He was born somewhere in the Belgian Congo, attended prep school in Scotland (with Prince Charles, he always claimed) and followed it up with an Ivy League education (English, Dartmouth). He was a sailor and an ice hockey player, a writer and a thinker. He sported the unruly gray mane and the rumpled look of an explorer always in a hurry. Keith Bellows, who helmed this magazine for 17 years until he stepped down last October, was a giant in the world of travel journalism. In an industry marked by larger-than-life editors, he was as big as they came. But though he reveled in the printed word, he was one of the first to foresee the coming digital revolution, and he prepared the staff for it. He called the ups-and-downs of the business a “Nantucket sleigh ride,” and rode it gleefully. To contributing editor Andrew Nelson, he was a superb wordsmith “who could spot a manuscript’s strengths and flaws in a single read, and he was unsparing in his criticism if he thought it could be made better.” To members of the travel industry like Kristian Jorgensen, CEO of Fjord Norway, he was a visionary “with the intuitive ability of seeing what was unique about a destination and finding the best way of communicating this.” To our staff he was a champion of excellence as well as a fierce believer in the power of travel to change the world. He spent his last years working to give his children—Adam, Chase, and MacKenzie—and all children the transformative gift of travel.
—Norie Quintos, executive editor, National Geographic Traveler, August 2015
This appreciation was published in the November 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveler. Photo © Daniel R. Westergren