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St.Paul  (Minnesota) Pioneer Press newspaper article
Published March 22, 1999
 
Twin Cities to Asia--online

 
by JAMES ROMENESKO STAFF COLUMNIST

Web designer Jeff Siegel's announcement that he was taking time off from work was delivered so nonchalantly that the boss didn't see what was coming.

"He said, 'Well, Paul, I'm going on vacation,' " recalls Paul Smaby, vice president of Kuester Partners Inc., a Minneapolis marketing communications firm.   "I said, 'OK, good. How long are you going to be gone?' "'

About eight months, said the 26-year-old Siegel.

"Oh, really?'' Smaby replied.

Siegel explained that he and a St. Paul childhood friend, Mike Waldman, planned to travel through Southeast Asia and document their adventures on the Web.

Smaby gave his employee a fond farewell -- Waldman, a self-employed writer and musician, didn't need anyone's permission to leave -- and the two departed Oct. 14, after putting up a site at www.timezone7.com to explain their mission and serve as an online journal.

"Our purpose is to expand our horizons by interacting with native peoples, learning their religions and histories while being absorbed by their culture. It is our goal to share this experience with pictures and stories.''

For the last five months, the men have religiously maintained their Timezone7 pages, filing reports from Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam. They have accounts of a wedding in Nepal, $3 meals-for-two in Katmandu, a "disturbing trip'' to the Vietnam War Museum, among other tales.

Maintaining Timezone7.com has been a family affair for the Siegels. A friend initially worked on the Web page after the two left the country, but family obligations forced him to turn the job over to Jeff's father, Mendota Heights physician Leighton Siegel -- a self-described Web design newbie.

"This required learning quite a bit of HTML, Front Page and assorted graphic programs,'' says the father. "It's been interesting and fun.''

Jeff stops at cybercafes along the way -- "He's been able to find them easily,'' says Leighton -- to e-mail his digital photos and text to his dad.

"I'll go through the pictures, and the family goes through the text to make sure the typos are fixed,'' says Dr. Siegel. "Jeff has been e-mailing suggestions about graphic design and other improvements that I have been able to incorporate. Thus the Web site continues to evolve and improve.''

Lately, the two travelers have been conducting online chats and posting those transcripts on the site.

Smaby says he and the Kuester crew have been following the duo's adventures through their online journals. Colleague Eric Kreidler wonders if Siegel will want to return to the corporate world after trekking through Asian; perhaps, he'll opt for self-employment, Kreidler suggests.

"I think the trip was just kind of a chance to step away and assess things.''

But even after months away from the office, Siegel's chair remains vacant and warm, notes the boss.

"We'd love to have him back again,'' says Smaby.

1999 PioneerPlanet / St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press - All Rights Reserved