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Happy Birthday to Around the World in Eighty Years – and to ME!


I turn a ripe 42 years old today. On a more important note, Around the World in Eighty Years turns two-years old!

Jim O’Donnell. Wheeler Peak, 13,159 feet (4,011 m), August 5, 2012

I posted a shot of myself last year on my birthday.  So, here is a brand new one from my hike a few days ago to the highest point in New Mexico.


This site started on a whim.  Maybe most travel blogs do.  At a very tough point in my life I was re-evaluating what I was doing and where I was going.  A failed marriage, lost job….these things will make you think….

I bought the domain name, got WordPress installed with the help of my friend Nicole at Neek Design and slapped up this announcement:

This website is under construction. It’s slow going, I find, as you try to squeeze in learning and constructing at the same time as normal life.  It will change dramatically over the coming weeks as I fill it with content and shift things around. I’m open to your opinions and suggestions. Click the contact link and send me a note.

That was early August 2010.

A few days later I made my first REAL post, a photograph of St. Basil’s in Moscow that I took in the summer of 1989 while there on a program through the University of Colorado.

I wasn’t totally new to blogging. In 2003, Nichole set up then helped me run the now-defunct website Taigawalk so that I could blog as I walked 1500 miles across Finland that summer; a trip that resulted in my first book Notes for the Aurora Society.

Then, in the summer of 2004, I started writing at the progressive political blog DailyKos under the name “environmentalist”, where I built up a pretty good reputation for solid, well-researched articles, many of which (I’m happy to say) were pretty popular. Soon after I became a front page blogger at the public policy site Unbossed (also defunct) and suddenly received quite a number of invitations to write for small to mid-range publications – all unpaid, of course.

And all really just on the side.  Things I did when I had time.

Political blogging was my professional downfall. Politics is a sick business.

My original intention with Around the World in Eighty Years was not to enter the world of travel blogs nor start a business of any sort.  I had my conservation consulting business and, while that wasn’t rocking, it wasn’t bad either. Still….my thoughts in starting the site circled inside the ball that is my brain along with questions like “what is it I love to do?”, “what fulfills me?”, “when am I happiest?”

We all know, deep down, what makes us happy.  Where we get confused is when we start throwing words like “should” into the mix.  I knew that travel, writing and photography were the things that made me most happy.  They were also the things I always set aside first when it came to running the rest of my life.  I was forever sacrificing the things most important to me (after my kiddos, of course) for the “Shoulds”.

Classic mid-life crisis, I guess.


My initial thought with Around the World in Eighty Years was to get my old travel photographs and some of my travel stories out of the closet and into the light. Just for me and just for fun.  Hence the shot of St. Basil’s (re-posted a few months later in a better format) and followed by one of my favorite photos from the island of Aspö in Finland.

I went on in that vein for several weeks, sticking up a “My Shot of the Day” until I started getting emails from folks kindly praising my work and from some travel bloggers welcoming me to the community.  Travel blogging?  What the hell is that?  I even got emails from people wanting to purchase my photography! Still others asked me to guest post on their website and others who asked me to do family portraits and a winery wanting me to take photos for their calender….the goodness just kind of took off!!!!

I published Rise and Go last winter.

Over the past two years then, this website has lead me on a major course of self-revelation and re-evaluation.  I’ve blogged about Haiti, India, Norway, Canada, Peru, France and, of course, New Mexico among many others.


I slowly built up the site with alot of kind advice from other bloggers and alot of research done on late nights when my kids were snoring in the other room.  I started to sell photographs and have had alot of fun writing about my travels and things that I am interested in.

The encouragement I’ve gotten from all sorts friends (early and enthusiastic supporters were friends Sandra Harris, Stella Allen, John Mata and Maria Lemus among others) , Facebook fans and especially my mother has been spectacular.

I’ve got from a readership of one (myself) to nearly 2000 people a month.  23 people subscribe to to my email newsletter (I encourage you to do so too – go to the homepage, right hand column just under the section about me and enter your address).

I did a major re-vamp of this site in December 2011. A few months ago I attended my first travel writing/blogging conference, TBEX in Keystone, Colorado.

Still, making a living as a writer and photographer was at the edge of my mind. A fantasy only because….who the hell can make a living doing that?!?!

But guess what?  I’ve started to make some money.  Not enough yet to survive but more every month is seems.  Not only am I selling photos and blogging on this site but I’m starting to nail down freelance writing jobs that would never have been possible had I not built this website and gone forward doing something I really loved – even if just in the evenings.

Around the World in Eighty Years has inadvertently become a platform for me to launch a new career in writing and photography  –  independent of location.

Over the next year I’m looking to make the full transition from the various consulting gigs I have now to that of a full-time writer and photographer.

Look for alot more good stuff coming up at Around the World in Eighty Years and thank you so much for coming by.


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