Scott’s first website and small business
The following is the story of my original website and small business. It was a great learning experience and it helped define my purpose in life. Below you will see that my mission statement is still very much the same. And, by the way, The Argonauts’ original website is still online, but the focus is now the site’s namesake, Jason and the Argonauts. Over time, search engines indexed it as a mythology site rather than the intended adventure-travel website. As you can see, I decided to rebrand everything under my own name here at ScottStoll.com.
TheArgonauts.com wasn’t just a website; for a while, we were an incorporated organization. We celebrated over 20 years online, outlasting millions of other websites born in the dotcom era. Our website was a blog before blogs existed. We shared stories before sharing was a thing. We innovated new standards. We won a few awards along the way. And, we inspired thousands of people to follow their dreams. The stories they have told us about their courageous leap into a new life have been our greatest reward. And my dream to see people share stories of their adventures — in real-time as they happened — did come true. Even if we weren’t the ones to automate the process, I like to think we planted the seeds of this dream in society and helped develop the proof of concept. The founding members of The Argonauts archived an impressive number of stories, and some went on to become professional adventurers, photographers and journalists. And I like to think all learned how to live the life of their dreams. As the founder, I’m proud of this.
Below I showcase some of our achievements.
The original website design
A dotcom baby
During the California gold rush in 1849, the miners were nicknamed argonauts; and, coincidently during California’s second gold rush, the dotcom boom, The Argonauts Inc. was born in San Francisco exactly 150 years later. In 2019, we celebrated twenty years online, outlasting millions of other websites, and we still rank in the top few percent of billions.
Innovators of social media
Back when we started the concept social media didn’t exist yet. But that was our goal: to create a platform where anyone could share their adventures and discoveries. Here is one of our original advertisements. I can’t even believe it myself anymore.
Sick of licking stamps? Can’t afford postcards? Post your stories and photos for all your friends — and the whole world to share. Maybe you’ll be our next feature story. Submit your story here.
Our goal was to post guest adventures in real-time. Back in 1999, we could see the Internet was going to revolutionize global communication, but the infrastructure and technology still weren’t in place. In fact, the only way many adventurers had to share their inspirational stories was to email us and have us post their story online. It may not seem like today’s real-time adventures, but we were posting stories that same day — almost as soon as we got the email, letter or phone call. Many people wanted us to automate these features, which would have essentially made our website one of the first social media platforms. TheArgonauts.com was ahead of its time but, unfortunately, we never could find the estimated $100,000 to create the features that companies like Facebook and WordPress now make free and easy for everyone.
Innovators of affiliate marketing
Our site has won a handful of awards, such as a Golden Web Award and the Cool Site of the Day. We were even the Barnes & Noble Affiliate of the Month. The reason we won the award back in 2000 is because our website was the first website to introduce the idea of combining a story with the related product link from an affiliate sponsor. Now it sounds so obvious that it is hard to believe, but TheArgonauts.com was a real pioneer on the internet.
An innovative and award-winning website.
Our advertising campaigns were designed not to sell but to inspire. And it worked! Below are some examples of our old inspirational banners ads. They may look looks tiny, but it was the recommended size for when people used dial-up modems.
TheArgonauts has been showcased many times. Here’s one of my favorites: 12 Personal Travel Websites That Will Make You Quit Your Day Job. And Scott’s adventures have been featured in the media hundreds of times. To see more, visit our press room.
We collected — and still do collect — hundreds of stories about people living their dreams. Visit our Archive of stories before the era of the blog and social media. I think you’ll find the writing quality very high. Back then, stories weren’t clogged with ads and clickbait.
We also had a lot of limitations in technology. Not only were the sizes limited, but most of our photos were still shot on film. This article shows the difference in the quality of pictures between then and now. Feature photo of Sunrise Machu Picchu.
