Paul Morrison 1958-2004

Lyn Hughes remembers the life and times of her husband Paul Morrison, Wanderlust’s co-founder and publisher, who died on 1 December 2004

Paul and Lyn in Ecuador, on the trip where they first thought up Wanderlust

I met Paul in 1987 when we were both working for the Mars Corporation. Travel was our joint passion, and we gave up our careers to freelance as consultants, allowing us the flexibility to travel more. But each time we returned from a trip we found it harder to return to the corporate world. “You’re back to the real world,” people would say. “No, travel is my real world,” Paul would retort.

We started Wanderlust in late 1993, having had the idea when bored on a long flight to South America. Having sketched out our dream travel magazine on the back of a sick bag, later we often argued about who was first to say, “We could do this ourselves!” But it was undisputedly Paul who, having ‘suffered’ from wanderlust for years, announced that there was only one name it could have. As he was often quoted: “Once you’ve got wanderlust in your blood, you’ve got it for life.”

We knew nothing about publishing. As a child Paul had proudly produced a single magazine called Super Budgie, and more recently had been published in a couple of magazines that promptly went bust. But he was not to be deterred and, despite many industry ‘experts’ telling us a travel magazine would never succeed, he threw himself into learning everything he could about magazine publishing.

We decided that Paul, as publisher, would be responsible for the business side of the magazine, while I would be in charge of the content. However, our roles inevitably overlapped, and Paul was particularly phenomenal at what he took on. Looking at the first issue, not only did Paul sell all the advertising, but he did all the design... and wrote and photographed four of the articles.

Paul was modest about his writing and photography skills, often claiming he did his bit only to save money. But he was doing himself a disservice, not appreciating just how good he was. As well as being shortlisted four times for Publisher of the Year awards, he was shortlisted for many writing awards. Not that the kudos meant much to him. Travel was his big passion, and the words and photos were his way of communicating that. He was bursting with ideas for future travels and dreamt of the day when we would have the time for more epic adventures.

For many years we worked from home, with assistance from part-time staff and neighbours. It was a long hard slog, with Paul and I working crazy hours for very little money. Paul somehow always found the stamina to keep going, sometimes working through the night. Never materialistic, it was more important to him to succeed with the magazine than to live a comfortable lifestyle. In 2003, despite his illness, we cheerfully turned down a seven-figure sum for Wanderlust, feeling that there was still so much  more we wanted to achieve with it ourselves.

Paul had so much energy, and was so full of life, that it was a complete shock when he was first diagnosed with cancer in early 2001. However, being Paul, he picked himself back up and reacted with the same determination, bloodymindedness and optimism that he had shown when we launched Wanderlust. He refused to let the cancer dominate his life and never complained of pain or treatment side-effects. He even persuaded me, against my better judgement, that we should get involved in taking on and relaunching a world music magazine, Songlines, throwing himself into it with his usual gusto. Most of his contacts had little inkling that anything was wrong. As he once said to a documentary team, “I refuse to be defined by my illness”. If willpower alone could have licked the cancer, he’d still be with us now.

I’ve been inundated with messages since his death. Time and again, people highlight his honesty, intelligence, lack of pretension and sense of fun. In business he was a tough negotiator, and expected high standards, but was always ethical with no time for bullshitters or bullies. Many people have also commented on what a gentle and kind person he really was – always generous with his time, with advice, and what money he had. He was witty and loved life, always looking forward.

Most of all, he was the perfect travel companion, with boundless enthusiasm and curiosity. In cities, he would resent going to bed, often being the last to leave a restaurant or bar, while in the countryside he would jump out of bed before dawn to go looking for wildlife. Often a little shy in social situations at home, when he was away he would talk to anyone and everyone, making life-long friends in the process. As he would say, “I always come alive when I travel”.

The world suddenly seems a much smaller place without him.