More than two decades ago, I bought a one-way ticket to the island of Kaua‘i after another venture failed spectacularly. (That’s a really good story… for another time.) I was devastated, broke, and working in the construction industry as an unskilled laborer just to survive, thinking that I had peaked at such a young age, and it was all downhill from there. But at least I was living in Hawai‘i. I spent my free time exploring, but I got frustrated when weekend after weekend I couldn’t find a particular beach I’d heard about that I wanted to visit. I looked at a couple of guidebooks, but they all referred to a road that hadn’t existed in a long time. And I dreamed that maybe I could find a way to do it better.
Within days of entertaining that dream, however, I had to return to the mainland due to the declining health of my mother, who passed away shortly thereafter.
It was while I was away that a plan emerged—I would return to Kaua‘i and start writing guidebooks. There were just a few problems with this plan: I had no writing skills, I didn’t know how a book was published, I wasn’t good at photography, I didn’t know how to use a computer very well, and I had no money.
So I spent a year on the mainland and applied for every credit card I could and tried to acquire the skills I would need to make my dream come true. Just when I was ready to return to the islands in 1992, I watched in horror as a category 4 hurricane smashed into Kaua‘i, causing widespread devastation. I didn’t want to pick another island because Kaua‘i was the one I knew, the island I had fallen in love with. Knowing that hurricanes clear out old growth, giving sunlight (and a chance) to encourage younger foliage, I figured that the same might be true in business. So with a huge stack of credit cards and two suitcases, I moved back to a ravaged island and got to work.
I completely covered one of the walls of my 290-square-foot rented room with highly detailed topographic maps of the island, so I could study them while drinking my morning coffee (gotta have coffee). This was before Google Earth, after all.
Over the next year, I spent my mornings exploring the island and checking out various visitor activities like helicopter rides and snorkel tours (which I did anonymously and paid for with my credit cards—at 22% interest). I’d review a restaurant at lunch, and then I’d spend my afternoons doing a hike or swimming a beach in multiple conditions to assess its safety, before returning to my room to have a simple dinner of canned chicken and rice (because it was so cheap), then worked into the evening making my own maps of the island. Before going to bed each night, I would read every book about Hawaiian history I could get my hands on.
The first edition of “the blue book” came out in March 1994. I paid to print the first 10,000 books (with cash advances from that stack of credit cards) and mailed free copies to newspapers for review. The first order was for only one case, but a year later a nationwide bookstore chain agreed to stock the book. It took off from there. Next came Big Island, then Maui and O‘ahu. I packed up my equipment and lived for two years on each island researching, mapping, writing and photographing.
Today the Revealed Series is no longer a one-man show. I have an awesome team that has expanded over the years, but ultimately the books and the apps are an expression of what I think about Hawai‘i and comes from the experience of actually doing all the things you’ll read about. And our ability to keep current and find new things is greatly helped by feedback from our incredibly enthusiastic readers. Please keep it coming.
Once I ran out of islands to write about, I set out to explore what is commonly called Hawai‘i’s 9th island—Las Vegas. As readers of our Hawaii Revealed guidebooks know, we review everything personally and anonymously. So we and our staff spent almost a year researching all the things you can see, do, eat or drink in Vegas.
When we got turned loose in Las Vegas, on our first day in the field we found ourselves in a helicopter—not an uncommon experience in our line of work. But from this helicopter I got to shoot a real machine gun at airplane fuselages on the ground in the mountains near Vegas. Later that day I jumped off a 855-foot high building with only a cable to stop my fall at the end. The next day was snow skiing at nearby Lee Canyon.
When you come to Vegas, you can surf at one of the resorts or have a drink in an ice bar where everything—even your cups—are made of ice. You can drive Lamborghinis, operate a bulldozer for hours, blow up a car, or crush one while driving a tank. You can visit Area 51 (where I lost a drone by the way, though probably not to aliens) or drive a speedboat on the Colorado River—the possibilities for fun go on and on.
Now we are on the hunt for more locations where we can apply our brand of experiential research to produce more books and apps. We’ll keep you posted on our future projects.
Once in a while, if you are really lucky in this life, you find the place and circumstance to which you belong. I hope you will fall in love with Hawai‘i and Las Vegas the way I did, and return often. But wherever you travel in life, take chances, embrace the uncertainty of outcome, go with an explorer’s heart, and most importantly, share what you find with others.
—One lucky buggah, Andrew Doughty
Andrew Doughty is the author of the best-selling travel series for Hawai‘i, including books, eBooks and apps. Please visit our website for more information.