The fruits of inspiration
My measure of success is not money; I judge my life by whether I can see my dream become a reality. One way that I can see that is if other people are inspired by what I do. Over the years, I have received hundreds of letters from people saying that my journeys, books, and website have inspired them to follow their dreams, like: quit their jobs and cycle countries like Cuba, Australia or Canada; or backpack Europe; hike the Inca trail; kayak New Zealand; some people even said they quit traveling because they were inspired to go home to the adventure of building a community, pursue a new career, find a new love, or even to build a cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin; and many more testimonials. It has been an honor and privilege to have gotten so many emails over the years.
Our original mission statement
An adventure-travel community dedicated to inspiring the human spirit by enabling people to venture into the unknown and sharing their dreams and discoveries with the world in real-time.
100% of profits donated to adventure and exploration.
That was our idealistic mission statement when Scott’s first adventure-travel website, theArgonauts.com, came online in 1999. I find it interesting that after 20 years and a lot of thinking that my current vision and mission statement above is essentially the same dream in a different form.
After my trip around the world on a bicycle, my definition of an adventure had changed. I came to believe everything in life to be an adventure. The challenge was to see it as an adventure and not a problem. So I added:
No matter what you call it — adventure, expedition, the hero’s journey, wanderlust, walkabout, vision quest, coming-of-age ritual, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, spiritual awakening, enlightenment, the travel bug, voyage into the unknown, self-transcendence — or simply hope — and, no matter whether your adventure is to travel the world, bake cupcakes or sweep streets — this is our exploration of life and the human spirit.
Our original story
Be the change you want to see in the world. This has always been one of my guiding principles, and one of the reasons I wanted to inspire others to live their dreams. Here is the original quote.
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… We need not wait to see what others do.” ~
The Argonauts Inc. first began to take seed as two of the founders, Dennis and Scott, were bicycling across the United States, from coast to coast. This journey changed their lives by breaking down cultural, modern and self-imposed barriers that prevented them, and most of us, from fully experiencing the world. Soon, The Argonauts was founded upon the belief that the world would be a better place if everyone had a similar opportunity to redefine themselves and their surroundings.
Launched in October of 1999, The Argonauts is growing tremendously, powered by a group of dedicated volunteers and our growing community of adventurers. Now more than an online adventure magazine, The Argonauts features real-time expeditions and our Travelogue section serves as a forum for all travelers’ photos and stories. We’re also proud to announce that 100% of our profits are donated to adventure and exploration. In the future, The Argonauts will be sponsoring expeditions that expand humanity’s physical, mental and spiritual boundaries.
You can help us achieve our dream by following the adventures of your fellow Argonauts, telling us about yourself (watch here for our survey), and referring our site to your family and friends.
Thank you and happy trails.
But the world changed
The following may sound sad, but it also is a record of the interesting era that I find myself living in, and the reason why I was forced to adapt. Change is good.
I wasn’t expecting my new business to be easy, but I definitely wasn’t expecting it to keep getting harder. Our original website was all hand-coded, and we’ve had to completely rebuild it four times to slowly bring it up to modern standards. Our small team spent long hours editing guest posts. I spent years generating world-class content through my travels, experiments, blog posts and books. So, there was little time left over for practical business matters. And, it was a constant and growing challenge to find an audience. As time went on, our brand got diluted. Google now indexes our old website not as a travel-adventure blog but as a mythology website. (The word “argonauts” has several meanings: one being the band of heroes, the other being synonymous with an adventurer.) The competition has grown exponentially over the years as technology improved and the internet opened doors all over the world. And the final straw was the invention of social media. It made it free and easy for everyone to share stories of their adventures. In short, people no longer needed our website to share their adventures.
And so I changed
Nonetheless, I still hoped to share many inspirational stories. So, for better or worse, I decided to throw my hat over the fence and use myself as the role model, work-in-progress or guinea pig, depending on your point of view and whether I succeed or not. In other words, I decided it would be my new challenge to live the best life possible, and I would hold myself accountable with my own website as witnessed by friends and fans and strangers. And, that I would share my lessons learned in the hopes to help other people live more joyful lives.
So, there you have the long story.
Even now, with the invention of social media, I still love to share inspiring stories; and it gives all of us a greater reach. So, don’t forget to submit your inspirational story.