In December 1996 I began a very rudimentary travel site called Dave’s Travel Corner in anticipation of what would be a life changing college sponsored trip to Nepal. It was my first major international trip and was the direct inspiration for building a travel centered lifestyle focused around creating content for this travel site.
I experienced cultural and religious activities completely foreign to me including bodies being cremated outdoors, poverty and extreme hardship in the Himalayas including severe altitude sickness combined with food poisoning resulting in having to be carried down the mountain on the backs of several individuals.
I had never before experienced anything like this trip in my life; my very limited previous travels were within the U.S., Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico. The memories and feelings of this trip sat with me every day for over a year.
I began adding to Dave’s Travel Corner in college; it has always been called Dave’s Travel Corner but for the first 3 years it was a sub domain hosted at pon.net/travel (it was very common in the early days of the Internet to host personal or business sites off of a main root domain). The site was extremely simple at the time including some links to other travel related sites, basic classifieds for friends and family and a few photographs. By early 1998 the focus of the site was on several guides, primarily California focused. The earliest screen shot that Wayback Machine has of the site is January 14, 1998 which can be seen here.
The core of the site continues to be the same: to document my own travels and provide helpful travel information and inspiration to others. The original content has significantly expanded and now includes interviews, in depth guides, thousands of photographs, videos, and what is a key part of the site, content contributions from other travelers and travel enthusiasts.
The early site was coded by hand using some now forgotten basic programming language, strongly helped out by a friend who co-founded an Internet Service Provider. Keep in mind, these were the days of extremely slow dial-up Internet access; my first modem in the early 1990s was 1200bps followed by one twice as fast at 2400bps. When a graphical interface program came out for managing websites, I was super excited. I do remember the name of this program because I spent years using it and fighting all its bugs; it was called Microsoft Front Page. Despite all its problems it was an evolutionary step in web design for Dave’s Travel Corner – being able to edit as a graphical interface rather than a text one.
I received an email out of the blue from Yahoo Travel sometime in the very early 2000s. The request was to advertise on Dave’s Travel Corner. I remember the incredible excitement of that email; it was the first interest in the site from any advertiser. Not long after, I had the bright idea to email all the advertisers in the back of the National Geographic Traveler magazine. Several replied including one serious inquiry from Bruce Poon Tip the founder of what was then called Gap Adventures (now G Adventures). His company was the first advertiser I landed by being proactive.
The next major step in our content management was to move part of the site to a content management system called TypePad (still in existence). It had less bugs than Front Page but seemed to be more limited. WordPress first hit the market in 2003 but I don’t remember it becoming popular with travel bloggers until around 2008 and even more so in subsequent years. This platform was a game changer. I held back from converting the site over for several years simply because of the amount of work needed to transition over all our existing content to this platform.I remember wishing I had started a new site around then because it would have been so easy to start from scratch with WordPress. Eventually after more than a year we had most of the site in WordPress; a friend created a significant customized backend to allow contributed content. That was a major upgrade from previous where we had required users to email in content and then we had to add it to the site by hand (an extremely time-consuming process). Contributors have become an extremely important part of the site; to date more than 700 contributors have posted content on Dave’s Travel Corner.
Some of our early online friends (primarily met through the instant message program, ICQ) in the late 1990s became some of our earliest contributors. One, Teh Chin Liang who we met on ICQ in 1998 now oversees the interview section of the site and is doing a way better job than I ever did!
And through the site itself, I have met a number of people who share a similar passion for travel, including several who have become good friends over the years.
In the early days communication regarding content published on Dave’s Travel Corner was exclusively through email. I remember receiving many emails with travel related questions. I tried to answer them all. I even printed them all out one year, filling a large spiral ringed binder. It is nice to know that email communication has not disappeared.
The next evolution of the site began when we started receiving offers from tourism boards offering to pay the cost of our trip in return for content posted on Dave’s Travel Corner. One of our earliest such trips, which was even more exiting to me than our first advertiser, was a post Hurricane Katrina recovery promotion trip for select travel writers and journalists hosted by Visit New Orleans. These ‘sponsored’ trips soon became an important part of building content on the site, including from my personal participation as well as select trusted writers who I send on my behalf.
Around the time press trips began to materialize I became aware of travel industry hosted events and joined a number of these including Travel Massive and other destination specific gatherings. These have been important for networking, meeting other travelers and writers along with PR representatives and those working in the tourism space. Some of my business has directly resulted from these events and or memberships.
At one point I decided to use press trips to expand my travels and after my contractual work was completed, I would take advantage of already being in a destination and would further explore nearby countries on my own.
Tourism boards and other travel businesses began sending me press releases. So I started posting those and continue to do so. I started the Tip of the Month (later called Highlight of the Month) in February 2000, promoting a memorable place or space that I had personally visited. The first one was Chada Thai Cuisine in Chico, California – remarkably this restaurant is still in business. We continue to post one Highlight of the Month on the first of every month; today they are scheduled in advance 5 to 6 years.
I began working with tourism boards and other travel companies in a closer capacity. One highlight included being chosen as one of only several CorOZpondents to travel to and promote Australian experiences. Another time I was chosen to be on a Facebook Live show in partnership with HotelTonight and Capital One Venture Card, where participants spun a gameshow type wheel and the city the arrow stopped on was the city we were flown to later that day!
