"I'm going to miss people, and I'm going to miss the creative process."
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Bob Iger has been in the media business since he was 23 years old. Now, just weeks away from turning 71, he's stepping away from Disney, and reflecting on a career that has been as epic as Mickey Mouse himself.

"It's bittersweet," Iger told Variety in a wide-ranging interview earlier this month. "I'm going to miss people, and I'm going to miss the creative process."

Iger became the CEO of Disney in 2005. During his tenure at the company, Disney acquired Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox, opened both Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland, and launched the hit streaming service Disney+.

"I officially became CEO on Oct. 1, 2005, and I really have not had a day off since. Not a day off," Iger said. "I'm looking forward to what I'll call a true day off. And I'm not talking about a day on my boat where I'm answering emails all day and screening rough cuts… I guess I'm going to watch some college football without having to worry about the outcome of the ratings."

Bob Chapek, who was named new CEO in February of 2020, will be officially taking over.

In Iger's office sits some prized possessions: a model of Walt Disney's Grumman G-159 Gulfstream airplane, a framed vintage Autopia Disneyland poster, and a wooden chess table with carved "Star Wars" pieces (which he's donating to Disney).

Some of what Iger counts as his biggest accomplishments over the years have also been the most prominent for the company, including opening the park in Shanghai and making the "Black Panther" movie. And in all his years at Disney, he has no real regrets — he's "not a second-guesser."

"I love the fact that I exceeded people's expectations," he said. "There are a lot of things I'm pleased with as I leave this job, and one of them is 'OK, I showed all of you.' I think I surprised myself too."

Bob Iger
Credit: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

As for what's next, there may be another book in his future following the success of his first — "The Ride of a Lifetime" — but Iger said people won't see him at the top of another company.

"No. I have no interest in running another company," he said. "I've mostly been focused on doing some selective investing in relatively new companies as a means of advising and mentoring founders. I'll do more of that but beyond that no plans at all."

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.