When Dylan Thuras was a kid, he and his family would take long road trips across the Midwest.
Neither far-flung nor glamorous, these adventures ran on Circle K snack runs, screen-less car games and pit-stops like The World’s Only Corn Palace in South Dakota or The House on the Rock in southern Wisconsin (an ever-sprawling architectural spectacle boasting rooms full of fantastical collectibles and rare objects).
These bizarre roadside attractions paired with hours spent at the local library devouring Time-Life’s “Mystery of the Unknown” series sparked Thuras’ lifelong interest in all things quirky.
Birth of an idea
Thuras’ appreciation for the mysterious followed him into adulthood, inspiring his travels to Budapest to teach English in 2008.
During his travels, he noticed that some of the most wondrous places throughout the world were often left out of guidebooks.
So in 2009, Dylan and friend Joshua Foer founded Atlas Obscura, a website dedicated to celebrating such spots as travel-worthy points of interest. This led to their first book, “Atlas Obscura,” which was published in 2016.
Atlas Obscura for younger minds
Now, Thuras and Foer are set to release book no. 2: “The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid.”
Out Sept. 18, the illustrated book features 100 of the world’s most mysterious and unexpected places including ice caves, a devil’s swimming pool and abandoned theme parks. The book also features packing lists, a world map, GPS coordinates and handy travel tips.
“It’s a way for kids to get really curious and to spend time with their parents, trying to find out more,” says Thuras, who has a 3-year-old son. “It’s like a side-door into history and science.”
On the list: Places like the Darvaza gas crater or the Door to Hell. This 300-foot natural gas field in the heart of Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert that has been on fire since 1971. Or visit the Living Root Bridges of India, formed by people guiding, tying or twisting the pliable roots of rubber fig trees so that they grow to form bridges that last for centuries.
Don’t miss a pond in an urban garden in Japan that’s filled with medaka — small, freshwater fish descended from medaka born in space aboard the 1994 Columbia space shuttle. And, of course, there’s Thuras’ favorite, Q’eswachaka, a suspension bridge outside of Cusco, Peru.
It’s the last example of an Incan bridge, constructed from woven grass and spanning 118 feet over the Apurímac River. The bridge is rewoven each year by people of four surrounding villages.
“It’s a piece of cultural continuity,” he says. “It’s inspiring, like stepping back in time.”
That sense of wonder is what he most hopes to inspire in young readers.
“When you’re a kid, reading a book that makes the world feel more vast, mysterious and magical can be one of the most thrilling experiences in the world,” says Thuras. “That was certainly the case for me.”
See Dylan Thuras live in Seattle
When: Saturday, October 20, 3:00 p.m. (doors open at 2:30 p.m.)
Where: Phinney Center in Phinney Ridge (6532 Phinney Ave N.). In Room 7 of the Blue Building.
Cost: Free for youth 16 and under
Note: Atlas Obscura is in Seattle all year, too! Learn more about the Atlas Obscura Society Seattle and its family-friendly offerings.