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Alumni Spotlight

Photo of Don MankinAn Adventure Seeking Globe Trotter::
Don Mankin
BS 1964 Electrical Engineering

Theologian and philosopher Saint Augustine once said, "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." At 71 years old, Drexel graduate Don Mankin is making his way through this book, one adventure at a time.

After earning a BS in electrical engineering from Drexel in 1964 and a PhD in psychology from The Johns Hopkins University, Don worked for 35 years as a psychology professor and dean at various universities and has consulted for many organizations.

During his time in academia, Don took advantage of his free summers by traveling the world.

"For most of my life I didn't travel at all, though it was always something that I wanted to do," he said. "It wasn't until I was 27 that I left the country for the first time with my rugby team."

Over time, Don's summer pastime turned into a true passion. It was at dinner one night, when a friend offered him some honest advice, that the course of Don's life took a new direction.

"He told me that I should be writing about my travels," said Don. "He pointed out that I talk more enthusiastically about traveling than about my work."

Don admitted that the thought had never crossed his mind before, but after that conversation he decided to contact an agent and put together a proposal for a book on adventure travel. Fast forward to 2008 and his book, Riding the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean: A Guide to 50 Extraordinary Adventures for the Seasoned Traveler was published by National Geographic Press.

 The book provides personal, psychologically-rich descriptions of exotic trips for adventure-hungry baby boomers. In addition to the book, Don writes articles, blogs, and speaks about his experiences, and in 2011 and 2012 he won first-place awards from the North American Travel Journalists Association for print articles in the 50+ Travel and Travelers Category.

"Travel is an essential part of learning about who you are, finding your limits and the things that interest you," he said. "I also tell people that you're never too old to have profound transformative experiences that change your life."

Don's travels have taken him to all seven continents – Antarctica twice – as well as close to 50 different countries. Asked to share his favorite place and he rattled off a list, unable to choose just one.

"Antarctica is great, and I also love Alaska," he said. "South East Asia is one of my favorite places, and so is Australia. Oh, and I can't forget about Africa!" he added.

When it comes to deciding where to go for his next trip, Don starts out by looking at a rapidly shrinking list of places he hasn't yet been.

"If someone describes a trip to me, I know if it is something I will really enjoy; I have a gut reaction," he said. "But what I enjoy can be really obscure sometimes!" he laughed.

Most recently, Don and his wife and travel partner Katherine spent 12 days on a train, riding from Moscow to Beijing. While spending several days on a not-so-spacious train with dozens of strangers doesn’t sound like a dream vacation to many, it was an opportunity Don knew he just couldn't pass up.

"My family emigrated here from Russia," he said. "When I talked about the trip on my blog, I frequently wrote from the perspective of what it was like to go back to my family's birthplace."

 Don says that when he writes about travel it's from a psychological, subjective, and experiential point of view. He taps into his background in psychology to write about how to anticipate and deal with challenges that people encounter as they travel.

Wherever he goes, Don is constantly reminded of how adventure travel and experiences can be a powerful force in transforming our lives.

"Travel transforms individuals and it transforms the world," he said. "The world can come together if people would travel more and become more open to working and living with other cultures. I believe that it would be a much better place if we all got out and experienced more of it."

Next up for Don and Katherine is a three-week excursion driving up Ireland's western coast. With many more trips on the horizon and a great big world to explore, Don says he expects to run out of years before he runs out of places to go.

For more information on Don, including his blog, The Adventure Geezer, visit his website, adventuretransformations.com.


alumni@drexel.edu