In this, our tenth year of ‘Places We Go’, we have been doing a lot of reflecting. While we are now on air right across the globe, the intention of our little show is and always has been about simply sharing the world with the world – not only to inspire people to travel, but if they can’t, to learn about different places from their armchair through the eyes of the locals that we interview.
Travel brings so much to us all in ways far beyond the simple adventure of it all don’t you think?
We thought we would do a candid Q & A with Jen Adams who started the show many, many, many thousands of travel kilometres ago!
Jen! Tell us about how and why PWG began?
For as long as I can remember, it’s all I ever wanted to do. Travel the world and share stories. I have always been so fascinated with back story of people’s lives that travel was a natural curiosity for me; I remember sitting on the River Ganges pondering how I could make it happen (such a cliché!).
Through my own travels, I have always had the underlying belief that travel brings understanding of another culture, and with understanding brings empathy, and of course with that comes a kinder, more tolerant world.
I will never forget the moment I knew I was going to quit my job as a newsreader/reporter for Network Seven and follow my dream. I was sitting on a rock at Mount Everest base camp filming a documentary on three Victorian policeman who summited in honour of their mate who died while training for the climb. It was there that I met the first ever hiking team of Jordanian women to even attempt to summit.
One afternoon while we were waiting for a break in the weather, I spent the afternoon in their mess tent drinking peppermint tea with them. I asked them why and how they have made their dream possible. They all replied with a twinkle in their eyes. “Why not us?” they replied.
On the flight home, I knew my life was forever changed. And somehow I would tackle my ‘Everest’ and bring this little idea alive.
It’s funny you know, there is a common theme to the people we interview for our show who are creating some of the most amazing travel experiences all over the world – they all had that moment where they took the leap of faith to live their passion; and I guess it’s their stories that we love sharing.
Someday soon we plan on putting the longer versions of the interviews online. With so much fast paced TV and social media these days, I believe more than ever that it’s wonderful to listen to a proper conversation about people getting out there and doing great things.
How would you describe Places We Go’s journey?
An absolute privilege and a total jigsaw puzzle. As you can imagine, we get emails from people saying how lucky we are – but as I am sure anyone reading this is aware, nothing is ever as easy as it looks. Travel makes up about 20 per cent of the work it takes to bring PWG to the screen.
We have an extremely small, but highly talented and forever passionate team behind it. If only we were doing this 20 years ago when TV series were commissioned by networks! It doesn’t work that way anymore. It’s a jigsaw puzzle of working with many different partners to make it happen – but at the end of the day, when we are interviewing someone, somewhere incredible, all of that fades into the background. Ten years of travelling to some of the most beautiful places on the planet, and the joy of bringing someone’s story alive through our show has never left me.
We had that moment just last week when we were filming in the South West of W.A. We arrived to film a place called “Tall Timbers” – a shop bringing together many of the local cellar doors and producers in the region – and got so swept up in the story we ended up leaving well after dark. We’re committed to sharing their stories, it becomes quite a responsibility, because you know how much blood sweat and tears have gone into their work.
Tell us your top three memories from the last ten years of filming Places We Go?
In no particular order…..!
Our big trip around Australia. I had so many moments when I had tears in my eyes simply over how beautiful the outback was.
Our daughter turned 2 while we were filming up in Arnhem Land, there we were with both of our mothers (yes that is two mother in-laws!!) my mum’s friend and our cameraman. We had two caravans… and really had no idea what we were doing to start with. Only a thirst for adventure.
It was tough at times as we spend four and a half months as an extremely tight unit. But I will be talking about that trip till the day I die, that is for sure. I remember standing on the side of a red dusty road in the Kimberley filming a sunset, our daughter was stretching her legs (wearing not much more than a nappy at that moment) and I said to Clint “I just never want this to end”. It was sincerely the trip of a lifetime.
Another memory I love was when my cameraman and I went to Nepal to film the pilot for the show. We deliberately had no plans at all (we wanted it to be all spontaneous!). Just a backpack and a camera. We ended up filming the Annapurna circuit. Those 8000 metre peaks have such an energy about them. We met the most beautiful, generous locals on that trip. The story we filmed ended up airing on network 7 (where I was working at the time). It was called Treks of the World. It was a really special time. It was all about the adventure.
And thirdly, I would have to say paddling alongside whales in Antarctica. We were on a 2-week voyage and had the opportunity to jump in kayaks and go for a paddle. Luckily for me I was there with my friend Michael and he was a really solid rower, because as soon as we jumped into the icy water we had 4 whales circling around us, as though they had come to say hello. We both looked at each other with tears in our eyes. It was so magical. That place will never leave my heart. I can’t wait to get back there to be honest. I’d love to work on a base one day. No idea how I could make that happen (and will have to wait till our kids are all grown up!!)
Now tell us three ‘behind the scene’s’ moments that no-one really knows?!
Do you mean some of the arguments in the car while we are filming our driving adventures around Oz?!! Because we always talk about how “real” the show is, but in reality, do people want to see us for how we really are when we haven’t had any sleep for a week on the road!!??
