Dead at 47, the man who told us how to live life to the full

By Guy Adams
Sunday 23 October 2011 02:01

Dave Freeman, the advertising executive whose travel guide 100 Things To Do Before You Die inspired a generation of travellers to treat each day as if it might be their last, has died in a freak accident at the age of 47.

He fell and hit his head at home in Venice, Los Angeles, on 17 August, it emerged yesterday. Relatives said he had only managed to get round to visiting just more than half the places recommended in his famous book.

The guide, subtitled "travel events you can't miss", was based around the revolutionary notion of creating an agenda based on 100 "sites" and marketing it by reminding mortal readers that their time on earth was limited. After becoming a bestseller shortly after publication in 1999, it spawned an entire publishing genre.

"This life is a short journey," read the introduction by Freeman and his co-author Neil Teplica, which summed-up the book's spirit. "How will you make sure that you will fill it with the most fun, and that you visit all the coolest places on earth, before you pack those bags for the very last time?"

Freeman's recommendations ranged from the seemingly obvious (attending the Academy Awards and running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain) to the obscure, including the National Hollerin' Contest in North Carolina, and Australia's annual Nude Night Surfing contest.

Each entry was illustrated with a mixture of photographs and stylised graphic symbols that attempted to give readers an idea of the nature of each event by giving it ratings under such categories as "potential to see blood", "religious fervour" and the curious "down and dirty" factor.

Freeman was particularly famed for popularising such lesser-known events as "land-diving" on the Pacific island of Vanuatu, in which, he once told a radio interviewer, "tribesmen climb up homemade towers... It's sort of like the original bungee-jumping." He also brought to a wider audience the Valencian festival of Las Fallas, in which papier-mâché statues of local political figures and celebrities are paraded through the city centre.

"Secretly, they're full of fireworks and dynamite," he recalled. "At the stroke of midnight, they light them all on fire in a huge, loud, pyromania [sic] display."

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times yesterday, Teplica said he and Freeman had come up with the idea for 100 Things To Do Before You Die after being inspired by some of the off-the-wall listings for obscure events and public festivals that appeared on, a cult travel internet site they jointly ran from 1996 to 2001.

Between them, the pair had visited almost every one of the events in the guide, and Freeman had made plans to cross the entire list off before he became too old to travel. However, Teplica said his untimely death meant he only ever managed to attend just over half the events.

"The book's title meant you should live every day like it would be your last, and there's not that many people who do," he told the newspaper.

"It's a credit to Dave: he didn't have enough days, but he lived them like he should have."

Freeman's father Roy said his son's favourite saying was: "We're going to the future. Do you want to come along?". "It always made everybody laugh," he said.

Freeman's guide to the highs of life

* Run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain

* Take a voodoo pilgrimage in Haiti

* Take a swim in a bioluminescent bay

* Be a human particle detector

* Discover a comet

* Stand at the South Pole

* Have your poo rolled away by dung beetles

* Search for signs ofextraterrestrial intelligence

* Compete in the North Carolina hollering contest

* Go down a deep mine

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