We didn’t catch any fish that day, but I caught something that would stay with me for years: a knowledge that the clearest way into the universe is off-the-path, upside-down, and downstream…