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Living the dream

There are hordes of folks out there who dream of becoming travel writers, so it follows that there must be untold legions who’ve wondered how on earth one gets to be the host of a travel television show.

There are hordes of folks out there who dream of becoming travel writers, so it
follows that there must be untold legions who’ve wondered how on earth one gets
to be the host of a travel television show.

Well, Metro columnist Julia Dimon, 27, and fellow Canadian travel writer
Robin Esrock, 33, have managed to carve out a living both as travel writers and
— as of this evening, when their new 13-week television show, Word Travels,
debuts on OLN — travel TV hosts.

Since part of the show’s premise is seeing how two travel writers cope
with deadlines and setbacks around the world, viewers will get to observe their
trade in action. We’ll see how they get their stories; why they’re so
comfortable journeying to places many of us would balk at; and how on earth they
manage to file on time from a mountaintop in Peru or the middle of an African

And perhaps — perhaps — we’ll understand why our intrepid pair are so
intent on hurling themselves off of skyscrapers and waterfalls, or eating local
delicacies such as wriggling insects, all in the name of experiencing the world
from a different perspective.

Julia and Robin couldn’t really have had much different introductions to the
travel writing trade. Robin’s was definitely on the dramatic side: on his way to
work at a music-industry job in Vancouver, he was hit by a car that ran a red
light — the best thing that ever happened to him, as he describes it.

He spent six months in rehab, but ended up with a $20,000 insurance
settlement, and decided to spend it on an around-the-world trip.

Once out on the road, he started pitching stories to newspaper travel
editors, and landed a backpacking column with the Vancouver Sun. Since then,
he’s been published in papers around the world, built a popular web site, www.moderngonzo.com,
documenting his travels, and joined up with Travel Cuts to present some talks on
his travel experiences — talks which drew unexpectedly large crowds.

Julia freely admits that her travel-writing mom helped her learn the
ropes at an early age (she was first published in the Toronto Star at age 12).
She managed to keep up the writing through university, and continued on writing
for the Star’s travel section after graduating. It was her decision to leave on
a year-long, round-the-world trip that got Metro interested in a running a
column about her adventures.

Appropriately enough, Robin and Julia first met in a hostel in Turkey,
when someone realized there were two young Canadian travel writers staying under
the same roof, and introduced them.

At the time, Julia was on deadline, typing away at her laptop, but Robin
convinced her that she should come along on a boat expedition that night (she
assures us she met her deadline — ahem) and the pair have been friends

So when Robin decided to pitch a travel show to a production company in
Vancouver, Julia was a natural co-host.

From that point on, the entire Word Travels project has come together
remarkably quickly for a television show. Crew members with plenty of travel
experience were found, and destinations were chosen based on places the co-hosts
hadn’t been yet.

(In fact, even Robin’s previous experience in the music industry was
useful in putting together the show. Word Travels may indeed turn out to be the
only travel show in existence that’s been set to music by Canadian indie

Part of what’s different about this show, the hosts say, is that it doesn’t
gloss over the kind of headaches that seem intrinsic to travel. There are the
delays, broken down transportation, and unexpected obstacles that many
adventurers can relate to, but which are oddly sanitized out of most travel
writing, and most travel TV programs.

As Robin puts it, you may hate those setbacks with a passion while you’re
suffering through them but they make for the kind of stories you end up relating
over and over, and remembering for the rest of your life.

So what do these two hope viewers will take away from Word Travels? Julia
says that she delights in convincing others that countries they may perceive as
dangerous, inaccessible or just a little too off-the-beaten path are in fact
places that wholly deserve to be visited.

If you suddenly find yourself getting up off the couch to book an online
ticket to a destination you’d never have considered an hour previously, Robin
and Julia will say, “Mission accomplished.”

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