Ian Wright - Live in Toronto!
Ian Wright - Cult Figure and Regular Guy Next Door
Yesterday my buddy Arnie and I had a chance to meet one of my idols in person: Ian Wright, the most famous presenter of the Pilot Guides travel show. The event was sponsored by three great players in the Canadian adventure travel industry: Outpost Magazine - Travel for Real; Mountain Equipment Coop - one of my favourite travel equipment outfitters; and Gap Adventures, a major adventure travel company in Toronto. It was great to see Ian live for the first time.
In many ways, Ian has been an inspiration to me for creating this website. When I started this travel website, I set out to create my own "Pilot Guides" experience, of course without the TV show, without the sponsors or the syndication deals, just me setting off on my own discoveries several times a year and sharing my experiences with like-minded people on the web.
In the 11 years of hosting the show Ian has been part of 55 episodes and traveled to over 70 countries. I have watched his shows for years and his quirky humour, cute English accent and physical comedy really add a special twist to this travel program. Ian never shies away from participating in activities with the locals, and he often samples rather outrageous types of food on his travels, including cockroaches and sheep eyeballs!
What makes Ian unique is that he delves into the culture, often sleeps in hostels, celebrates with the locals and regularly hitchhikes on the back of a truck. Luxury travel this is definitely not, but its entertaining, funny and informative at the same time. What's great is that Ian always shows great respect for the country that he travels to.
The Pilot Guides travel programs are broadcast all around the world and Ian in particular has a very enthusiastic fan base. He said that his biggest fans are in Canada, Taiwan and in Norway while he is less well-known in England, his own home country.
Canada takes a special place in Ian's schedule because it's the only country where he holds lecture tours and the venue, the University of Toronto's Convocation Hall, was booked almost solid with several hundred admiring fans.
We got to see a slide show and Ian shared many of his humorous travel stories, but he also told us a bit about his time growing up and how his headmaster told him at his high-school reunion that he remembers that Ian always got other people in trouble. (Ian does have that mischievous twinkle in his eye, like he's always ready for a prank...).
He also told us about how he got a job with Pilot Guides - "the best job in the world", and that he obviously sent a pretty hilarious demo reel to the producers. He gave us the useful advice that if we wanted to get a job like his, we'd have to pay special attention to the first 10 to 15 seconds of the demo reel since they are crucial in making an impression.
At the end Ian spent a whole extra hour fielding questions from the audience. People asked him about the strangest type of foods he has eaten on his travels (he's actually a vegetarian), his favourite animal (camels "'cause they are so rude"), his favourite places (Mongolia, Cambodia, Greenland), places he's never been and would like to go (Antarctica, Central America).
He also razzed my own home country a bit, saying that Vienna's museums put him to sleep and that he enjoyed the cardboard cops that are posted in various Austrian towns to prevent people from speeding. Of course that can only happen in a really sedate and safe country like Austria..
Ian also shared a couple of personal insights, that he travels much less now that he has settled down with a family, that he hosts drama classes for teenagers and that he loves painting. As a matter of fact, when I met him today at a meet-and-greet event at Toronto's Mountain Equipment Coop store, he gave away beautiful autographed posters of his paintings entitled "Ian Wright - Painting the World".
For me the most fascinating part of the experience was that for all intents and purposes, Ian really is a global celebrity, and he has remained just a regular guy, humble, friendly and very approachable. No wonder everybody loves him....
Pilot Guides - My favourite TV travel show