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Editor’s Note: Welcome to this month’s Portrait of a Belle, where each month we introduce you to a woman who in her own unique fashion, epitomizes what it means to be a Travel Belle. This month Travel Belle writer, Jessica Orquina, catches up with the Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown at the DC Travel and Adventure Show.
Let me be honest – I want Samantha Brown’s job. So when I found myself sitting across the table talking with the Travel Channel star, I was a bit intimidated, starstruck, and envious. But, as our conversation continued all these emotions quickly melted away. Samantha is friendly, genuine, and disarming. How could I be envious and plot to steal her job when I really liked her?
Before interviewing Samantha I had the opportunity to see her speak to a room full of her dedicated fans. I overheard a couple saying they named their portable travel GPS Samantha. Others were discussing the many different episodes she has filmed during the over 10 years she has been a Travel Channel host.
When Samantha took to the stage, there was none of the pretense of a formal presentation, only a comfortable conversation about travel. The day after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Sendai Japan, she began her talk by saying that Japan was the foreign country she most wanted to visit as a child, and reminded us to keep the people of Japan in their thoughts and prayers.
From there she shared everything from what she packs in her suitcase for every trip, and observations from the many countries she has had the privilege to travel to to film her television shows.
Two sentences she said during her talk really stuck with me:
“Travel is for everyone.”
“Travel is an investment in your life.”
Samantha went on to discuss the magic of travel, reminding her fans that visiting foreign destinations such as Asia gives us an opportunity to be curious about the world around us and feel as if we are five years old again. She discussed the necessity to go beyond the $5 cappuccinos and experience a destination as a local. She is so enthusiastic about travel; listening to her it is easy to want to head straight to the airport and hop on an airplane!
When I had my opportunity to sit down and talk with Samantha. I had a million questions I wanted to ask but only had five minutes. I currently am planning a trip to northern Spain, so I began by asking her about her favorite food and chocolate experiences in northern Spain. Instantly she began talking her memories of eating pintxos in San Sabastian. This reminded me that no matter how many places we travel to, our travel memories often revolve around new and unique foods we discover on the road.
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a pilot so I could travel the world. Samantha wanted to be a Broadway star and studied music theater. Now instead of using these skills on a stage, she uses them to bring the story of each destination visits to life in her television series.
I asked Samantha about why it was important for her to create a television show that goes beyond only talking about travel logistics and itineraries. She talked about how we are all emotional beings, and the feeling of place is often the most important aspect to share. In addition, she always wants to give her viewers the experience of being at the destination with her even if they will never have the opportunity or desire to visit on their own. This is a difficult goal, but one that I think she achieves with grace.
Of course, I had to ask Samantha about her favorite destination, and what locations on the globe she has not been but wants to visit. Her answer surprised me: she said it changes. Then she quickly went on to say her current favorite destination was Cambodia. I am not sure what I had expected her answer to be, perhaps I had something a little less wild, but I do agree with her – travel changes you.
Next she started talking about places she has not been yet and said, “As you travel the world does not get smaller, it only gets bigger.”
As someone who has traveled to many countries I instantly understood what she meant; as we get the opportunity to visit new places our appetite for travel grows. She revealed the next destination she is planning go to for work is India.
The last question I asked Samantha is what advice would she suggest a Travel Belle heed while traveling around the world. During her talk one of her fans had asked her about her advice to solo female travelers and she answered with two words – “Do it.” She repeated this again during our one-on-one interview. She also talked about the importance of familiarizing yourself with the culture at the destination you are visiting. Another tip she shared was that she always tells the hotel concierge (or front desk) where she is going and when she plans to return, when goes out alone in a foreign country. When that is not possible she leaves a note of her plans in her room whenever she goes out. (Great idea!)
The five minutes allotted for my interview with Samantha seemed to fly by and I found myself having to say good bye with many questions still swirling about in my head. (Like what is her second favorite destination? Which European cities would she recommend for people who are novice travelers? How about experienced travelers? What about in Asia? And the list goes on…) That said, it was fun to sit down and talk with someone who travels and shares her experiences with thousands of people around the world. During our conversation I was delighted to learn that Samantha is a very genuine and down to earth person. The interview felt more like a comfortable conversation about travel than a formal dialogue. And, yes, I still want her job.
A schedule for Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel can be found here.