Bo Hammond, right, and Dan King, center, at Pre-College at Amherst College during the summer of 2005
We recently reconnected with 2005 Pre-College at Amherst College alumnus Bo Hammond and longtime Pre-College at Amherst College ethics and philosophy instructor Dan King. Bo and Dan have kept in touch since Pre-College at Amherst College ten years ago, and are now collaborating on a new venture — Tours for Humanity. Combining their passions in history and philanthropy, Tours for Humanity will provide walking tours in Washington, D.C., with a portion of their profits going to charity. In the words of Bo and Dan, “A tour won’t save the world, but it’s a step in the right direction.” We are continually inspired by the work of our amazing alumni, and were excited to chat with Bo and Dan about their summer at Amherst, Tours for Humanity, and making giving a part of their everyday lives. Find out more about Tours for Humanity.
Tell us about your summer at Amherst. What has kept you in touch with one another over the years? Is there anything from the experience that has impacted this recent venture?
DK: Bo’s summer at Amherst was probably my favorite year teaching there. The mix of staff and students was really great, and I think it was just one of those years where everything and everyone just clicked together almost instantaneously. The bonds between the students themselves were really remarkable. I remember we had to have a special staff meeting that year to discuss the discipline problems in the boys dorm, because they kept staying up all night sneaking into Bo’s room to play Risk. Every time one of us would “bust” them, we’d couldn’t help but have these huge grins on our faces, which the guys would immediately play into. They would start coming up with clever ways about how this game of Risk linked to the various classes they were all taking, and it was really difficult to keep a straight face.
BH: The classes I took were International Relations and the History of War, so I feel that late-night Risk was legitimate study and preparation for World Domination. I am still good friends with folks I bonded with that summer. Here they are, years later, helping me and Dan take on the world. Putney gave me life long memories, my favorite book I bought in the town square at Amherst, and it also gave me my life-long habit of listening to lectures and speeches on my iPod.
DK: When Bo moved to go to college at American University here in DC, we immediately reconnected and shared our passion for politics. He eventually became head of the College Democrats and started inviting me to the great speakers he managed to line up, including JFK advisor and speechwriter Ted Sorensen. We have remained friends ever since.
Dan, what drew you to work with Putney?
DK: I came from a boarding school background, so I was very familiar with the incredible sense of community that can be established when teachers and students live and work together, and how important that can be to overall learning. Teachers really get to know their students in that situation, and, perhaps more importantly, students get to see their teachers as real people. Students pick up on their interests and passions, both inside and outside of the classroom, and the interests and passions of their peers, and they become energized by that. That sense of community creates not only a safe place to stretch limits, but also serves as a great source of inspiration, for teachers and students alike. Putney is also a great experience as a teacher because teachers teach what excites them. I firmly believe that the kind of energy that creates is infectious for the whole community and pushes everyone to try new things.
What inspired you to create Tours for Humanity?
DK: I had been teaching at a civics education organization in Washington, D.C., using the city as an open-air classroom for kids from all over the country, a bit like my time at Putney, but with D.C. as a background. I thought Bo would be a great teacher in that situation so I encouraged him to apply right out of college. Using my knowledge of the city and the memorials in it, I just sort of fell into a tour guiding gig and I recruited Bo for that as well. Right about that time, Bo’s girlfriend, Lisa, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and had to begin chemotherapy right away. She is an incredible woman, and she and Bo together faced this daunting challenge. She is now a cancer survivor and one of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s “Woman of the Year” candidates because of all the fundraising work that she and Bo undertook for LLS. However, fundraising is exhausting. They both wanted to do something more sustainable. Around that time, Bo started reading “Start Something That Matters,”by Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, a company dedicated to the proposition that a successful business can also give back to the world. All of these things swirled together in a cauldron, and out came Tours for Humanity.
How has your partnership shaped the project’s development?
DK: We have a great partnership that really plays to each of our strengths. Lisa has an MBA from Trinity College in Dublin, so she has the business savvy. Bo is the charisma and energy behind the endeavour and is a natural leader. I handle the operations side. All of us have a keen interest in giving back and making this project as sustainable as possible, and coming up with clever ways to have that incorporated into all parts of the business.
Tours for Humanity will cater to travelers in America’s capital — how has traveling influenced where you are today?
DK: After I worked at Amherst for Putney, I had the privilege of working at Putney’s Oxford-Tuscany program for a few years. The Director of that program, Tom Kane, was amazing, and one of the things he instilled in our group year after year was the idea of the Putney program as a “Traveling Group Adventure.” That notion, which basically meant to embrace the adventure that comes from not having everything exactly planned out and taking advantage of opportunities you stumble upon, helped create this incredible community of open-minded travelers, both students and staff alike. I remember finding the most incredible, bizarre, off-the-beaten-path, odd-ball museum for my World War II class in middle-of-nowhere Bologna. Seriously, we had to take a bus out to the suburbs and then walk down a long,, dusty road that seemed to lead to nowhere. But we met an amazing man, the proprietor of the museum, who had lived through the Nazi occupation of Bologna and had filmed, on a camera he bought from a fleeing German, the Allied liberation of Bologna, which he only allowed to be viewed at the museum. No one else in the world has access to this film unless they travel there to see it. The museum itself was just about the largest and most incredible collection of WWII artifacts I have ever seen. It was an amazing experience, and could not have happened without both myself and my students being prepared for it, thanks to Tom Kane and this idea of embracing the chaos and, most importantly, not fearing mistakes and failure. I think that belief is a big part of why Bo and I believe we can do this.
BH: Travel has shown us that we are all interconnected and that we have to work together on common problems and shared hopes. Hopefully we can spread Tours for Humanity to other cities and turn travel into not only a way to enjoy the world but to help it.
Ideally, Tours for Humanity will be a way for travelers to give back as they learn about American history. Do you think giving is an inherent part of travel? How does one travel responsibly?
DK: I think giving is integral to travel. When I worked with Pacific Island students at the civics education organization, I learned that giving is culturally ingrained when they travel. They wouldn’t dare visit a new place without a meaningful gift from their home, usually highlighting their own culture. Travel is the ultimate exchange, both for the traveler and for the hosts. To travel responsibly means being open to that two-way exchange, to be humble and accepting of the new experiences and insights that different cultures provide, and to be ready to share yourself and your experiences of your own culture when the opportunity arises.
What advice do you have for young Pre-College students and world travelers?
DK: Embrace the chaos, in life in general, but especially as world travelers. Flights will be delayed, museums and sites will be inexplicably closed. Always keep looking around for those little opportunities that you otherwise miss by sticking to the plan. Keep your head up and make it an adventure, no matter what happens. And eat well. The greatest moments I ever had traveling were exploring local culture through food. It is the great common denominator among all peoples, and a wonderful way to connect with people with whom you might think you have little in common.
BH: For the love of all things good, read “Vagabonding” by Rolf Potts and “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferriss. Travel is not about vacation. It’s about experiencing life in a meaningful and different way.