Lonely traveler very popular

By Bo Rhodes

Imagine being my friend! I’m traveling every month and coming back and everyone says, ‘Oh no. Don’t tell us anymore stories.’ I’ve gotten desperate now. I have to fly 10 hours to Canada for fresh blood and I’m gonna make you suffer tonight with my travel stories. Each and every one of you. What can be worse than that? Slide show."

With these words, Ian Wright, Lonely Planet traveler, begins his presentation last Wednesday evening in the MacEwan Hall Ballroom, one which captivates the sold-out audience. They hang on to his every word and laugh at his oft-televised mirth.

Wright’s journey to the celebrity he now enjoys is not that unusual. He tries to rationalize his current situation by examining his past.

"I’ll tell you little bits of my life so that you can work it out, ’cause I can’t work out how I got the job," he confesses.

"I went through a 10-year period trying to avoid any responsibility whatsoever and avoiding anything connected with work," he says. "I took all the knowledge that I gained from college and went straight into a job in a department store café. It took a long to go back and relearn all the nonsense you sat through in school and college. When you leave, you’ve got what?"

He says the gig with Lonely Planet is really a fluke.

"My friend said ‘look there’s an advert here [in the newspaper] for the Lonely Planet and it says young, enthusiastic, done a little bit of traveling, send a show reel .’"

Wright was chosen from the 3,000 applicants. Using knowledge gained from making films with his friends, he created a script for a tour through London. The innovative approach and wit ensured the job was his.

It wasn’t a tough choice to grab the opportunity for globetrotting.

"Flights, accommodation, everything, plus a big bag of money–it’s a pretty hard thing to turn down," he says.

After his first trip to Brazil, passport stamps from around the world were quickly added, from countries ranging from Ethiopia, Japan and Northern Canada, each with its own incredible tale.

One of Wright’s stories takes place on the South Pacific Island of Vanuatu, where he hiked up the world’s most active, accessible volcano.

"It’s not like the land that time forgot [in the crater]. It’s just got little vents and you have to wait for the lava to bubble up and you don’t know where it’s coming from. When it does, it’s like living colour. I’ve never seen a colour like it."

Although Wright describes his job as, "easiest," there are some negative aspects, such as technical problems.

"You might be in the most amazing place in the world, but you might be down or you might be pissed off or you can’t help it if you’re depressed. Sometimes it just doesn’t work," says Wright. "When it works it’s fantastic, but when it doesn’t, it’s a nightmare."

Time is also a factor.

"It’s four months of travel crunched down into three to four weeks. It’s really intense."

Presenting the destination to the viewer sometimes takes a heavy toll. Wright describes a hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro–Africa’s highest peak.

"I don’t understand what keeps you going," he said. "I’ve never been as physically and mentally knackered in my life as I have on that. The women, and even some of the men, compared the pain to child birth. That’s how bad it was."

Wright continues his travels with a recent trip to Cambodia and a journey to Siberia is being planned. After everything he has seen and done, Wright still remains humble.

"I’m just a presenter," he claims. "It’s my job to bring people these amazing individuals and people."

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