In 2005, I took the web skills I’d picked up in the mid 1990’s to hand code a website called Modern Gonzo. The idea was to record my one-year solo journey around the world in as much detail as possible, and let others follow me along for the ride. It was one of the first branded travel blogs, gathering thousands of interviews and photos with 3000-word weekly reports, hotel and restaurant reviews, musings and insights. As I somehow morphed into a fully-fledged travel writer, and then a TV host, the gonzo spirit of a wild backpacker no longer aligned with a journalist staying in $2000-a night ocean villas. Modern Gonzo evolved into a more mature personal branded website – robinesrock.com. Things change, although I’m proud to have a Gonzo tattoo on my calf as a permanent reminder of that bold, exciting and anything-goes period of my early travels. Today I launch the third iteration of my travel career with a new site that doesn’t look like it belongs in the 2000s (was that even a decade?) Unlike Modern Gonzo, which I managed to gather into a book that increasingly feels like a study in ancient travel history, I was able to keep the full archive of the old blog in the new. The rest of the pages look snappier and flashier and Perfect Web Creations did a great job. What happens next?
Vignette Alert: I’m travelling with a group of travellers on a 6-day trip down the east coast of Tasmania (something I highly recommend when we get this pandemic under control). I’m with three older Americans, proud Trump supporters. There’s other Americans and Australians and Kiwis and Irish, proudly anti-Trump. We’re hiking and biking and kayaking and I was curious how this would all play out. If you’re assuming: fireworks and arguments and yelling and fistfights, you’ve been watching too much news. While the topic of politics wasn’t front and centre, when it did come up it remained civil and respectful. Both sides listened, and mutually understood - without any need for a reminder - that there would be no changing minds. Walking among wombats on Maria Island or paddling on calm waters in Freycinet National Park, it was just a group of diverse people getting along famously regardless of their political outlook. This is what humanity is most of the time, we just don't hear about it, but if you need a daily reminder, consider how cars merge on a highway: nobody has to let anyone in, they just do.
I’ve seen the coming together of two sides before, in the Czech countryside, on a two-day jaunt into the countryside with backpackers and three young American soldiers taking R&R from their deployment in Iraq. And in Istanbul, where a young Jew broke bread with young Arabs under the shadow of a minaret and together discovered we are brothers dreaming of peace. This is the Power of Travel, and these are the stories that don’t get much air as we continue drown under the weight of rage, anger, mob mentality, misinformation, manipulation and fear.
In my Breaking Boundaries keynote, I talk about intention as being a critical component before we take on any new project. My intention, therefore, for the latest public iteration of my career is to focus on the power of travel to connect, heal, and bridge; to use my voice and platform to inspire, showcase, and entertain against a tidal wave of negativity and over-information. As I get older, I’m also aware that my belief systems are hardening. It is a gift of youth to be fluid, idealistic, passionate. It is the gift of age to be steady, committed, and realistic. Winston Churchill never actually said: “If you are not a liberal when you are young, you have no heart, and if you are not a conservative when old, you have no brain” but the same misquoted sentiment has been shared many times by many people over many centuries. Fact is: my gonzo reporting often struck against the grain and went there while others didn’t. These days, that attitude can get you cancelled.
Age has taught me caution, but travel – and many years of writing – has taught me to observe, with an open-minded, positive and sincere approach. You can visit other blogs to re-affirm and celebrate your political and cultural beliefs. This one is a campfire that invites everyone of all ages to enjoy the warmth of rich physical and cultural experiences. Pull up a chair every month and lets see what happens next.
Please come in. Mahalo for removing your shoes.
After many years running a behemoth of a blog called Modern Gonzo, I've decided to a: publish a book or eight, and b: make my stories more digestible, relevant, and deserving of your battered attention.
Here you will find some of my adventures to over 100 countries, travel tips and advice, rantings, ravings, commentary, observations and ongoing adventures.