The host of PBS TV's popular travel show talks about how he got started and his favorite places.
Ian Wright has been leading viewers of PBS TV's Globe Trekker (www.globetrekkertv.com ) on travel adventures for a decade, though his only professional experience prior to becoming the show's “presenter” was as a bicycle messenger. Frequent VIA contributor Bruce Newman caught up with Wright recently to learn more about Everyman's TV trekker.
Q You got your job by answering an ad in the newspaper. Is that a proper way to become a TV star?
A I did it as a joke, really, and they fell for it. I keep expecting the presenter police to turn up and go, "Come on, you've had a good run, now get out."
Q What was your introduction to travel?
A For me it was reading books. It becomes a fantasy thing, where just the word Mongolia makes you go "Oooooh!" Your mind gets the bug and you have to go.
Q Speaking of getting bugs, what are some of the worst things you've had to eat on the show?
A Once you've got fried cockroach down, there's nowhere to go really. The only reason I had cockroach was because they couldn't find any spider. But I'd rather eat a cockroach, because at least it's crunchy. I imagine spiders are a bit gooey.
Q And the scariest thing you've done?
A I rode a bull. Loved it! The women throw their shoes into the arena if you hang on.
Q How about your favorite places to visit?
A Greenland, because it was so alien. It's an ice cube in the middle of nowhere. There are no roads in that country between towns; you have to fly.
Q What one piece of gear do you always travel with?
A Everyone's always looking for that one piece of gear! It's like that's the secret to life. "At last, now I know! It's a Swiss knife!" As long as you've got your passport, money, and a change of clothes, you're off.
Q How do you approach the locals to get them on your side?
A Obviously, arrogance is something people detest, but over-politeness can be just as annoying and patronizing. Just because somebody lives in a remote village doesn't mean they aren't a complete twit. Or they might be the best person you've ever met. But no matter where they are, people are fundamentally the same.
Q How many languages do you speak?
A One. And to be honest, my English is rubbish.
Q Then how do you connect with people?
A One of the most amazing times I ever had was when I met this old widow sitting by a river in Romania. She went through our rucksacks for half an hour, looking at everything and just laughing. It was brilliant! We couldn't speak a word of each other's language, but we had a really lovely time.
Photography courtesy Pilot Film & TV Productions Ltd.
This article was first published in November 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.