'Travel goddess' Samantha Brown: 'I am nesting'

By Annie Fitzsimmons, Special to CNNPublished 14th December 2012
Samantha Brown's Twitter bio says she is the "girl with the best job in the world." Legions of fans have agreed, watching Brown crisscross the globe since her very first Travel Channel show 13 years ago.
Brown's girl-next-door personality mixed with a sense of adventure has appealed to a wide range of people using her shows to help plan their own trips. She has created more than 160 hours of television series and specials that have taken her all over Europe, America, Asia and Latin America.
Brown jokingly prefers the title of travel goddess to travel expert, but she has certainly earned her expert status. At the height of her filming schedule, she would travel three weeks each month.
Now she has slowed down a bit -- for good reason. In September, Brown, 42, announced that she and her husband, Kevin O'Leary, are expecting twins, a boy and a girl.
"I am nesting," she said. "After this job, all of a sudden, I just want to be home making things."
After the twins are born, she will keep traveling and entertaining, with original content on her own website, designing her luggage line for HSN and working on new television projects.
Fans of Brown can expect to see her back on Travel Channel in January, hosting a one-hour special called "Trip of A Lifetime," where viewers will have a chance to win $100,000 for their own dream trip.
"The next step is to create a whole Web series for traveling with children and showing the hardships of it. I've never wanted to come across as perfect, because I'm not. I think people appreciate when they see the struggle, but in the end, it all works out," Brown said.
She has already chosen her baby travel system of car seats and strollers so they can hit the road early.
Brown talked to CNN about the next phase of her life. The following is an edited version of that interview.
CNN: Your pregnancy announcement drew an overwhelming response on your Facebook page and on Twitter. Is it something you've wanted for a while?
Brown: Absolutely. My husband and I have wanted children now for many, many years, but as I always joke, the best form of birth control is having your own travel show. So we had to take a little bit of a break from the show to make sure that the babies could happen, and it did. When we found out it was twins, we just felt so blessed because we thought we would only have one child. When you have two, it's like a sale: two for one!
We have our names picked out, but it's a secret. Even our parents don't know. But it won't be Apple or SpongeBob, I can promise you that.
CNN: Are you having cravings?
Brown: None! With all my travels, it should be something really good like churros with chocolate or paella from Spain, but nope. No cravings!
CNN: Do you have any family holiday traditions you'll be passing down?
Brown: In my family, we always had a taco bar on Christmas Eve, and then we were able to open one present from a family member. The next morning is when Santa's gifts arrived. I would love to bring back taco night.
CNN: Will you be raising the twins in New York?
Brown: I actually think things are easier in the city. I know a lot of people think living in the city is so hard, and yet it isn't. Everything can be delivered. Everything is walking distance, so you don't have to load them up into a car every time you want to go out. There's such a community of family here in Brooklyn, and city kids are just cool. There's a whole sophistication of being a city kid that I love.
CNN: Where are the places besides Disney World that you can't wait to take your babies?
Brown: I can't wait to take them to the beach in Maine, where my mother lives. I have always loved seeing fat babies on the beach, with cute little bonnets. There's something so wonderful about a Maine beach. We would also love to take them really anywhere in Europe.
CNN: What is a favorite family-friendly hotel of yours?
Brown: One of my favorites is the Hyatt Regency Hill Country outside of San Antonio, where there is this awesome lazy river. The kids can go crazy, but you can just float along. I think a spa is a must when you're a mom so you can get away, and they have a great one. It's all about the family coming together, so I would love to go back there. I was born in Dallas, so it would somewhat be getting back to my Texas roots.
CNN: What is a favorite hotel for when you just go with your husband?
Brown: There's an amazingly beautiful small hotel called the Wheatleigh in Lenox, Massachusetts. You can walk to Tanglewood, where the Boston Pops go in the summer. But it is one of the most stunning hotels, and they've had so many cool people stay there like Leonard Bernstein. They also have amazing food.
CNN: Is there still a potential book on the horizon?
