The adventure began, as many adventures do, with Indiana Jones. Dylan Thuras was infatuated with the globetrotting hero. Thuras was 10-years-old, watching Indiana Jones movies and thinking about what he wanted to be when he grew up. His conclusion — an archeologist. “Then my mom told me what an archeologist actually did,” he says. “So then I wanted to direct movies. And then I wanted to illustrate comics. I’m 35 now, and it’s interesting that aspects of my work touch on all of that.”
Thuras is the co-founder and creative director of Atlas Obscura, an online magazine and digital media company that catalogs unusual and obscure travel destinations with features on travel, exploration, history, science, and more. It has over 1 million page views each week. “Our mission,” the Atlas Obscura website states, “is to inspire wonder and curiosity about the incredible world we share.”
Thuras wants to share that incredible world with children with a new children’s book, Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid. Thuras says, “It’s important to look outward at the world. To find wonder. Joy. The vastness and strangeness of the world. We can share this world beautifully together.” Everywhere Thuras goes — and he’s gone to places like Peruvian jungles and cosmopolitan European cities — is a place where magic is. “Almost everyone I meet, no matter where I go, has a deep sense of place, shares a diversity of wonder, and has an acknowledgement of all us sharing a wondrous world.”
That deep sense of wonder occurred for Thuras as a kid – watching those Indiana Jones movies, reading books, and going on summer vacations in the Midwest with his family (he’s got kids of his own now). “Perhaps the Ur-moment for Atlas Obscura happened when I was 12 and visited the House on the Rock. It was insane. It’s difficult to describe how amazing it is.” A tourist attraction in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin, the House on the Rock is an architectural revenge of Frank Lloyd Wright. It has a 200-foot model of a sperm whale-like creature hanging from one ceiling. It’s got an “infinity room.” It’s got the world’s largest indoor carousel. “The world is vast,” Thuras states, “and is filled with so much to discover.”
Thuras, who grew up on those summer vacations and pouring over the 33-volume Time Life series Mysteries of the Unknown (titles include Earth Energies, Psychic Voyages, Secrets of Alchemists, Alien Encounters), hopes kids will now pour over his book. “What I want kids to get out of this book is to ask questions. About everything. This book is just the tip of a very large iceberg.” His book highlights such places as the lost city of Heracleion in Egypt and the root bridges of Cherrapunji in India; the hanging temple of Hengshan in China and jellyfish lake in Micronesia. “It’s just the smallest glimpse. I want kids to see everything they can with the widest eyes.”
“The fastest shortcut in putting your mind in a state of curiosity is to travel. It pushes yourself into new areas of discovery.” But he notes that you don’t have to go to some village in Kenya, or some gleaming palace in Europe to discover something new and wonderful. It might be just around the corner from you. “If you put your mind into that space of inquiry, it’s an amazing thing!”
Maybe around the corner from you are mysterious Mima Mounds or maybe an old cave filled with glow worms. Maybe get up from your chair and see what’s going on outside right now. Grab your fedora. Become Indiana Jones — books in hand, eyes wide open.
Catch Dylan’s talk on October 20, 2018 at the Phinney Center. Tickets available here.