A Tribute to John Himpe: Traveller, Broadcaster, Partner


In 2009, about 10 years ago, I agreed to coffee at Starbucks attached to Indigo in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. It was with John Himpe, whom I barely knew, but had seen at various gatherings with mutual friends. One random day he asked me on a date via Twitter. Despite being a shy, insecure, closeted 23-year-old, I said yes.

I took the 30-minute city bus to the coffee shop (I was still in University at the time). He was sitting on a worn, brown leather couch with his “Venti Americano with light room,” patiently waiting. This was before I even had a proper smartphone, so I was sending him text messages while en route to tell him I was running late.

Once I arrived, I nervously sat across from him on a comfortable chair, drink in hand (I don’t remember what I got as I wasn’t a coffee drinker then). After a few minutes of talking, I remember my nerves slowly melting away with every passing minute. John always listened, and even on our first date, he’d ask plenty of questions and listen to my long-winded answers.

When the barista came up to us and said they were closing in 5 minutes, we knew that 4 hours had gone by without notice. He offered to drive me home, then asked if we could do coffee again the next evening. I said yes.

The moment I stepped foot into that Starbucks, I had felt an instant connection (John told me on many occasions he felt the same). Since that evening, he and I were inseparable. At the time, I had no idea how much we’d impact each other’s lives and how John would become a key part of TDR Explorer.

Starbucks Saskatoon

A small Starbucks inside the Indigo in Saskatoon, where we first met 10 years ago.

John Himpe was always a storyteller. He had a way with words and a talent for capturing your interest. He had a long career in broadcasting, including television and radio, throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta. His former colleagues and long-time friends have done excellent write-ups. They do a better job of describing the broadcasting world and the impact he had.

John Himpe

Once I finished University in 2010, John wanted to celebrate my achievement. I got a BSc. in Computer Science, for those of you wondering. He took me on my first trip to Walt Disney World in 2010. Growing up, we never had the means to travel, so visiting a Disney Park was never on my radar.

After that first trip, like many others, I instantly fell in love. I wasn’t a writer by trade, but I began to chronicle our Disney trips on a blog titled “Fat Hobbit.” Over the years, we traveled to Walt Disney World multiple times, as well as Disneyland Resort, and Disneyland Paris.

I recall one day I told him, “You know, you look like that kid from UP.” He thought it was the most hilarious thing he’d ever heard, and it stuck. I’ll never forget his adorable wheezing and crying laugh when he saw the resemblance.

John Himpe & Chris Nilghe at Walt Disney World

One of our many trips to Walt Disney World

Both John and I were always planning the next trip right after the last one finished. Most of you reading this have done the same thing, I know you have. John was always pushing me to write and create. He knew the importance of telling a story.

In 2013, he and I made the difficult decision of moving away from each other temporarily. He was offered what was his dream job in Regina, Saskatchewan. At the time, there were no jobs for me, which made it difficult for me to follow. After lengthy discussions, we came up with a plan for me to spend a year in Japan while he was in a different city. One year later, we’d re-evaluate.

John Himpe & Chris Nilghe at Tokyo Disneyland

Our first trip to Tokyo Disneyland in 2013

Then in November of that year, I made the move to Tokyo, Japan. John visited just a week after I moved there. That’s when we crossed two more Disney Parks off our list. This was during the 30th Anniversary, and Happiness is Here was a brand-new parade. During this time, I started blogging more about Tokyo Disney Resort and shortly after changed the name from “Fat Hobbit” to “TDR Explorer.”

A year came and went. John was still in Regina, and I was still in Tokyo. We’d see each other every 4-5 months from traveling to Canada or Japan. We always made the point of talking to each other every day on the phone. That was our priority above all else.

In early 2015, I started to discuss with John about finishing up in Japan and coming home. Fate would have it that he was suddenly let go from his job in Regina. This threw our lives up in the air.

One of John’s dreams was to travel the world and tell stories. This was a topic we’d discussed many times. Then in late 2015, he created a podcast, blog, and YouTube Channel titled “Gone John.” He used Japan as a home base, and I saw him every few months (we still talked every single day, even if that meant using terrible wi-fi in a hostel in Vietnam). He even got to interview Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt.

For the first time in my adult life, I’ve been confronted with a blank canvas. There is literally nothing staring back at me. It’s an opportunity we don’t get often in life, and is one I don’t want to squander.

John Himpe – Gone John

To finish off his travels in early 2016, he and I took our first trip together to Hong Kong Disneyland. That was the last Disney Park on the list (Shanghai Disneyland wasn’t open yet). There’s something special about traveling to someplace new, getting lost, and finding out you booked a horrible hotel in the middle of Hong Kong (it was so bad we forgot the name). Don’t worry, we moved to the Disney’s Hollywood Hotel when we had days at the Park.

A friend of mine in Canada asked tongue in cheek if streamers and confetti exploded as we walked through the gate. They didn’t. But, as the turnstile made that click-click-click-click sound we all know, a smile grew across my face and a tear crept out of the corner of my eye. We had done it. We joined a small, but passionate, group of Disney fans.

