TravelTraveler Magazine

National Geographic’s 125th Anniversary

I love National Geographic.

It’s not a secret. Like most of us, I was obsessed as child. I read (or flipped through), every single issue of National Geographic and World magazines. I grew up watching National Geographic Explorer on television, reading National Geographic books, and competing in the National Geographic Bee. I could never get enough of this Society and what they did.

But this adoration of the yellow border does not make me unique. For over a century, National Geographic has inspired millions to fall in love with the world. National Geographic has filled us with wonder for people, places, and things–for countries we can’t pronounce, for science we don’t fully understand. We have gawked at the gripping photos on every page, and then defined a standard of photography that never falls short.

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A wall of National Geographic magazine covers at the 125th Anniversary Exhibit in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler)

For me, working at National Geographic is a dream come true, and this year especially, I feel a real sense of honor to be contributing in my own small way to the great legacy of the Society.

The beginning of this year marked the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Society, when,  on January 13, 1888, 33 men gathered at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC and laid out the charter to establish a geographical society in the United States of America.I wonder if any of those founding fathers had any idea that their little club would grow into the force of global inspiration that it is today.

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A bathing beauty enjoys Kenilworth Gardens in Washington, DC, photographed on autochrome in January 1928 for National Geographic, but never published. (National Geographic Image Collection, photo loup magnification by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler)

Now in this month of October, we commemorate the 125th anniversary of the first issue of National Geographic magazine. In some ways, this special birthday is even more personal for me, because I blame National Geographic entirely for my incurable wanderlust. Every longing I have for a place on the globe can be traced back to a particular story, image, or cover of National Geographic.

To this day, the Society and its magazines are what compel me to travel. To this day, I cannot pick up a copy of National Geographic and not be hit with a powerful drive to walk out the door and head off to some rare corner of the globe to discover their faraway life.

So how can I even begin to celebrate such an illustrious anniversary as this?

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Holding the original October 1888 issue of National Geographic Magazine in anticipation of our 125th Anniversary Expedition around the world. (Photo by Josh Newman, National Geographic Traveler)

By doing what we do best at National Geographic: Embarking on an expedition! Honestly, I’ve been waiting all year for this trip, giddy with the very same wanderlust I had as a child, pinching myself at the destinations that lie in wait (London! Laos! Kigali!), in awe that 125 years after our first explorers, we can simply jet from place to place without a thought beyond which appetizer we’ll choose for dinner.

Having traveled around the world last year, I already know that this trip is going to be simply amazing. My only regret is that I cannot take each and every one of you along. Some of you have traveled with me online now for years, and I sincerely wish you could be by my side as we celebrate the very thing that we all love, National Geographic.

Alas, the plane has numbered seats and weight restrictions, I imagine, leaving me to represent all of you on this expedition of a lifetime. Though you won’t get your passport stamped or your swimsuit wet, I truly hope that all of you will follow along for the next 24 days, as I explore some of the most intriguing and beautiful (and exotic!) parts of the globe, paying homage to the reason all of us are here . . . . National Geographic.

Join me for a Twitter chat on Thursday, October 24 at 5 p.m. EST with fellow National Geographic journalists Dan Stone and Spencer Millshap. We’ll be answering your questions about exploration and more via @WheresAndrew, @danenroute, and @spano and will use the hashtag #enroute.

This trip is one of the many ways to travel with National Geographic Expeditions. To learn more about all of our travel programs, click here.