Publisher, Travelers’ Tales

James O’Reilly, publisher and president of Travelers’ Tales, has been traveling since he was an infant. Born in Oxford, England, in 1953, he savors the early memory of walking as a five-year-old boy across the tarmac at Shannon Airport in Ireland and gazing up at the huge triple tails of the now-defunct Constellation aircraft. The smell of fuel and Irish fog and the amazing sight above him must have made a deep impression because he’s been traveling willy-nilly ever since. After emigrating from Ireland to the United States, he grew up in San Francisco, where he was schooled by Jesuits, nuns and assorted yogis and eccentrics in the ’60s. His eclectic education was formed as much by growing up in a large Roman Catholic family where he was the second of seven children as it was by being an omnivorous reader who was studying Eastern religion and meditation by his early teens. He traveled a great deal with his family—to Ireland, England, Scotland, and Canada—before heading off to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where, among other things, he spent a semester in Salamanca, Spain.

At Dartmouth, James met his good friend Larry Habegger, with whom he has collaborated since 1982 on projects ranging from radio shows to mystery serials, newspaper and magazine columns to world adventure travel. Since 1985, O’Reilly and Habegger have coauthored the nationally-syndicated travel column “World Travel Watch.” In 1993, they co-founded the publishing company Travelers’ Tales with James’s brother Tim, and have since worked on more than 50 books together, winning many awards for excellence, including the prestigious Lowell Thomas award for outstanding travel book. James has been an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) since 1990, and is a former board member of the Tibet Information Network.

James has visited over forty countries and lived in four. Among his favorite travel memories are visiting headhunters in Borneo, rafting the legendary Zambezi River in Zimbabwe, enjoying a meal cooked by blowtorch in Tibet, and hanging out laundry with nuns in Florence. He has made traveling with his own family a priority, and together he and his wife and three daughters have roamed all over Europe. He lives in Palo Alto, California, where he is usually conspiring to be somewhere else.