In Memoriam: Keith Bellows, Titan of Travel, Braved Uncharted Territories

Keith Bellows turned little things into big things. Here, we share a laugh at a White House event celebrating the success of the Millennial Trains Project. Keith never wore ties, but he made an exception for an MTP bolo.

When you are young with dreams of going somewhere or doing something for the first time, grown-ups — be they mentors, parents, or mere passerby — have an immense power to encourage, embolden, and enable those dreams.

Keith Bellows, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of National Geographic Traveler, the iconic magazine he built over the course of 18 years, knew this power well, and wielded it generously. His realm was the world of travel and everything it had to teach us.

This weekend, after months of battling protracted illness, Keith passed away.

I remember the first time I spoke with Keith by phone in 2012, when I was seeking partnerships to validate a far-fetched idea of using crowd-funded train journeys across the United States as a platform for building next generation leaders.

The call only lasted 10 minutes.

That’s how long it took for Keith to cut off my breathless pitch: “This is a great idea. We’re going to partner with you and help you get this idea off the ground. Let’s schedule a time for you to come in and meet with staff here atTraveler.”

Keith followed through. He brought me in to present the idea of what would become the Millennial Trains Project to the magazine’s editorial staff in a small conference room at the National Geographic Society on 17th street in Washington, DC.

At the time, I was 25 years old. I remember struggling to constrain my embarrassment as Keith introduced me to the discerning staff of the world’s most circulated travel magazine as a young “visionary” that he wanted everyone to get behind.

That was Keith’s way. When he believed in a person, a place, or an idea, he didn’t mince words, pull punches, or waste time. He used his powerful, gravely voice, sharp wit, and immense stature to get others to fall in line.

In this way, he championed little things —> Read More