In this edition of Celebrity Travel Addicts, we speak with Robert Rose, the host, creator, and executive producer of the popular travel show Raw Travel. We chat with Robert about Raw Travel, the types of places he most likes visiting, his passion for voluntourism, and much more. Check out his favorite destinations around the globe and find out where he’s off to next!
How did your passion for travel get started?
I think it began as a child growing up in rural Tennessee. Our annual family vacation was either to Florida beaches or the East Tennessee mountains, and they were magical to a kid who’d barely been anywhere. I didn’t get on a plane until in my early 20s and didn’t travel internationally until my early 30s. When I moved to NYC and worked for a Spanish TV Network, I began traveling to Latin America and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.
What does travel mean to you? Why do you feel it’s important?
To me, travel is life itself. I have a tendency to get tunnel-visioned and focused on my little world. Travel snaps me out of it right away, shifts my perspective, and I ALWAYS come back a changed being, almost always for the better.
Travel is also so important to be informed. There is no replacement for experiencing the culture, a people, a place yourself first hand. And when some news event happens in a place that I’ve visited, I’m dialed in and forever connected to it because I’ve visited.
As a result of my travels, I know so much more than before and, most importantly, I am acutely aware of how much I still don’t know. The more I know, the more aware of my ignorance. It’s humbling.
You’ve said that your senses become heightened when you travel to a new location for the first time. What are some of the things you notice when you’re exploring a new place?
All of my senses are on high alert. Sights, sounds, smells. I believe when you are experiencing something new, a different and more modern part of our brains are activated than the day to day, which is more ruled by our reptilian brain. The neuroplasticity of the experience fascinates me. Travel inspires empathy, and empathy feels right to me.
You host a popular travel show called Raw Travel, which is currently in its seventh season. Can you please tell us a bit about the show?
Raw Travel’s primary objective is to inspire people to travel. I want to encourage people to go themselves and not to live vicariously through me or anyone else. We also try to focus on socially conscious travel by avoiding over-touristed destinations and shining the light on more off-the-beaten-path destinations and locations that don’t typically get much press when we can (which isn’t always).
I like to demonstrate how travelers can contribute to a destination or people with voluntourism or “giving back” in a variety of ways. And we feel a responsibility to showcase environmentally sustainable travel when possible and are big into animal conservation. Travel has taught and given me so much, I want to give back in my way. I want to showcase how travel can lead to some fantastic human connections and restore one’s faith in humanity.
But I guess if I had to boil it down into one word, it would be “authentic.” I’m too damned lazy to be a good liar. If we get across a socially conscious point or message and are entertaining in the process, that is the icing on the cake.
To what do you attribute Raw Travel’s success and longevity?
First of all, I was as surprised as anyone when it worked. I had no idea how it would be received. You go with your gut and hope for the best, and it succeeded beyond my wildest expectations (but not my wildest dreams).
Sadly part of the success is the shortage of TRUE travel programming in the modern US TV landscape, which is absurd as Americans are traveling more than ever. As an independent TV producer and a small company, I’ve always looked for voids in the TV landscape. Rarely have an apparent void, and my overwhelming interest in a subject been in such alignment. I wanted to show travel to mainstream audiences, travelers and non-travelers, as I was experiencing it and I didn’t see many shows doing that. So we are always trying to be as authentic and honest, not glib, as possible.
I hosted the show myself because I was the cheapest talent I could find (free), and again, I wanted the show to be authentic. I was painfully aware I had no choice but to be myself when hosting since I had never been on camera professionally before. It was turning a weakness into a strength by maintaining a dogged pursuit of authenticity at every turn.
I show myself jet-lagged, sleep-deprived, and definitely not looking my best. I am not a celebrity or the voice of God, I am the viewer. My experience can be their experience from a travel enthusiast’s point of view, not a travel expert.
We like to show travel as it exists, warts and all, including when things go wrong, again, not some glib portrayal, as folks need to know there will be lows which will be more than offset by some astonishing highs. Travel is not a metaphor for life; it is life.
Something you’re especially passionate about is voluntourism. What exactly is voluntourism? What are some ways travelers can find voluntourism opportunities?