I remember around 2008 when someone told me to join a social networking platform called Facebook which was attracting primarily a younger audience at the time. So, I did. And then it was Twitter and so many other new platforms being created during the so-called DotCom years. During those years I was continuously approached to partner with new travel related startups. Most of those were out of business within a year or two. I still receive inquiries although far fewer these days. It was a great time to be young and be willing to try all these various platforms.Social media of course is now mainstream, and our accounts are yet another part of the digital world extremely vital to Dave’s Travel Corner. SEO eventually became a critical component of operating websites with content vying for top placement on Google. I remember at one point when Google Page Rank was one of the only indicators of a page’s popularity, one of my pages was accidentally a Page Rank 9. Advertisers soon discovered this page and reached out for placement.
Over the years I spent significant time keeping track of other in English, .com domain name personally owned and written active travel blogs. My list online reached nearly 10,000 such travel blogs, but became way to time intensive to maintain since nearly all of these blogs were offline or were no longer being updated within a year or two. I recall two instances of when traveling overseas, randomly recognizing and then introducing myself to travel bloggers (who I had recognized through my intense curation of this travel blog list, one being Dan and Audrey of Uncornered Market in tiny Saba, Caribbean and the other being the couple behind Watermelon Nomads in Bucharest, Romania).
As a result of my work on Dave’s Travel Corner, a number of outlets over the years reached out requesting I write articles including Robb Report and the Four Seasons Magazine. I’ve also pitched publications resulting in additional article placements.
And due to the length of time running this site and my insights into travel, I began to be interviewed by other travel bloggers or those interested in my story. It has been highly enjoyable to participate in a number of fun podcasts, videos and written interviews.
I don’t know what the next evolution will be, centered around media and travel, or if there will be one anytime soon. But as long as my passion for travel and curiosity remains strong, I will keep updating, adding content and exploring new opportunities for Dave’s Travel Corner.
With 175 countries and territories visited to date, I have experienced both numerous highs and lows. The following locations are several of my favorite travel destinations:
Antarctica – there is nowhere else on the globe like this continent – from its wildlife, weather and visually stunning beauty.
Iran – features next level hospitality and such deeply rooted history.
Thailand – more than 20 years of traveling to this country has a strong hold on me from its people, food and culture.
Nepal – this is where this all started. The Himalayas are the greatest mountains on the planet.
Peru – one of my most visited countries, offers extensive geographical diversity.
Palau – I love tropical islands. Many destinations could be in the running for my favorite islands including parts of French Polynesia.
And just a few experiences which have been highlights to date are:
Petra, Jordan – combines the best of both the human and the natural worlds. One needs several days here due to its size.
Song Kul, Kyrgyzstan. This highly picturesque high altitude lake is totally undeveloped. Yurt camping.
Iguazu and Victoria Falls – two of the greatest falls on the entire planet.
Lago 69, Peru. Located in the Cordillera Blanca, this beautiful lake is surrounded by stunning mountains and glaciers.
Lake Louise, Alberta. Without a doubt this is one of the most special places I have ever visited on the planet.
Climbing the 6,000 meter Tocllaraju in Peru with friends.
Staying in some amazing resorts over the years including in Thailand, Maldives, French Polynesia and Australia among others.
An intense and harsh several week trek in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Discovering approximately a pound and a half of gold nuggets in quartz rock from a personal mining claim in California.
Writing a book about all the freeways in Los Angeles county.
Eating exotic and unique foods including huge live larvae, live octopus, spiders, camel, horse, bugs, scorpions, rat, bat and dog among other culinary oddities.
Trekking among gorillas in either the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda or Uganda.
Visiting Venezuela with a mandatory trek to Angel Falls and climb to the top and rappel all the way down.
And visiting Madagascar, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Greenland, Iraq and a few more of the stans’ in Central Asia.
Not all travel is a positive experience. Here are only a few instances.
Over the years (probably partly due to my adventurous appetite) I’ve been deathly ill from severe food poisoning and altitude sickness. My notebook was stolen almost under my eyes at the Johannesburg Airport, later resurfacing in a scrap yard. I was notified of this by some tough looking guy on Twitter who reached out to me. Almost froze in early Spring in Spain trying to sleep in an abandoned field covered in cardboard. Trekking in the middle of Jordan in the middle of the summer resulted in having to drink a combination of my own urine and water, due to the intense heat.
I was pulled over in Lesotho so police could examine the registration on my rental vehicle. Another motorist pulled a 9mm handgun on the police but fortunately he did not fire the weapon; he was quickly mauled by several police using their batons. Chased by wild dogs in Mexico. To many times. Been so ill on fishing boats that I threw up until there was nothing left resulting in being so physically weak that I could not walk. This has happened numerous times at altitude and or due to food poisoning. Bribed every few miles in Guinea Bissau. Escaped the Ivory Coast right as a coup was happening. Stood in markets in Haiti built on meters and meters of nothing but garbage and raw running sewage. Missed flights due to not checking AM versus PM departures. And the list goes on…
I have learned two significant lessons from several decades of traveling: one, travel builds perspective and two, fear is typically based on a lack of knowledge or understanding and often causes over reactions. Fear is simply an integral gut reaction that often trumps perspective, rational thought or the reality of a situation.
And through my travel site I discovered Napa Valley. A simple article published on Dave’s Travel Corner in 2006 about visiting larger wineries (focusing on related experiences and things to do in the valley), has morphed into a lifelong project in which I am visiting, tasting, and extensively reviewing nearly all Napa Valley based wineries or producers.
To date, remarkably I’ve visited, tasted with and written about more than 1,100 Napa Valley based wineries – and have made hundreds of revisits to keep these reviews updated and nearly 600 unique visits to places and spaces around the country and planet strongly connected to wineries in Napa Valley. These are all listed under the Review section on Napa Wine Project www.napawineproject.com
I realize now that travel is my passion and wine is my obsession 🙂
As my friend Ric Gazarian recently mentioned, here is to another 25 years!