Rainn Wilson never thought he’d be able to top his experience playing the inimitable and eccentric assistant Dwight Schrute on the classic comedy “The Office” for nine seasons. Then last summer, he managed to level up by hosting an eye-opening new travel docuseries. “It was the greatest job I’ve ever had,” he says. “I actually got paid to travel the world to talk to people about happiness!”
In the six-part “The Geography of Bliss” (premiering May 18 on Peacock), the actor traverses the globe — from Iceland to Bulgaria to Ghana — searching for the secrets to the happiest places on Earth. It’s a deeply personal journey for Wilson, who’s been open about his own struggles with mental health. “My anxiety issues have been around for 30 years,” he says. “So instead of going from country to country to sample delicious foods like many celebrities do, I wanted to sample delicious happiness that I could use and that viewers could learn from.”
He soon realized that changing your location can change your perspective on life: “The number one thing I learned, to quote a line from E.M. Forster — ‘Only connect.’ It all boils down to finding a community and connecting lovingly with that community.”
As a cool bonus, Wilson notes that he became a travel expert flying on various international airlines and passing through exotic airports. (He raves about the food kiosks in Singapore.) “This took my frequent-flier elite status over the top for sure!” he says. So, what kept him grounded during his adventures? He shared his travel musts with CNN Underscored.
“Plain and simple and nothing fancy” is how Wilson describes his trusty water bottle. OK, it’s a little fancy: Made with stainless steel and TempShield vacuum-insulated, it can keep drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for up to 12 hours. “I brought it everywhere because it’s obviously important to stay hydrated,” he adds. “You just have to remember to dump everything out before you go through the airport security line!”
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Oh yes, Wilson was careful to protect his face from the harsh sun. “It’s my bread and butter, baby!” he jokes. In addition to sunscreen and sunglasses, he diligently wore this lightweight, rimmed covering. (“It’s like a Swedish baseball cap.”) The actor notes that he owns “at least” five of them.
To avoid pesky jet lag, Wilson took an all-natural sleep aid tablet 30 minutes before going to bed. “It’s a miracle for me,” he says. “It’s how I attuned myself to the circadian rhythms of the sunlight and fit in with the local populace.”
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Wilson’s happiness journey started with a single step in these light, plush shoes with compression-molded in-soles. “They’re so comfortable and so good for when you’re wandering around neighborhoods or markets,” he says. For hiking, he slipped on his beloved “the crème de la crème” Red Wing Work Boots.
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Wilson says that he doesn’t fly without putting on his headphones. “There is something about the hiss and rumble of the airplane noise that is very disconcerting to the nervous system,” he explains. “The headphones make a huge difference. Now I feel so much more relaxed and refreshed when I land.” His pair also features an adjustable ambient sound mode and a wireless microphone.
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Because Wilson wore about six outfits on camera per location (“there was a lot of clothing”), he carried some serious baggage ... in the form of two large Away suitcases. “They’re just great,” he says. “They’re light and don’t break and it’s easy to get all your stuff in there.” Other details include 360-degree spinner wheels to ensure smooth maneuvering and a water-resistant interior laundry bag.
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At least Wilson lightened his load when it came to reading material. Instead of toting a stack of periodicals and hardcovers, he just used his iPad. “I loaded it up with books and magazine subscriptions like The New Yorker in advance,” he says. “It was really important to me that I could still do my reading.”
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