“Tony Wheeler is dead.”
The rumors, it seems, have been circulating for years. And while Wheeler, founder, along with wife and travel partner Maureen, of Lonely Planet Publications — the largest travel guidebook publisher in the world today — vehemently denies them, it isn’t hard to believe that a guy with a lust for fast cars who has been razored and nearly robbed in Peru, held down crocs (OK, they were babies) in Papua New Guinea and hurtled along twisting remnants of roads on a motorcycle held together with bits of bamboo and wire, has managed to kick the frame somewhere along the way.
Except that he’s easy to spot and shows up all over the world. I saw him last in Australia, at home in an elegant Melbourne suburb on the banks of the Yarra River, not far from the company’s headquarters. A thin man, very fit, and — as the British would say — very “keen” on travel, Wheeler, who can’t sit still for a minute and appears to have the attention span of a gnat, has built a publishing empire on insight, action and an irresistible urge to flee the humdrum. He and Maureen seem to have an unerring compass for out-of-the-way places about to hit the pop charts of travel — or perhaps they are the ones who put them there.
“I really like ‘far out’ places,” writes the antsy publisher in a recent online chat. In the last few years, these have included Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Libya. In 1972, newly married, he and Maureen set out on the trip that would change their lives and shape the journeys of countless travelers. Tony, whose father worked for BOAC — an early incarnation of British Airways — spent his earliest years in Karachi, Pakistan, and much of his childhood adjusting to new environments. He moves easily through the world. Maureen, who found in the rigors of travel a world much safer than the strife-torn Northern Ireland in which she was raised, is every bit as adventurous.
—Linda Watanabe McFerrin
Excerpt: Read more at: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/10/01/CMG7DL1II61.DTL#ixzz0jotIPwYM