For Ten Years, I was Kent’s Boss–Because that’s What He Did

Kent St. John and Max Hartshorne of GoNOMAD in Great Barrington, MA.
Kent sharing a box of books with me in  Great Barrington, MA, 2010

He always called me his boss. Kent liked that, because it said a lot about how he treated  his role as one of GoNOMAD’s most prolific contributors. He was a professional traveler, and blogger, and photographer and his life was about the journey. He lived it to the utmost.

Last night I stayed up very late reading the tributes that poured in over Facebook from friends, traveling companions and others who knew my dear friend Kent E. St. John. It was an outpouring of love, people felt so very strongly about him, he made that kind of an impression. One of the things that I always noticed was that on every press trip, the hosts would rave about how fun he was and what a great addition to the crew.

There was simply no one who did a better job of spreading the word and carrying the torch for our GoNOMAD Travel mission than dear old Kentski. He made his writing and blogging his life’s work, and was as devoted to it as anyone could be.

I got so many comments back from the journalists who traveled with him, and boy, this guy traveled like on one else. He visited more than 100 countries, and sometimes he’d go on back to back trips, returning from Asia and then spending a night with Lisa, only to get back on a plane and head for Europe.  We met on the phone in 2000, when I was editor of Transitions Abroad, then we met in person one August afternoon when he and Lisa came to visit me and we sat outside drinking wine and talking travel. We stayed close friends for the next ten years, regularly visiting, going to New York to exhibit at the New York Times Travel show, some times traveling together, and sometimes vacationing together. One memorable time was when he rented our family house in Edgartown, and we came to visit and had a big lobster fest. It reminded me of the scene in Annie Hall with the lobsters, laughs, time on the porch, big dinners and a lot of fun.

We traveled together to Hungary in 2004, with a group of European writers who were so cheap that they wouldn’t pay for any drinks. Kent took care of everyone, buying bottle after bottle, and and lending cigarettes and money to a cheapskate Brit who never bothered to exchange his pounds for the local currency. We got a good laugh at that, hearing them referring to us ‘Americanos’  from the front of the bus, and at at older writer from Amsterdam we dubbed The Dutchman, who forgot to bring any shoes and couldn’t take the hike with us in his suit and tie.

Kent’s writing was lyrical, he hit some special notes, he had a way of capturing a place–I remember him referring to “Sultry Budapest,” in one piece, and how well he captured the smoky cozy darkness of Stockholm in December, another trip we took together. Time and again he nailed that essential question, “what’s it like there.”  Reading a KSJ story you got a chance to really know that.