Voluntourism can be complicated and a little like the wild west and there is no one way to do it. But I define it as merely giving back in some way when you travel.
Voluntourism trips can be arranged by partnering with an NGO or larger organization that recruits volunteers to do a variety of things such as working with orphanages, the disabled, building houses with green architecture, teaching English, planting trees, animal rescue, etc.
Or it can be DIY (do it yourself) like packing with a purpose by bringing some donated school supplies or raising money from your social media network for a good cause you were turned onto on your trip. I like the DIY approach best as you can probably guess.
How many days/weeks do you travel in any given year?
I still don’t know this for sure as I wear a lot of hats and travel for filming an episode, and I also travel for business (US travel mainly visiting affiliates, advertisers, or doing promotional tours). I recently just took my 1st vacation in over eight years, and that shocks people. All I did was a few posts on social media, no filming. It was great. I want to do more of that. If I had to guess, I’d say I’m traveling 40-50% of the time.
What types of places do you like to visit?
For some odd reason, I like developing destinations the best. Places that aren’t over-touristed, but I think any destination is worthwhile to visit at least once. A return visit is a relative rarity, and when it happens, it means I fell in love with the place. Some of my favorites are Indonesia, Colombia, South Korea, Ukraine, Turkey, Argentina, Laos, Georgia (the country)… I want to hit more of Africa and the Middle East, and I am keen to get to Central Asia soon and hit all the “stans.”
What do you want audiences to gain and learn from your work?
I want them to travel, and in doing so, I am confident they will become better humans, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors, etc. as I feel I’ve become. It breaks my heart to see how we treat each other these days, particularly in the USA and ground zero for shabby treatment in midtown Manhattan where I live.
When I go to South Korea or Thailand or Indonesia, I am reminded of how friendly, courteous, and lovely 90% of the world is. When I return from a trip, even midtown Manhattan seems less hostile. Now I know it’s a lot of the energy I put out there is returned to me. So I’m reminded to put out more positive energy after a trip.
I am also seeking answers to philosophical questions that I have and, in the end, perhaps even seeking transcendence through travel. I want the audience to feel my journey and my seeking and reflect on their own lives. We are not put on this earth to work and make money and acquire things. There is more to life than what is presented to us when we’re born into an individualistic-leaning culture as we have in the US, and I want to showcase how travel can help reveal this.
To have the opportunity to express this feeling to an audience is a profound honor and a responsibility that I don’t take lightly.
What are the top three destinations you’ve visited?
Very tough question but I’ll try:
– South Korea
Give us your ‘Top 5’ list for one of your top 3 destinations. Like a mini-guide or a to-do list of sorts. It can be anything from your favorite hotel, the best place to have lunch, the best sightseeing, etc.
1) BOGOTA: go to Zona Rosa, and Monseratte. My favorite hotel is Casa Platypus in the artsy and bohemian Candelaria area.
2) MEDELLIN: Hit Pueblito Paisa, Botero Plaza, Parque Lleras for nightlife. Hit up my buddy’s club “El Sub” (The Underground) in Castilla in the north of the city. It’s what CBGBs was to punk in NYC but for Medellin.
3) CARTAGENA: try a day trip or spend the night on Isla Rosario
4) CALI: Hit Barrio San Antonio and get an arepa at the park. Insanely good!
5) SANTA MARTA: Get off the grid at Playa Taganga or hike to Ciudad Perdido (Los City).
How many countries have you visited so far?
Honestly, I haven’t counted in a bit, but I think around 70 or 80.
What are your top 3 favorite cuisines?
What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What dish do you recommend there?
I’ve had some fantastic food around the world, but I can’t remember the names, so I’ll go with my favorite in NYC, which is Indochine in downtown Manhattan. It’s French-Vietnamese, and steamed seabass is excellent.
What is your favorite travel movie?
I loved “Transsiberian” about a train trip on the Trans-Siberia Express with Woody Harrelson. I hope to take that journey someday.
What is your favorite international airport?
Istanbul, Turkey and Seoul, South Korea’s are both amazing.
