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A brilliant, young con artist offered to help the world’s most traveled people reach the planet’s last untouched frontiers; instead, they were taken for a wild ride that turned into a costly lesson on the perils of wanderlust.

At twenty-three, William Simon Baekeland was well on his way to becoming the world’s best traveled person. The “billionaire” heir to a great plastics fortune had already visited 163 countries, but his real passion was finding ways to visit the world’s most challenging destinations—war torn cities, disputed territories, and remote or officially off-limits islands at the margins of the map. He earned rock-star status in the world of extreme travel by finding ingenious ways to bring the world’s most widely traveled people to difficult-to-reach and forbidden places. But when his story began to unravel, an eccentric group of hyper-well-traveled country collectors were left wondering how they had allowed their obsession to blind them to the warning signs that William Baekeland wasn’t who they thought he was. 

Mad Travelers: A Tale of Wanderlust, Greed and the Quest to Reach the Ends of the Earth delves deep inside the subculture of country collecting, taking readers to danger zones like Mogadishu and geographical oddities like Norway’s nearly impossible-to-reach Bouvet Island. Along the way, this raucous tale of adventure and international intrigue illuminates the perils and pleasures of wanderlust while examining a fundamental question: why are some people compelled to travel, while others are content to stay home? Mad Travelers is a perceptive and at times hilarious account of how the pursuit of everywhere put the world’s greatest travelers at the mercy of a brilliant young con man.

Soon to be an HBO documentary.

Dave Seminara is a writer, former diplomat, and pathological traveler who lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, which first published a brief account of this journey, The Wall Street Journal, BBC, The Washington Post, and dozens of other publications. He is the author of Footsteps of Federer: A Fan’s Pilgrimage Across 7 Swiss Cantons in 10 Acts and two other books: Bed, Breakfast & Drunken Threats: Dispatches from the Margins of Europe and Breakfast with Polygamists: Dispatches from the Margins of The Americas. 

  • Publisher: Post Hill Press (August 1, 2021)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781642938586

"A revolutionary insight into the mindset of the modern traveler. Full of fascinating stories of adventure that don’t hold back on the darker aspects of the reality of wanderlust." –Levison Wood, author of Walking the Nile

"A fascinating account of an extreme, obsessive travel subculture and a brilliant young con man who fleeced its members while masquerading as an upper crust English billionaire. This book is essential reading for anyone with terminal wanderlust (like me) and those who puzzle over our psychology."  —Richard Grant, author of American Nomads

Dave Seminara, himself an esteemed collector of passport stamps, has assembled a tale almost too delicious to be true. Part globe-hopping adventure (across seven continents), part detective story (on the trail of a posh, Ripley-esque scammer), and part examination of the murky world of obsessive travelers (seeking immortality via their own slice of terra incognita), this book reads like a missing season of Parts Unknown in which Anthony Bourdain visits a dozen Fyre Festivals. –Mark Adams, author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time 

"This is a book about the crackheads of travel. The obsessives. The compulsive. The people with a problem. Normal people take their vacations in Cancun. Or Italy. Or Tahiti. And then there are the weirdos who pencil in a week in Mogadishu. Or a grueling trip to an obscure island in the Chukchi Sea. Seminara's tale isn't about geography. It's about the obsession that drives people to the ends of the Earth." –J. Maarten Troost, author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific 

"Mad Travelers is a strange and delightful tale. William Baekeland, a swindler and world traveler extraordinaire with an honest case of wanderlust, is masterfully dissected. By the end, I was examining my own rambles with a fresh perspective. Take this book on your next long flight--preferably to someplace way, way off the beaten path." –Noah Stryker, author of Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World

"This madcap, hard-to-put-down tale gets to the heart of the big question: why do we travel? And why are some people so wild with wanderlust? Dave Seminara’s wonderfully written tome detailing the untamed lust for travel is a superb story to get lost in." —David Farley, author of An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town.

"Dave Seminara has written a gripping detective story that is also a fascinating history of, and meditation on, the powerful attraction of travel." –Thomas Swick, author of The Joys of Travel: And Stories That Illuminate Them

"A fascinating and hilarious look at the weird and wonderful world of extreme wanderlust, providing an insight not only into our out-of-control modern era but also the human condition -- the deep, haunting restlessness that can both inspire and ruin us." –Tony Perrottet, author of The Sinner's Grand Tour: A Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe