- Courtesy of Tom Anderson
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 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, which has 367,000 followers.
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.
One of my favorite hikes from my favorite national park, Zion. You have to get a permit to go in to this particular place, so many people want to see it. It’s been snowing up in the park lately. Hoping to head out that way soon and see the winter wonderland. Being out in nature tends to calm the spirit and release the concerns of the endless news cycle. Definitely could use that right now. Whatever side of the political spectrum you sit on, it’s been a crazy week for America!
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.”
Any guesses what you’re looking at here? This is Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I arrived super early to capture the sunrise and I saw these faint lights in the sky. Turns out they were preparing for a musical show later in the week. I think my photo is very unique because I took this longer exposure while they were testing the lights — you would not see the lights so bright and distinct unless they were leaving them in the same position for a long time. In other words, during the show when the lights were actually pulsing and changing you’d never get a shot like this. At the time when I took this in 2013, the locals told me they’d never seen a light show or photo like this at the ancient site. I got a kick out of showing it to people on my iPad all over town and their reactions were priceless! Guess I got lucky that morning!!
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.
Magic spot in Norway ???????? this place is so scenic that tons of photographers come visit this remote chain of islands. It’s mostly a fishing village but tourism is becoming more of a thing there. I got to stay in one of these little red cabins… everything was nice and dandy until I broke my ankle on the ice the next day. Pro tip: don’t break your ankle in Norway, it’s a long series of connecting flights back to the US to find a ????⚕️ surgeon. #funtimes That said, as someone pointed out I had an amazing 2 days of treatment in the hospital for $25 USD !
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.”