John Himpe – Gone John

John Himpe & Chris Nilghe at Hong Kong Disneyland

Our first trip to Hong Kong Disneyland

Once his travels were complete, John headed back to Canada. By this point, he was editing our podcast, videos, and blog posts. I learned a ton from his endless knowledge on how to craft a story from nothing. We both decided that it was best I stayed in Japan because Shanghai Disneyland was opening soon and the website was still growing. We would figure out what to do once he was back in Canada.

Every day when we talked, he would ask me, “When can I edit the next video? I have some ideas you can try.” He was always pushing me to become better than I was the day before, regardless if I wanted to or not (I’m quite stubborn). He saw the impact TDR Explorer had and did everything he could to help grow our reach every day.

John Himpe Bryson & Chris at Disney California Adventure

Disneyland Resort in September 2018

Just as I was looking at where to go next, in fall 2016 I was fired from my web development job in Tokyo. That was another wrench in our plans to move back together. John told me that I couldn’t leave Japan yet, because what I was doing wasn’t finished yet. We continued to push the website forward. This is when my co-founder and I began our small company, Niche Japan.

John took every opportunity to let me know how immensely proud he was of what we created. John’s co-workers, friends, & family have told me repeatedly that John spoke of me constantly.

John Himpe in Akihabara Tokyo

John was more than eager to edit all the videos and podcasts. I’d get random clips sent to me in the middle of the night of my bloopers. Some days, he’d call me randomly in tears because he was laughing so hard at the outtakes. He told me after every video that he loved piecing it together to tell a story. He’d also send voice clips of the podcast that sound horrible out of context. There was never a shortage of laughter.

John and I always saw each other as much as possible. Even when we couldn’t physically be together, we’d talk every day. He loved coming to Japan to experience the different seasons. His absolute favourite thing to do was sit and soak at the onsen.

His last trip to Japan, all he wanted to do was his favourite activities. We did just that. He was happy.

John Himpe in Tokyo

John enjoying a latte with his favourite bear, Brown from LINE Friends at the Reissue Cafe in Tokyo

John Himpe is an integral part of what this website has become. Without him and his experience, dedication, and love, none of this would exist. TDR Explorer is because of John Himpe. Not only that, he was my partner in travel, adventures, and life. We shared so much in our 10 years together, more than I ever could have imagined.

John Himpe at Tokyo DisneySea

As I write this, I’m in that Starbucks where he and I had our first date, almost 10 years ago. Who knew back then a simple “yes” would not only change our lives but thousands of others.

I’ve asked myself if this was the time to finish TDR Explorer. The thought of continuing this journey without him breaks my heart. But I know John wouldn’t want me to. He’d want me to continue what he and I created together.

While our chapter together is over, there are many more stories to tell. I’ll continue creating and telling these stories when I’m ready. My heart is in pieces.

Thank you for all the adventures, John ❤️ Until next time, Explorer. I love you more.

If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.

Winnie the Pooh

John Himpe Starbucks

John’s Venti Americano at our Starbucks in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

I’ve had many Explorers ask how they can help during this difficult time. One way is to give to the John Himpe Memorial Award at SAIT in Calgary, Alberta. John graduated from their excellent Broadcast News program in 2000. This was one of the major stepping-stones for launching his career in media.

You can also help the website directly by donating through PayPal or contributing to us on Patreon.

As always Explorers, I can’t thank you enough for your continued support. Thank you.

Categories

56 Comments

Add yours
  1. Lewis Sutton

    Again I’m so sorry for your loss Chris. Thank you for telling us your story, John sounded like an amazing guy.

  2. Vickie

    Chris, you have written a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing your love for this wonderful person with us but continuing to share your passion for Disney with the world.

  3. Jaz

    Wow, what a beautiful story. I’m so saddened and sorry for your loss. I hope that you can find the strength and peace you need to get thru this. As difficult as it may be, whatever choice you make, I’m sure it’ll be the best one. Best wishes to you.

  4. Carol

    Such a beautiful story and so well written. My condolences on your loss and for all of those he impacted.

  5. Denise

    Thank you so much for sharing your amazing story with us. I am so sorry for your loss of John. I love TDR explorer and what you created together. You’rye the reason I know so much about TDR and why I was able to make not one, but two trips to Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea amazing for my family. I hope you know that there’s a huge community of virtual strangers who support you from afar and we’re here to help however we can. ^-^

  6. Becky

    I’ve followed you quietly for a few years sharing in your disney adventures. This post made me cry but also made me go squeeze my kid and husband/best friend. I’m so so sorry Chris. I love the story of you two, it is so special. Thank you for telling it <3

  7. Brent

    We are so sorry for your loss Chris. This is a beautiful tribute. You and your amazing team have helped many of us become explorers. My wife and I, along with our 2 daughters just came back from our first trip to Tokyo Disneyland and couldn’t have done it without your blog, videos and ebook. Thank You

  8. Carl Levinger

    It must be frustrating for you to read all of the obits for John and not see yourself mentioned as his life partner.

