If you were a teenager with a computer in the early aughts, there’s a good chance you had a profile on MySpace, the music-centered predecessor to Facebook.
Nearly 76 million people used the social networking site in the US at the height of its popularity in 2008, and they all had one thing in common: first “friend” Tom Anderson.
Anderson cofounded MySpace in August 2003 at just 32 years old, serving as the company’s president. His now-iconic profile would default to every new user’s friend list; his persona and the company became ubiquitous.
In 2005, News Corp. bought MySpace — then the largest social network in the world — and its parent company, Intermix, for $580 million. Anderson retired as a multi-millionaire in 2009, leaving MySpace behind to explore a passion for architecture and design.
“When I left the work world, I started designing my dream house,” he recently told the Red Bulletin. “I dived into architecture and bought seven vacant lots. My plan was to build one house, move in, and build the next. If the next was better, I’d move in and sell the previous one – so on and so forth.”
Anderson only finished construction on the third home before an interest in photography took over. Since then, he’s been traveling all over the world, moving between his three homes in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Hawaii to photograph landscapes and nature. He posts the best shots to his Instagram account, aptly named @myspacetom.
Business Insider recently caught up with Anderson to learn more about his travels, how he defines retirement, and his advice for aspiring travelers.
When Anderson left MySpace, he was serious about retirement. “For years it literally meant no work — I just didn’t want to spend one minute doing something for money,” he told Business Insider.
When he picked up photography in 2011 after an inspired trip to Burning Man, Anderson decided to maintain it as a hobby. “I haven’t wanted to take commissions or sell my photos, or do anything commercial with it — that would just feel like work, which I don’t want to do,” he said.
Instead, he travels for pleasure and to visit friends, choosing destinations mainly by thumbing through photos online. “Instagram has really changed the travel industry,” he said.
Zion National Park in Utah.
“People see a photo on Instagram and decide to go. It’s that simple. Tourism has skyrocketed in photogenic places because of Instagram,” Anderson said.
Anderson says Iceland is a great example of Instagram’s influence over the travel industry. “It’s photogenic, and easy to photograph. The most amazing things are just right there on the side of the main highway. … It’s no coincidence that Iceland has gone from 100K visitors a year to millions of visitors in just a few ‘internet’ years!”
Anderson isn’t much of a planner, usually booking hotels minutes before he’s ready for bed. Occasionally, he’ll camp, but “only when the shot requires it.”
Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
“I tend to ‘splurge’ for convenience,” Anderson said. “I’ll pay a lot to not waste time. Time is the most important thing to me — how can you do all the things you want to do with such limited time. … I’m hoping science of life extension makes progress.”
In the past year alone, Anderson has photographed sites in “Peru, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Hawaii, Japan, China, Canada, Alaska, Hawaii, and virtually every Northwest and Southwest state,” he said.
Anderson says he typically uses pro-quality DSLRs to shoot his photos, but the brand doesn’t really matter. “When people ask about my gear, I tell them not to worry too much about the camera,” he said, adding that smart phones and second-hand cameras work just fine.
To young people itching to travel, Anderson advises: “Do it now! Don’t wait. If you have this inclination at all, it’s only going to get more difficult and ‘impossible’ the more responsibilities you take on. Work and family commitments will put you in a position where it’s very difficult to travel. Do it while you’re young and it’s so much easier.”