A look at what inspired my dream, and who I’m following that succeeded in achieving it
I’ve talked about it before, when it comes to dreams, and the many paths I could see myself going down. It’s been that way ever since I was a kid. Back then I would tell my mom that I’d grow up to be a “NFL-/movie-star/singing sensation”. Though some may say I have a nice voice, a singing voice it is not unless a teacher has magic to fix it. NFL isn’t too late, considering I’ve never played professionally on any level, which means I have a lot more mileage on these tires to play well into my 40’s! I partly joke about that, but if any sports teams is reading this: call me. As for movies, a friend is out in California trying to make it big in the film industry as a producer. I’m cheering him to succeed, not only because I’m a caring friend, but also with the hope that he’s able to get me some roles in movies.
But as time passed on, certain dreams stayed while others faded away or were put on the back burner. From firefighter, police officer, physical therapist, plastic surgeon, psychiatrist, radio show host, videogame writer, photographer, sports head coach, and others there was interest in pursuing. Some of those I did attempt to follow, only to find a reason to put the breaks on diving any further. The thing is, at any time, I can pick one of those up and attempt to follow again or something along the same vein. For not only do I have many interests, I also have many backup plans for things. I can certainly be spontaneous – like completely revamping a blog overnight – but I like to put my eggs in different baskets in case things go awry.
See, many of us aren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouths with life lined up perfectly in a linear path. We’re going to take bumps along the way, become side-tracked, or end up in a place we never imagined before. And while I do think it’s important to find our niche in something, I never dive all the way in because by the same token society teaches us not to spend a lifetime doing just one thing. We should have a diverse set of skills. To branch out, explore, and learn various experiences in order to stand out; especially since nowadays jobs/careers are hard to keep long-term. But the hypocrisy of that is another topic for another day. No matter what, though, we try not to give up and find ways to be in a situation where we are happy with what we do. For me, despite how different some of those careers listed above are, as long as it’s something that’s fun and makes a difference in some way I will be happy with. A place with great teammates and an environment that nurtures growth is what I look for. Again, there was never really one career I looked at and said “I want to be only that when I grow up!”. There were, however, two dream careers that I thought about. One of which was listed at the start of this post, while the other is the one this post is about. I’m talking about becoming a host of a travel series.
The Origin Story
Depending on the social context, and who’s involved in the setting, chances are that if you meet me you will see a friendly, kind of reserved man; analyzing the situation before deciding how I act. I never feel the need to command a room, unless I’m off hosting a social event which I haven’t done in quite some time. But if I’m with friends, or people who give off very warm vibes, then I’ll be more boisterous. However, if there’s a camera or stage that I am on, then you get to see Mr. Showman perform! I remember as a kid, around 5th-7th grade, my teacher gave us a project. I don’t remember exactly what it entailed, however my submission for the project was a videotape of me as a host of a show. I distinctly remember starting the video saying “Hi, I’m Steven and welcome to my show!”, and after that I believe I drove around with my dad recording at different parts of town. At that age, going on to today, I also grew up watching Fraser loving his radio show and the guests he’d have on. It was what inspired me to try and major in Communications at university, with the intention of going into radio to host my own show. Family pressures on job outlook would lead me to switch majors, but any chance to perform or play host I wanted to take on. Seven years after graduating university, I finally am about to have my own show over the airwaves.
While I’m excited about the podcast venture that will soon begin, something else calls to me from afar. It’s been something that began all those years ago for that little school project. As life rolled on, and I entered high school, I began to understand that there was a whole world beyond the city I lived in. Soon, I came across travel shows on PBS that featured the likes of Rudy Maxa, Samantha Brown, Joseph Rosendo, Rick Steves and even fellow Texan Chet Garner. Other travel show hosts that you may know, I probably have heard of but not seen much of, because I never had cable channels or Netflix to see them on. Each with their own personalities, knowledge, and preferences on certain cultures around the world. I developed preferences, too, when it came to who I watched and what I was looking for. It was around high school time, that the (what felt like) far-away dream was solidified and anytime someone asked me what I want to do in life I would jokingly, yet honestly, say “get paid to simply travel”.
Of course, it probably coincided with my strong desire to break away and go to Spain; something that I still have to do. But then life came, university rolled by, graduate school flew through, and yada yada yada. In those years that passed, however, confidence and hunger grew inside that would culminate in this quest to knock out dreams of mine. It started with losing weight back when I was 23-24 years old, then the app that still carries dust (haven’t forgotten about it), then the job in a different city at a place I dreamed of going to, then it failing before my eyes right before my birthday. Though not entrepreneurial, that failure in my first full-time job had the same feeling hopeful business owners feel when their attempts at a startup collapse. The feeling like your dreams were dashed and, wondering, if there was anything that can come this close. The wins and losses taken, like something out of a inspirational movie, led me to think that something grander was on the horizon. I just haven’t seen it, yet. And then COVID came.
One can read my Life Update posts to know the struggles that went on, as soon as the virus came and impacted the world in ways we didn’t expect. It led to a lot of time thinking of what I was going to do next. My eggs were tossed out of their baskets, and I had to figure out which ones remained and which ones did not crack. Because while we can do a lot of things at any age, everyone would ideally like to have a career by the time they reach their 40’s. COVID certainly changed that, for a lot of us, but it also allowed us to plan ahead and think of the next steps. In a way, many of our lives were on “pause” and we could reset some things before the world hit the “resume” button. As I told friends, investing in various industries such as the travel industry, is a good idea with stocks being so low. These past several months have been premium times to invest in things with the cost of things dropping during the pandemic. It’s also been a time where we can invest in ourselves, and consider pursuing things we did not consider before.
As I said, this period has been a sort of “pause/reset” button on life. Many people are changing jobs, others are moving to new places, and some have decided to use the restart as a means to finally pursue their dreams; myself included. It began with this blog, which I’ve been writing for over three years, and it’s revamped appearance and effort to build it’s brand. Then came the podcast, buying the mic and getting the intro/outro, that is now ready to get up and running. My app, long laying dormant, I think I might have to reach out to someone to help create the prototype. I simply don’t have time to learn the proper coding needed to build it up. While I can do many things that are on my plate, my focus is too dedicated to the blog and eventually show that will stem from it. For my blog, I always wanted to try and grow it organically; avoiding social media since I hated using it personally. But many things can change over time, and my views on social media shifted as I began to see how it can be useful business-wise. So I created an Instagram page to help grow a following, that will be there for the ride as I strive to reach the goal I’m pursuing.
It also allowed me to see what others do. There are many, many travel bloggers and photographers on Instagram that I follow and haven’t come across yet. But while I love the beautiful photos and video captures of the places they are at, in my opinion, it still misses that deep connection with people the way a show has. When you look at the photos and short video clips, do you look at it in envious awe thinking “I wish I was there?” or do you feel like you’re a friend of the traveler and part of the adventure? While there is subtle overlap between the two, they are two different things when you take a step back and think about it. One has a fantasy vibe to it, showing people an image of life that is hard to achieve for many; whether it’s a luxury location with an amazing view or a nature scene that many are unable to reach, for example. The other keeps it honest, and shows people a world they may have not seen but are certainly capable of experiencing one day. In the end, that connection comes down to the host and their ability to draw you in while showing that they do care; not only about the adventure, itself, but the audience they are connecting with.
When I refer to hosting a show, I’m not talking about a YouTube vlogging series, rather what you might see on television or Netflix series. A common pitfall I notice among vloggers on YouTube, is that the focus is on themselves rather than the adventure. Ever watch someone who’s on a trip, and only see maybe several seconds of an event, only for the camera to revert back to them as they walk and talk? You certainly get to know them, but miss out on the world around them or only see glimpses of it that make you want to look elsewhere for more. It’s all about finding the right balance. That is why I came up with the idea for my travel app. Photos/short video clips only do so much, or show you a perfect fantasy, while vloggers might not fully focus on what you’re hoping to see. With a travel show, you get to see the locations and sites while, also, seeing the host with their unique personalities. I mentioned a few earlier of some well-known travel hosts, who have their own flair as they show you various things. They also have something that I don’t have in the travel show world: TV experience. Is it frustrating, and a little intimidating? Absolutely, but the next part of my story goes back to when I saw a woman dance. She did what I want to do, but it wasn’t until recently did I learn that Mickela was in similar shoes as me several years ago.
The Woman Who Danced & Believed
One Saturday afteroon, I was home watching PBS seeing what interesting shows will be on that day. I think it was a cold, drizzly day to go out, much like today as I’m writing this, when I discovered they were airing a marathon of a travel show I was not familiar with. I saw a woman dancing out in the country of Spain, and getting to know the locals there. The next episode, she was off in Italy learning of heritage as she continued dancing away. As I continued to watch more, I became intrigued by this unique perspective of traveling through the sole; dancing foot sole that is.
Mickela Mallozzi is the host of her Emmy-winning travel series, Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi, where she showcases the diversity of dance across the globe. Before that, though, she was off in the music industry before realizing dance was her true dream. Eventually, she would go on to create her series that would become very successful. What I didn’t realize was that in the beginning she, too, did not have TV/hosting experience when embarking on this new endeavor. When I was diving into online research, I googled “how to get my own travel show”, and the first result to pop up was an article called I Succeeded in Hosting My Own Travel Show Without Any TV Experience.
It was there that I got to know more about the woman who dances, behind the camera, and how she took a leap of faith and believed in herself that this dream of travel can be something more. What I learned was that having a creative mind is needed to find solutions when the world around you will make it seem impossible. Producers aren’t going to seek me out, and many doors might slam in my face as I approach. I’m going to have to continue being self-reliant, and creating content on my own. No production crew will be on standby, I have no television contacts, and my friends have their own dreams they are pursuing. I will be the host, which means I’ll have to start taking videos of myself talking to an audience I’m hoping is out there. But while Mickela practiced talking to the camera and her audience, I must practice simply getting in front of the camera again.
Friends, acquaintances, and anyone on Instagram following me probably know that there are hardly any images of me. Truth is I hate being in front of the camera if I don’t have to be. I’m not a selfie kind of guy, and if I’m on an adventure I take photos of the moment itself; not me in that moment. In my mind, me standing or not standing in the photo doesn’t take away the fact I was there nor the memory I’ll have when recounting the tale to others. But I strongly believe the reason stems from me being overweight from around 5 years old to 23-24 years old. I hated being in photos and tried to cover up the extra weight or avoid being in photos/videos altogether. While I did go on to lose quite a bit, I didn’t suddenly become this arrogant person wanting to flaunt myself like you see with others who’ve gone though physical transformations. This was a part of my personality where I prefer the humble, quietness of things unless I am hosting. As I said, if I have to perform, you will certainly see a different part of me; but it still is me and not a fake persona.
If I am on camera, I will know what to say and do. It’s just putting myself back in front of it that I must overcome. Because Mickela and I have some similarities that make her a great host and, I believe, would make me one too. We both are creative and think on our feet to find unique ways to not only get a solution, but to build meaningful connections with the people we come across. When I was counseling, providing therapy to others, clients would say to me that they felt comfortable opening up to me. There was an ease around me, a genuine intention to help, that allows them to relax and feel welcomed to share something personal. Mickela is able to do that, as well, when connecting with people abroad as they share a part of their culture through dance. They share it through their eyes, their experiences, that isn’t scripted or kept on the surface-level. No matter who or where we come across, that ability to connect quickly and make it feel as if we’ve known each other longer is one-of-a-kind.
This ability to build great rapport, goes along with our self-reliance. Those following my blog have seen the struggles in grad school, the stubbornness of waiting for the right job opportunity, using a dying car to get around a new city, creating the blog’s image with no guidance, and even getting a passport on my own (which was harder than it had to be). And now I got my own podcast mic for this other endeavor, I bought a gorilla tripod, and soon I will try and get a new camera and lavalier microphone to go towards turning the dream into reality. Having a new car to drive around will come next year, I hope, which will immensely open doors for adventure and content. For now, it may just have to be local areas until then. Regardless, that self-reliance of doing things on my own is what helped me not give up on these dreams after all these years. The same way Mickela’s self-reliance came through after leaving the music industry, and the struggles that followed in creating her series.
And the zest for life, and adventure, is what we share that brings excitement in what we do and share with others. You might think everyone else has that, but some might have other intentions. They may do it simply because it’s their job, others might do it just for that image or video that will get them views, it could be to draw sponsorship deals, and some may have just lost their passion for travel. When you put your heart in travel first, you can see it in the result that comes from it. As you watch Bare Feet, you can see the love Mickela has on her adventures that includes the love of dancing. It’s something that I hope to share with you one day, too. But first, we have to look at what else is left in order to reach the Endgame.
The Trail We Shall Blaze
I quickly glossed over it in a previous article that highlighted the top things I wanted to do when COVID-19 ends, but since then things have changed a bit. The virus still lingers, as they say the second surge is now ramping up around the world. Travel may shut down even more if that happens. I was able to get a job that, if sustained, can help pay for the other various things needed in order to pursue this. I mentioned the new car, which would be very useful for near and far road trips. I could probably do it with the truck I’m using now, but it’s not under my name and the distance can’t be too far. Once I get a vehicle that’s under my name, the country is open for exploring. Finding the time for exploration will have to be considered, since I work full-time, but we’ll cross that bridge when we complete the rest of what is discussed.
I mentioned buying a tripod that will go towards the camera and lapel microphone I want to get. I have one in mind that I feel would be a great camera to use for photos and video recording. It’s a bit more pricey, however, so I need to do more research before committing to buying it. I also might have to look into video editing software. After getting a camera, and testing it out, I then need to plot out how the show will go and what I will cover. For some hosts, they may focus on a particular country. I want to cover the world. Others may focus on a niche like the wilderness, cuisine history, or (in Mickela’s case) art such as dance. While I did say earlier that I don’t fully dive in to niches, I know a little niche is good to stand out. I actually have two ideas in mind, one of which is like Mickela’s but instead of dance I do sports. Yes, I love sports and it’s just an idea at the moment so bear with me. The other idea, however, is the one I think more about. I often tell friends or anyone abroad that
if when I travel, I don’t want to be a typical tourist. Like if I go to London, yes it’ll be nice to see Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, but I much prefer the unknown – the hidden gems in life. I’ve been that way my entire life, where I prefer taking the road less traveled. Roads that others didn’t take as much. I didn’t want to be like casual tourists, I wanted to create myself in the image of a local who lived there for years; knowing the secrets of that place.
It’s those hidden gems, whether food/arts/history/etc., that I want to find and share with you in a fun and refreshing way. I say refreshing, because as a host you got to bring a personality that will connect with the audience that hasn’t been seen as much. Some may take the caring approach, others the humorous path, a few are over the top, while some hosts take the historian look. While each are good in their own way, I have seen plenty to develop my own preference for how I want to approach this. While I won’t simply state facts and make it seem like a history class tour, I don’t want to be too boisterous and appear fake like it’s some reality series you’re watching. There will be some pizazz with humor, but also care and compassion with those I meet on my ventures. Finding the right blend will take some experimenting, however if I act on camera the way I do off it then I think it’ll be fine. And that’s the other thing is overcoming being in front of the camera. In the end, it shouldn’t be a big deal; just merely getting over the mental thoughts of the past and that many people will see me. Reminding myself of the dream, and that life is too short to worry about such things, will help me do this. And knowing my inner showman, there may be something I wear on every show that I’ll use to distinguish myself from other hosts. What that is, who knows, but it may incorporate something from my home state or from every place that I visit.
I’m excited about this opportunity as we slowly get closer to it. It’ll bring many learning experiences, including what it takes to create an episode. Maybe one day, I can bring a friend on board to help me with production but for now it looks like it’ll be a one-man show. Just a few things are needed before we get started, however it’ll start local before we go global. Partly due to COVID, and partly due to working full-time. But who knows, perhaps one day if the show is a success, Mickela and I can collaborate on something together or with another travel show host! For now, we’ll just take it one step at a time and slowly cross off things on our to-do list. All the while knowing we are another step closer to a dream that started as a kid, that felt impossible to happen, yet now we’re believing in ourselves that it will. It may have taken all these years to get started, but it’s never too late to do something you love. From the little boy who wanted to be on radio, to the man who struggled to get a passport and is still waiting to fly, dreams are indeed turning to reality. And if things show promise for this travel series, then I can take the full leap of faith; just like Mickela did. . .