Meeting at the History Center: Robert Downes…The Writing Life

Monday, June 9 2014

Robert Downes…The Writing Life

7 p.m….History Center of Traverse City, 322 Sixth St.

Robert (Bob) Downes, author of Planet Backpacker: The Good Life Bumming Around the World, has backpacked through more than 50 countries, with destinations ranging from the supercities of the Third World to the heart of the American wilderness.

Bob was 54 when he set out to bicycle and backpack around the world in 2007, pursuing a lifelong dream. The journey was a return to a ‘parallel world’ of adventure travel which he calls “Planet Backpacker.”

“During my earliest travels as a teenager, I became aware that there is an alternative world of gypsy travelers paralleling our own,” Downes says. “You would seldom — if ever — meet them in the ordinary world, but as soon as you hit the road, the portals would open, revealing the oddest people, along with young adventurers heading for distant horizons. It’s not a Twilight Zone or a parallel dimension, but an actual world that escapes the notice of those who stay put. It’s an ‘other’ reality.”

Until its recent sale, Downes was the editor and co-publisher of the alternative Northern Express Weekly in Traverse City, Michigan. The publication has a distribution of up to 30,000 copies in 13 counties. He and his best friend George Foster launched the Northern Express in 1991. Participants in the running and triathlon boom of the ’80s, the partners started the paper to celebrate the recreation lifestyle of northern Michigan.

Born in 1952, Downes attended Wayne State University in Detroit, graduating in 1976 with a major in journalism and a minor in photography.

Downes developed a passion for street photography in Detroit’s inner city during his college days, an experience that later proved useful in relating to other cultures around the world.

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