A Dartmouth success story hits the trail

by Laura Quayle | 10/29/03 6:00am

When James Kaiser '99 graduated with an engineering major, he had neither a job nor aspirations of attending medical or law school. With money he had made trading internet stocks during his undergraduate years, Kaiser decided to enter the business of self-publishing travel guides. He founded Destination Press and is now author of the two bestselling travel guides it has published to date.

His first guide, "Acadia Revealed / A Complete Guide," was published in 2001 and followed in 2003 by "Joshua Tree / A Complete Guide."

Kaiser attributed the success of his travel guides to their accuracy as well as the numerous photos they contain, so "you can see where you want to go," he said.

As the challenges involved in running a successful company were taking time away from writing travel guides for Kaiser, he recruited two '03s, Peter Bohler and Peter Brewitt, and John Silkey '00 to assist him in writing a travel guide for the Grand Canyon National Park last summer.

Kaiser's decision to recruit Dartmouth students was inspired by "Let's Go Guides," a company that publishes global travel guides written by Harvard students. "I wanted to do the same thing with Dartmouth students," he said. "They are smart, capable and love the outdoors."

Bohler and Brewitt both said the all-Dartmouth composition of the company helped them relate to each other in a more laid-back atmosphere.

Bohler, who majored in engineering modified with studio art, said he learned about the opportunity to work for Destination Press from a DOC announcement. Bohler said his photography courses at Dartmouth as well involvement in DOC, especially Cabin and Trail, prepared him to be a photographer for the Grand Canyon travel guide.

He feels a "key part of getting the job" was the experience he gained on a Scandinavian trek with Brewitt in 2002, during which he researched John Ledyard's travels.

Brewitt, a history major, said that his Dartmouth background prepared him with skills in working under pressure as well as "the ability to write clearly, and yet have it lively and readable," that helped him write trail descriptions for Destination Press.

Bohler and Brewitt, who spent July on the North Rim in Kanab, Utah and August on the South Rim in Flagstaff, Arizona, said the most rewarding part of their work was the experience of visiting these locations. Brewitt feels the Grand Canyon is "like nowhere else on earth," and his job allowed him "not only to live there, but get paid to live there."

For Kaiser, the best part of writing travel guides is "holding a book that you have completed in your hand and knowing that others are using it to enjoy their vacations."

He plans on revising the Acadia National Park guide this summer, a project for which he is seeking more Dartmouth students.

In the more distant future, Kaiser said, "I would love to have a publishing company that has put out guides to some of the best places to travel in the U.S. and maybe someday the world."