Which city had the friendliest people?
Who is your favorite travel companion?
Myself. I prefer solo travel as it opens up many more possibilities for connecting, reflecting, and relying on the kindness of others than when with someone.
What is the best way to kill time while traveling?
Observe, people watch, read a book. NOT social media or the smartphone.
What is the most exotic place your career has taken you?
I’d say probably visiting the tribes of Southern Ethiopia in the Omo River Valley this summer. It felt like time travel, truly like visiting a past century. We couldn’t have had more different backgrounds, and yet I felt such human connections.
What is your best bit of travel advice for someone who wants to, or is about to, embark on a life of travel?
First of all, it’s a great way to spend an existence, so long as you respect it and can keep the magic of it alive without getting cynical.
But be careful travel becoming your livelihood as that could rob the experience of some it’s most beautiful traits. Travel is a bit like playing music. If you can do it and do it well, without having to rely on it to pay your bills, then I think that’s the best. If you do embark on a career in the travel field, make time to travel without working. I’m just learning that lesson again. And have a home base to return and spend some time for reflection. That’s very important.
What are 4 things you could never travel without?
– Sleep mask
– White Noise App on my iPod or iPhone
– Google Translate (yes, I’ve become dependent)
– A good, old school guide book…preferably from the last 10 years.
What is your ultimate dream destination?
I’m always dreaming about a few, but I haven’t been to India yet, Central Asia, as I mentioned and the Trans-Siberian train, as I said.
What is your favorite travel quote?
Don’t be afraid of the poor. We are all rich & poor in different ways. Embrace the humble nature of the planet’s most populous people… Let their authenticity & dignity in the face of incredible obstacles inspire you to overcome your own tribulations. – Yours Truly
Where are you headed next?
United Arab Emirates, India or Central Asia. Not sure and this list is subject to change.
Robert G. Rose is a social & television entrepreneur whose focus is on developing business models that target under-served audiences while producing content and “media that matters.” Since 2000, Rose has produced over 400 original episodes of television & negotiated partnerships with major marketers and media outlets all over the world.
Rose’s love of travel surfaced when he moved from his native Tennessee to New York City to work for Univision, the nation’s largest Spanish-language TV network. It was also at Univision that Rose’s entrepreneurial spirit was revealed. Rose combined his newfound knowledge of the US Hispanic market with his knowledge of the TV industry & began developing a new business model targeted to US-born Latinos with culturally relevant English language media.
In 2000, Rose left the safety of the corporate world to strike out on his own and began Artist & Idea Management (AKA: AIM Tell-A-Vision Group®) to produce, TV in English for, from & about American Latinos. His shows would attract over 100 broadcast affiliates, a cable network deal, and millions in sponsorship dollars & tens of millions of viewers over the years as Rose received national recognition as an expert in Hispanic media & marketing.
Rose negotiated the acquisition of his Latino themed TV company to LATV Networks in 2008 and began pursuing his passion of world-travel full time.
Rose eventually lived and traveled abroad in Latin America for about a year. His travels produced life-changing experiences that inspired him to develop what he felt was also missing from the US commercial television landscape, an authentic and real travel show. He wanted to showcase travel with authentic cultural experiences in a socially aware context.
Raw Travel premiered in 2013. Today, Raw Travel is exhibited on over 170 local TV affiliates (CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, CW) in over 95% of the US as well as major TV outlets internationally such as National Geographic People in Asia, Fox Iberia in Europe, Amazon in India and many more. Episodes from the show can also be found on major airlines such as Delta, Air Canada, Finnair, and more.
When not working on Raw Travel, Robert Rose reads voraciously, volunteers, blogs, and runs a small digital record label, “Punk Outlaw Records.” He is often a featured speaker or panelist at various travel, media, and tradeshows. He is a published writer & member of numerous TV, film & travel organizations.
You can learn more about Robert and Raw Travel on the show’s official website. Check out clips from the show on its official YouTube channel. You can also follow Robert on the Raw Travel Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. New episodes of Raw Travel can be seen on television stations across the country. Check here to find out when and where it airs in your area!