Brown: You know, I realized that I didn't love the book-writing process. I like doing things and going to camera right away to talk about something. I've gained a tremendous respect for writers, because it's tough, and I didn't want to hire a ghostwriter. What we've done is channel it into a website, which became a better place for me to share my experiences. Hopefully, people can learn from them, laugh from them and get to know me better. A book isn't completely out of the question, but not right now.
CNN: A lot of shows are being greenlit on Travel Channel that have little to do with travel or, as you joke, are "men eating shows." Why do you think this is?
Brown: Travel television really has changed. While I love the idea of doing another "Passport to Europe," when shows like "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" do well, it becomes obvious what the viewer is demanding. It's not great ideas about what to do in Europe. You could pick on Travel Channel, but they're a business, and they have to produce shows that people watch.
I think they've done a great job in the new crop of shows. I think "Hotel Impossible" is a great show, and Anthony Melchiorri is a fantastic host. He's an absolute expert in what he's talking about. I would love to redo "Passport to Europe" because things have changed and my perspective has changed, but it might not be on Travel Channel.
CNN: What would Samantha's "Ultimate Eating Show" look like?
Brown: The ultimate eating show that I would love to do would be to go to the strip malls across America. I read this great article about how there is this amazing cultural minority population, and the first thing they do when they start to have their own success is to move out of the urban centers and into the suburbs. That is the American dream, to have a house. Then they open up their restaurants in strip malls.
You could have the most amazing Egyptian food next to a Radio Shack. I've been to places with the best hummus in Pennsylvania and Vietnamese in Maryland. It would combine my love for that cultural sense combined with the American dream and, of course, food. When you have good food, you've made it in the ratings!
CNN: What do you think about Anthony Bourdain coming to CNN?
Brown: I think it's great. I like him a lot and think his travel shows are fantastic. With CNN, they're going to allow him to go anywhere he wants. He has a huge fan base, and we want to see him in the most crazy, wonderful, exotic destinations.
CNN: Who are some women in the business of travel or food whom you admire?
Brown: I love Gail Simmons. She's been able to create a business around being herself and she's smart. Of course, I love comediennes like Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph. I also love women like Katie Couric, someone who has done so well but has been heavily criticized. But she still gets up, works hard and is such a huge success.
CNN: Who is someone you would love to interview on your show?
Brown: Chef José Andrés. He has that effervescent personality and has had such a positive influence on food, keeping his sense of discovery. My husband and I have always watched his cooking shows. I've met him, and he's exactly what you see on camera. He has a wonderful attitude.
CNN: You are a classic American success story. You were a waitress in New York before you got your first show. What is your advice for young people in their early 20s trying to figure it all out?
Brown: Hang in there. Keep at it. I had a very nice, very expensive education, and I still waited on tables for eight years. I had times where I thought, 'Why didn't I have a safer major, one where I could get a job paying me 75K straight out of school?' I had my attitude in my early 20s that if it wasn't happening easily, maybe I don't deserve it. That's not true at all. You really have to keep at it. I'm still close with a lot of my waiter friends because you get to know each other very well!
CNN: What are some of your most memorable restaurants?
Brown: I love Tommaso's in Brooklyn and then going to see the Christmas lights in Dyker Heights. The man who owns the restaurant (Tommaso Verdillo) and breaks into song went to Juilliard for voice.
There was a place (Leo's) in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, up in the hills. In the morning, you would see the man that owned it jump off a rock to get the fresh catch of the day. One of the things he serves a lot is barnacles, which look like talons but taste as good as lobster. There are plastic tables and no electricity.
He serves you the freshest plate of raw and cooked fish, and it's like $6 a plate. There is also a beautiful hotel there, where my husband and I always want to go back, called La Casa Que Canta or "The House That Sings." It's on the cliffs. You have your own infinity pool. It is unbelievable.
The place where I knew my husband was the guy was Gabrielle Hamilton's place Prune (in New York). We had homemade burrata on bread, and I remember looking at him and thinking, "He's the guy I'm going to marry."