boston.com News your connection to The Boston Globe

Clayton Hubbs, 70, teacher of literature, lover of travel

Though he traveled the world, Clayton Allen Hubbs's favorite destination lay in the hills of Siena in the Tuscany region of Italy, where he and his wife made their home for 30 summers.

He will be honored there in a memorial service Monday, which would have been his 71st birthday. Part of the service will take place in a monastery that the couple could see from a window of their home in a medieval tower built into a stone hillside. The other part will be held in their home, which is called La Torre de Radicondoli.

"It is a beautiful, peaceful place full of tranquility," said his wife, Joanna, a retired professor of Russian history at Hampshire College.

Mr. Hubbs died March 29 of multiple myeloma at his home in Amherst. In his last days, he was still planning trips while editing copy for his travel magazine, Transitions Abroad, said his wife, to whom he was married 48 years.

"Clay was a wonderful guy, humble, sensitive, and intelligent," she said. "He was very curious, a generally free spirit with an unusually good heart."

Dr. Hubbs taught English literature at Hampshire College in Amherst from 1972 to 1989, when he retired to concentrate on his magazine.

An inveterate globe trotter who believed in immersing himself in local culture, rather than holding up the bar in a four-star hotel, in being a traveler rather than a tourist, Dr. Hubbs began putting his thoughts into Transitions Abroad in its debut issue in 1977.

Over its 30-year existence, Transitions Abroad won accolades from travelers, as well as travel gurus such as Rick Steeves, who called it "the tough little hero of travel publishing."

In 2006, looking back at his magazine after three decades, Dr. Hubbs wrote on his website: "What distinguishes one tourist from another is how we travel, not where or even why. What distinguishes Transitions Abroad readers from the other guy is a desire to learn from our hosts and openness to change. . . . The title Transitions was meant to suggest the changes in our perspective that result when we get away from our tour bus and beyond the postcards."

Clay Hubbs seemed to be born to become a citizen of the world. One of six children, he was a bookish boy, his daughter said, and spent hours in the town library. "He always dreamed of faraway places," she said.

He was a " farm boy from the Ozarks" who took naturally to international travel, his wife said.

He was born in Warsaw, Mo., where his father was a farmer and his mother a schoolteacher. He was the first in his family to graduate from college.

His wife was born in Warsaw, the daughter of a diplomat.

He was 21 when they met while both were students at the University of Missouri, and they married in 1959. Dr. Hubbs served as a pilot with the US Air Force in England from 1960 to 1963, achieving the rank of captain.

Rather than return home immediately , Dr. Hubbs, his wife, and their small son spent about a year exploring Africa and the Middle East in an old Volkswagen bus, while Dr.Hubbs worked as a freelance journalist.

After they moved back to the United States, Dr. Hubbs earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri in 1966 and a doctorate in English literature from the University of Washington in 1971. That year they moved to Massachusetts, where he took a position as an English literature professor at Hampshire College and was also an international studies adviser.

Having a job and a growing family did not stop Dr. Hubbs from continuing his travels.

"Growing up, our family traveled regularly, always feeling the excitement of what was around the next corner," his daughter, Victoria C. Hubbs of Amherst said in an e-mail. "I have vivid images of playing hide-and-seek among Greek and Roman ruins with my father. His playfulness, his childlike curiosity, was an example to me of what l'esprit de joie, a free spirit, meant. The spirit of adventure . . . a love of life. That is what my father gave me and countless others."

Victoria, along with her older brother, Gregory, of Brooklyn, N.Y., assisted when Dr. Hubbs started the magazine in the basement of their Amherst home.

At 12, she helped with production while her brother set up its database. Both are still connected to the magazine.

Dr. Hubbs continued to travel and write for Transitions Abroad until 2005, when he made his last trip for the magazine to Puglia, Italy.

Not all of his journeys went smoothly. In 2003, he and his wife went to Ethiopa, where they escaped a gun battle between Somalian smugglers and Ethiopian military in the marketplace. "When the shooting started, we got away by running down an alley," she said.

Sherry Schwarz, who succeeded Dr. Hubbs as editor of Transitions Abroad, said his "rule of travel" was the golden rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If he had not been obligated to dodge bullets in that marketplace, those who knew Dr. Hubbs say he might well have invited the Somalis and Ethiopians to sit down, talk it over, and come to a peaceful agreement.

In addition to his wife, son, and daughter, Dr. Hubbs leaves a sister, Frieda Ranspot of Springfield, Mo.; a brother, Jack, of Warrensburg, Mo.; and three grandchildren.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES