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.