Why did you make your website?
There wasn’t a particular moment that I thought “I am going to develop a website dedicated to WHS, that serves as a reference for other travellers“. It evolved organically over the past 18 years into what it is now. It started as a personal website about my own WH travels, and I kept on adding features as more and more people got interested. WHS and WH related travel appear to be an inexhaustible subject.
What are the challenges to get the website going and running?
There aren’t any real “challenges”. It does take daily attention though, I usually spend 15-30 minutes on it at 5.30 or 6.00 a.m. before I go to work, and the same amount of time when I come back in the evening. Just checking the various Google Alerts for new links related to individual WHS, authorizing new visitor reviews, keeping track of the latest discusssions on the forum, answering e-mails. I keep this routine going when I am travelling too, fortunately there are very few places nowadays with no internet access. I am also blessed by about a dozen very active contributors, who proactively send me interesting links that they have spotted, point out errors or misfunctioning of the website and make suggestions for new connections. So that’s about 12 extra pairs of eyes and ears.
Any specific major projects such as the voting for “missing” or “best” WHS, or organizing the WH travellers meeting, I take on at weekends when I am not travelling.
Which WHS have been most/least interesting?
This is often the first question that I get when people hear about my WH travel & website. I generally list the Kathmandu Valley as my favourite WHS, but in my Top 20 are also sites such as Meroë, Manu National Park and the Monarch Butterfly Reserves (next to the more generally acclaimed Angkor, Macchu Pichu and Petra) .
There are categories of WHS that I find less interesting. Long-time followers of my website may know that I get easily bored by dripstone caves. But usually I find something of interest, such as the journey to get to a remote WHS. Trying to cover all these WH locations will get you to some very off the beaten track places.
Do you think it is achievable to visit all WHS ?
As long as they keep on adding quite a number of new sites every year, I don’t think it is achievable. It’s a moving target, but that is part of the charm.
Your last trip? And the next one?
My last trip was a 3-week self-organized journey through Rwanda, DR of Congo and Uganda. It incorporated 2 WHS that had not been reviewed by anyone on the website: Virunga National Park and Rwenzori Mountains National Park. Virunga is such an experience--because of the excellent gorilla and chimpanzee sightings, and the glimpse into daily life in eastern Congo that it provides.
My next longer trip will start late April. I will go to Azerbaijan and Iran, taking the overland northern route via Ardabil and Tabriz. In Iran I will celebrate my 600th visited WHS and 100th visited UN Country.
Finally, if you could invite four people to a dinner, who would they be?
I’m definitely not a group person, so I would never invite four people at the same time. I gathered from your previous newsletters that I can invite dead people too? I think I will stick to a one-on-one conservation with a female explorer, someone like Isabella Bird. We would talk about Japan and about how being a travelling attraction herself influenced her observations. We would enjoy a kaiseki dinner.