  9. Christy

    🌈❤🌈❤ BEAUTIFUL STORY! So sorry for your loss and the world’s loss. . but you continue to keep it all alive…

  10. Brent

    We are so sorry for your loss Chris. This is a great tribute to John and thank you for sharing your story and for everything you do. You have helped many of us become explorers and create amazing memories. My wife and I just returned from Japan for the first time with our 2 kids and couldn’t have done it without you and your team.

  11. Miss Becca

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute. I owe everything to TDR Explorer for helping make my 2017 trip to Tokyo the amazing time that it was. May all your happy memories together comfort you in difficult times. <3

  12. Bryce

    My heart breaks for you both Chris. I’m so sorry for your loss. I loved John’s podcast and blog, he was an incredible storyteller. Thank you for the beautiful tribute. What you both built togeather in life and here online is amazing, sending only good thoughts and love.

  13. Sarah

    Thank you Chris for all your work with TDR Explorer – it really made our visit to TDR and we are so keen to return. So sorry for your loss – thank you for sharing John’s story. We would understand if you stopped Exploring – but hope you won’t! With all best wishes.

  14. Lauren

    Thank you so much for sharing about him. He sounds like a wonderful person and a true friend. I hope your memories together are a comfort as you figure out how to reshape your life around the hole he left. I’m so sorry for your loss, and I wish you the best.

  15. Robert Wambaugh

    Chris, we are just wrapping up our first trip here to Tokyo and just want to thank you for all the great advice you have provided that made our first trip to Tokyo Disney Resort a massive success!! I’m so sorry for your loss dude but thank you for sharing You and Johns story. Keep on keeping on dude!!

  16. Nic Dis After Dark

    Thoughts with you at this awful time from all of us at Dis After Dark. What an amazing journey you had together and all those memories shared. And thank you for this article. Cannot imagine how hard this was to write. Stay strong

  17. Agent 86

    What a beautifully written tribute to a clearly beloved partner in life, love and TDR Explorer. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  18. Ben Lambeth

    So sorry for your loss Chris. I hope TDR continues to bring you happiness and memories in the future x

  19. Thomas Walker

    Thank you for choosing to share this amazingly important story of connection and growth with the world of Explorers that both of you have built over time. John’s vital role in the journey of TDR Explorer has been behind the scenes until now. I appreciate you showing how a connection of vital personal importance to you was the foundation of a growing community of Asia Disney Parks fans that come from the four corners of the globe. Please accept both my sincere condolences.

  20. Ciara

    I’m thinking of you everyday hoping it gets a little more bareable, you toled you story beautifully John would be proud. When you mentioned where you were when you wrote this it broke my heart I shed a tear, take care,take your time. And most importantly follow your heart because that’s where John is x

  21. Dana

    Thank you for sharing your heart & the story of him with us. Sending you lots of love & light from my heart. You & your page bring me much joy & I only wish I could return the favor.

  22. KrabbyDragon

    I’ve read this post multiple times over the last few days and the impact remains the same. I’m so sad for you, sad that you lost your soul mate and sad that you lost two very important people within months of each other. I pray for your strength and hope you know just how far reaching your words and blog reach. Someday I hope to meet you on one of those tours you organize. To see Tokyo Disney or maybe all the Asia Disneys with you as the guide is definitely on my must do list.
    Thank you for you Chris.

  23. Reynard X Jusuf

    As an Asian who visits Tokyo Disney often, I’m always interested to see what Americans/Canadians think of the Asian parks, especially DLR / WDW vets. Thanks to you, many of them found the information and motivation to visit them. Regardless of when or if TDR continues, it will always be special to me.

  24. Dianne

    Your and John’s story is beautiful and brought me to tears. Sending love and prayers to you. I hope all your lovely memories together help you deal with this difficult period. Wish you all the best.

  25. Rhiannon Day

    So incredibly moved by your beautiful story of love and partnership. It’s a reminder of how special it is to find someone who not only loves you for who you are but who inspires you to be the best you can be, because they believe in you. Sharing a passion and a dream with someone is such a precious thing and this tribute captures it so beautifully. My heartfelt condolences for the loss of your John.

  26. Kriszty Kelly

    Oh Chris, I am so very, very sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for your hard work on TDR explorer and I am glad to hear it will not be going away.

  27. Steven Schwarzrock

    I am so sorry for your loss, John was obviously a beautiful man who made the world a better place. You have written a great tribute, thank you for sharing.

  28. Steven

    I am so sorry for your loss, John was obviously a beautiful man who made the world a better place. You have written a great tribute, thank you for sharing.

  29. Paul

    I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you to you both for being such a great resource for people traveling to Japan. I hope you will continue to be an inspiration for others to be adventurous and go out of their comfort zones like you did.

  30. Gen

    As always, you have created a way to make me feel like I am right there with you, and I find myself tearing up at my computer! Thank you, not just for this tribute, but for taking me on a journey through Tokyo Disney! My husband and kids watch your blog and we get transported back to Tokyo every time! I love all the detail and fun you include! I am so sorry you have to experience anything other than joy, and know that as you have sent virtual joy to us, I hope you can feel us sending it back over to you right now! Peace to you 🙂 Gen

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.