There are a lot of behind-the-scenes clips that would make everyone laugh. And surely no-one can claim they don’t ever argue in the car, can they? Or am I alone? Especially when we are on tight deadlines!
In all seriousness, it’s the behind the scenes moments that would make for the best TV, but we are all about sharing incredible places to go, and the show is not about “us” – so that is why we leave it all on the cutting room floor as they say!
There is a funny moment when we went cage diving with Great White Sharks off Port Lincoln. I get nerves even talking about it. We really didn’t enjoy it, and I simply can’t recommend it. There is just nothing natural about putting a whole lot of burly in the water to attract the sharks. We are big scuba divers, but for me, this was too much.
As soon as we got into the water, a giant Great White went straight for our cage. And because I am fairly short (5 foot 6) I felt like I was right in the viewing gap. Whereas Clint, (6ft 2) had his eye level at a much more respectable place.
When our cameraman jumped in the cage after he’d filmed a few shots, he somehow managed to get all entwined in the cord of my regulator. I was banging and banging on his back to let me free, but because he was confronted by all the sharks, he didn’t respond. I quickly grabbed Clint’s spare regulator for air. It was totally mental. When we all came out 45 minutes later, it felt like we had all been on a horror ride!
I could keep going on about the behind the scenes moments. But another funny one was when we were filming in India and we were on an overnight train to Rajasthan. The only way I can describe the train is that it was like an old rattler, where you had to almost jump between carriages, and when you did you could see the tracks underneath you!
It was about 1am and everyone was fast asleep. Between the sound of the train, and people snoring, it was almost comical. I was dying for the toilet, so I made the journey into the next carriage. I didn’t tell my cameraman I was leaving because he was fast asleep, besides I would only be five minutes right? So wrong.
I made it to the toilet, closed the door and covered my nose while I quickly went. Without going into too much detail, there wasn’t a “toilet” as such. Just kind of a hole in the floor.
Anyway, when I went to open the door again to get out, I simply couldn’t open it. It was totally jammed. I yelled, I screamed, I screamed and then screamed some more. No one could hear me.
In the end I fell down onto the floor, tied the scarf around my mouth and nose. And sat and waited.
5 hours later, day broke.
I realised I had been trying to pull the door handle the wrong way. It went up and not down!
Needless to say, I lost 10 kilos in the next 7 days. And had to film a tiger safari the next day. Hard to find the words. But you asked!!!
How ‘glamourous’ is filming a travel show really?
Ha. I like the way you said “really” in your question.
There is nothing glamorous about making TV, and especially not a travel show. I would say it’s among the hardest types of TV to produce. Those sunrises don’t happen by themselves – and we are pride ourselves on them! So most days, we are up before the sun is up, racing around to get as many beautiful shots as we can, and then spending time with the people we meet on the road to really bring the stories alive. We are all there with a passion for travel, but we are there to get a job done. It’s certainly not a holiday where you just get the camera out whenever you feel like it. Otherwise we would be wasting a massive opportunity to get the best out of the stories to share with the world.
Also, like any other human, we get tired, sick, injured, mistakes happen, things get lost, and we always seem to run out of time! So really, we are just like any other workplace!
What has been one of the most exciting moments for Places We Go?
When we first ever went global.
Our daughter was only 2 weeks old, and there I was sitting in the head office with the Vice President of the Discovery network who was saying they loved our little show. (Meanwhile my mum was there with my baby for the duration of the meeting).
I walked out and was fist pumping the air, with tears in my eyes. It was really cool.
Where do you see Places We Go heading over the next ten years?
Gosh, where do I start? We have so many exciting plans. But underpinning all of them is the same desire to share the world with the world, and celebrate the people we meet, whether that be on TV, online, podcasts, or radio… and who knows what else! 10 years is a lifetime, the world is now changing so fast, it would be impossible to say that far out!
We are in the middle of working on a project that I hope will genuinely help Australians in the world of travel. But stay tuned on that one!
What destination would you love to go to, but to date, have not made it?
New York (can’t quite believe I have never been)
Diving in the Maldives.
Larapinta Trek, NT (I absolutely love a good trek, it’s my personal passion)
What is a typical day ‘in the office’ like when you are not filming?
It starts with school drop off!
Then amidst a million emails and text messages with everyone in our team, I get stuck into writing the stories we have just filmed. At the moment we are delivering our current series to the network. So each week we roll out a new episode, and with that comes dreaming up new campaigns, working with partners on competitions, blogs – the list goes on and on…
We are also in the middle of revising our Bucket List Book, we have a new edition coming out in Feb/March next year.
3pm rolls around and its back to school pick up. Watching our daughter play basketball. All the normal stuff we all do. There is always lots of singing and dancing at our house. It’s a wonderful time – the simple pleasures of watching our 9 year-old with our 15 month old. It’s what life is all about…and dreaming of our next travel experience!
What do you wish for Places We Go?
Gosh…. This question is going to keep me up all night….. I have been thinking a lot about this lately, and am focused on enjoying right now xx
Do you have any more questions for Jen? She’d love to hear from you in the comments below