APRIL 17 2000 VOL. 155 NO. 15
Wright Guy For a Lonely Planet
Chances are, Ian Wright has been in your living room.
As the impish presenter of Lonely Planet's travel series on the Discovery
channel, Wright holds one of the world's most coveted jobs. In the past
six years, he has traveled to more than 40 countries, scaled walls of
vertical ice in New Zealand, slept in a yurt in Mongolia, ridden a horse
through Himalayan passes and explored the Andes. And all this on company
The 34-year-old Englishman knows just how lucky he is. "It's outrageous,"
Wright says by phone from his London home. "If some lunatic is going to
go on paying for it, I'll keep doing it. I'm surprised they haven't caught
me out yet." Life before the television series was considerably different.
"I had a job in a community center, doing arts and crafts with kids and
working in the coffee shop," says Wright. A friend saw a newspaper ad
for the presenting job and urged him to apply. "I thought, yeah, I'll
make a little showreel, just as a joke." The demonstration tape depicted
him being beaten up trying to change money on the black market, sitting
on the toilet discussing the impact of the rich foods of London and finally
being arrested and dragged away by immigration officials for interrogation.
The folks at Pilot Productions loved it.
One of the first places they sent him was Morocco, a country he despised
because he had been mugged on a previous visit. (Luckily, it was a Moroccan
mugging. "The great thing about Morocco is that even when you're being
robbed, you can haggle the price down," says Wright. "I got a discount.")
Wright Guy For a Lonely Planet
Chances are, Ian Wright has been in your living room
Westin Hotels and Resorts is offering special discounts for people
who use their online booking system
For Singaporeans, to eat is to live, and to be in Singapore in April
is to eat and live well
Off the Shelf
In Kretek: The Culture and Heritage of Indonesia's Clove Cigarettes, first-time author
Mark Hanusz explores the product's rich cultural and commercial history
travels with a production team of four, which surprises travelers who
recognize him on the road. "People think it's just me and the magic camera,
because it looks like that. But that's showbiz, I guess," he says. "Then
they see me in person and say, 'He's so short and old.' So overall, it's
a pretty disappointing experience for them." Each episode takes more than
three weeks to film, condensing into a one-hour time slot an itinerary
that would take four months. While it may look like a glamorous job, the
days can be long and, since it is under the no-frills Lonely Planet label,
the lodging rough.
Watch Archive | TIME Asia Home
Even with non-stop travel and dubious food, Wright rarely gets ill. "I'm
surprised that I haven't gotten anything more severe than the runs," he
says. "I eat terribly before and after the program so I guess my body
just doesn't know the difference." With few countries out of the grasp
of the backpacker brigade, Wright sometimes questions the wisdom of drawing
even more travelers into underdeveloped countries to gawk at the locals
and bargain for handicrafts. "Sometimes in poorer places, like Madagascar,
I feel: 'Oh man, we should not be here.' Tourism is such a double-edged
sword, people need the money and they are bending over backwards for you
to come, but I feel like a bit of a colonial." Wright has just returned
from Cambodia, which he loved, but worries that a massive influx of visitors
in search of banana pancakes won't do much for the country.
On the upside, he takes many viewers places they would never go and lets
them experience the warmth of people they will never meet. "Hopefully
when I'm messing about with people and we're having a laugh and it comes
across in a certain way, viewers who haven't a clue about places like
Cuba or Ethiopia, suddenly just go, 'Yeah, well bloody hell, they're just
the same as us.'"
Wright's advice to travelers is to relax and have fun, as he does on the
show. Some people get so stressed out by the poverty that they compensate
by being way too polite, he says, which can come off as snobbish. "At
the end of the day there's a common sense of humor that everyone can relate
to. Everyone loves a fart joke."
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