Meet The Designer: Robert Young Pelton
In his forties, Pelton retired from his marketing career to focus on going inside dirty wars, conflicts and dangerous regions to write the cult classic and New York Time’s best seller, The World’s Most Dangerous Places, now in its fifth edition.
From then on his unique access, independent point of view, outside media coverage and intense stories generated a following, including a major media profile by ABC News during which he invented the “SoJo” concept and a series of one hour specials on Discovery channel entitled Robert Young Pelton’s, The World’s Most Dangerous Places that ran from 1996 until 2003. Pelton pioneered first survival show in which everything was very real and unscripted. Pelton survived a plane crash in Borneo, kidnapping by death squads in Colombia, a head on motorcycle crash in Peru and many other real world events, all while the cameras kept rolling.
Pelton began as a advertising copywriter at age 17 and worked his way up to the head of his own Strategic Planning, Product Design and Marketing company with clients that included Marvel, Disney, Mattel and was brought on by Steve Jobs to help launch both the Lisa and the Mac for Apple Computers. His agency Pelton & Associates was listed at #126 on the INC 500. He also purchased Fielding’s Travel Guides, expanded and databased the content over three years then licensed the data to Microsoft to create Expedia.
After some of Pelton’s mentors died it sped up his decision to do full time what he had had only been able to do for one month out of the year: Explore the most deadly and remote regions of the world and return with a greater understanding for the human condition. Within weeks of his decision, Pelton was the subject of a long running ABC News weekly profile, a book deal from Random House and a TV series on the Discovery’s Travel Channel. Pelton only writes about of films a small portion of his experiences.
The part that Pelton has documented of his two and half decades of immersion into war have been intense. They include the siege of Grozny with Chechen rebels, interviewing American jihadi John Walker Lindh at the battle of Qala-i-Jangi in Afghanistan, being kidnapped by right wing death squads in Colombia, doing missions with Green Berets, running Route Irish with Blackwater every day for a month in Iraq, tracking down the Vice President of South Sudan after an assassination attempt and living with an elusive retired Special Forces colonel training Karin rebels deep inside the jungles of Burma. Pelton is a popular talk show with guest appearances on Oprah, Conan, Late Night, Dennis Miller, Geraldo, Real Time with Bill Maher, Fox, CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, TED, al Jazeera and many, many other programs.
Many of his experiences became the subject of the Discovery Channel series “Robert Young Pelton’s The World’s Most Dangerous Places.
Before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 Pelton left behind an 8 show/no cut contract with Discovery to join his Special Operations friends inside Iraq and disappeared driving a red Bentley. He emerged 6 months later having tracked the survivor and locations of mass graves. He then set out to create ground networks to provide real time truth to the public, military, governments, NGO’s and bypass the media and government.
Pelton has created innovative ground networks during the height of conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Libya to provide information on solving conflict, stability, kidnapping, piracy, human trafficking and local insight. He has served as an unpaid advisor to Four Star commanders in Afghanistan and heads of state. In 2014 he spent spent two years advising MOAS, the Migrant Offshore Aid Station in Malta.
He was the first and only person to write an entire issue of Vice Magazine along with an online event and documentary entitled Saving South Sudan. He has also authored a five-part series called Finding Bergdahl , a profile on Syrian volunteer Eric Harroun and other immersive stories.
In addition to his immersive journey with rebel, jihadi, mercenary and military groups in over three dozen wars, Pelton is also an inventor, with over a two dozen U.S. patents for his various knife designs, inspired by his experience in war zones.
Pelton has worked as a journalist for CBS 60 Minutes, ABC Investigative Division, CNN, National Geographic, Discovery, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Vice, Foreign Policy and many more.
Pelton is the author of The World’s Most Dangerous Places (Harper Collins), Come Back Alive (Penguin Random House) , Licensed to Kill (Penguin Random House), and his autobiography, The Adventurist (Penguin Random House). His latest book Finding Kony is a deep exploration into the new scramble for Africa, and will be available from St Martin’s Press in 2018.