Imagine being paid to travel the world. Sound too good to be true? Well, that's actually what Samantha Brown, a Travel Channel host with a genuine curiosity and zest for life, does for a living!
SavvySugar: What makes your job a dream job?
Samantha Brown: Of course, the obvious is traveling the world. But I think more so than visiting places like China, Argentina and Europe, I really love that I get to spend time in somebody else's life. I get to see life through the perspective of a different person in a different part of the world. It's enlightening, it's humbling. That's something that this job has given me - that sense of humanist and humbleness that we all need and it's a really a gift. I can't overstate it enough. I have the best job in the world for reasons I think people don't even see on camera.
SS: What's your typical day like?
SB: We meet the night before, when we all kind of gather in another part of the world, and we go over the next day. We're given our schedule, and the schedule can be amazing things - actually I've kept all my schedules - like: Sam meeting with geisha girls to learn how to be a geisha; 1 o'clock, Sam takes sake at a famous sake bar; 12 o'clock, Sam meets with master sushi chef and learns how to make sushi. It's a fantasy, it really is. And then at the end of the day, I absolutely crash because there's just so much and you're taking in so much. We shoot about 12 hours a day so by the end of that day, it's a bit [exhausting].
SS: What's your craziest story?
SB: I was filming in China and we got to shoot with some pandas . . . as we were about to go into the environment where the pandas were, the panda handler turned to me and said, "Keep moving." I said, "Wait a minute. Why keep moving?" and I turned to my interpreter and she had this lengthy conversation with him in Chinese and she turned to me and said, "They're bears." It hit me that I was getting into the pen with wild bears . . . but the cameras were already set and it was a huge coup to get this permission to get into this pen. Basically, what happens is if you stop and the panda locks eye with you, he will see that as a challenge . . . My director doesn't know this so he wants me to stand still to get a shot of me and they want me to get closer to the panda. I'm trying to do what my director says, but meanwhile the panda handler is saying, "Keep moving!" And so I'm kind of doing this little dance and sure enough when I stop, the panda locked eyes with me and started charging at me like a rottweiler in an attack mode. The panda guy threw himself in front of me, then turned to me and said, "Run!" and we ran so fast out of that pen. When we closed the door, the panda charged and slammed against the door. But of course, what we showed on camera was me having a great time.
SS: What are the challenges of your job?
SB: The challenges are definitely stamina and endurance; we're doing a lot in one day. When we were in Asia this year, a huge challenge was overcoming the heat. We were mostly in Southeast Asia and it was not odd for it to be a 100 degrees. And we're outside the whole day, we rarely go inside. We're usually out and about and you're struggling so hard to rise about heat exhaustion. There are definitely physical demands of the job, and that's why I eat a lot of vegetables because I have to stay healthy, I can't be sick. Another challenge is loneliness. I am alone and I'm alone a lot, I'm close with my crew but we have our own lives and we need to make sure that those lives are doing alright. Wives and husbands need to be called, kids need to be talked to. You go to bed in a hotel and you wake up in a hotel. No matter how wonderful a hotel is, it's still a hotel and not your home. By the second or third week it's a little difficult when you're struggling to connect with your family at home, but you still have [to do] this job so there are a lot of physical demands and emotional ones.
SS: How was auditioning for the show like?
SB: Usually in an audition you are given a copy to read, you recite a monologue that you memorized. Doing it off the cuff and being spontaneous is very hard. And I think that's why I got the job because I could improvise. Most of cable-hosted shows out there are unscripted and so as a host, your job is to drive the action, to entertain, to inform, but to do that off the cuff. I mean there's no script. There might be notes that you're working off of, but that's about it.
SS: How long does it take to film one episode and how many days out of a year do you travel for?
SB: For an hour episode it takes eight days. I travel for about 230 days out of the year.
SS: What was your favorite day on the job?
SB: It's been 10 years of a pretty amazing job. I think one of my favorite days was in Mexico City and it's in a place called Xochimilco. It's this beautiful place, sort of like a park, but it's an attraction where a lot of Mexican families go to celebrate being a family. Instead of a park, there are a series of canals built hundreds of years ago. You would rent a flat bottom boat and you would bring all your food. A pilot which will navigate you through the canal and you would eat your meal and what was really lovely is that there are just hundreds of boats out. There were boats that were selling tacos so they would come beside you and you can order tacos. Another boat was all candy and so you would get candied apples. Another boat had a mariachi band so you can pay for them to come over and they would jump on your boat to rock it with their mariachi music. It was just literally pure joy. An absolute moment of pure joy of just being with family and loved ones and celebrating life.