All posts by julie

Damn, no trust fund!

How much does PBS pay you for each episode? This question is always near the top of the FAQ list. People assume that if you have a show on PBS, they are paying you for it. Not exactly…

Here’s a crash course on how funding Passport to Adventure, on public television works.

I am an independent producer, meaning I raise the money and pull together the team to create the program. The bad news is raising money is TOUGH, the good news – I retain all control and rights to the program. (I also host, write, plan the shoots, oversee the editing, and handle all of the distribution and marketing of the series – good thing I love what I do!)

To cover costs and pay myself, I have to interest a few companies in underwriting the series on PBS. As an underwriter, companies get a “credit” at the beginning and end of each episode, in all airings on PBS. When it says, “this program is made possible by XYZ Company”, we mean it! Without these sponsors, programs like Passport to Adventure would not be on the air. The most difficult aspect of this funding model is, that it requires producers to compete in the advertising sales arena, with a huge handicap – FCC regulations severely limit what a credit spot can say on non-commercial TV. These restrictions, and the PBS independent station structure, make it challenging to convince a company to spend their dollars with us instead of on a commercial TV advertising package. One of our biggest selling points is that you, the PBS viewers, value a company’s support of quality, non-commercial TV programming, and therefore will buy their products!

So, the reality is, Passport to Adventure is truly a labor of love, an outpouring of passion for something we believe in. We all make a living, but we could make a lot more doing something else.

To make this endeavor financially viable, there are three avenues – get sponsors, creatively piece together small revenue sources – website/blog monetization, international sales, retail products, etc, OR,  have large trust fund. Unfortunately, there’s no trust fund in my past, or future, so I rely on creativity and perseverance!


Live small, Travel BIG!



Can’t find us on your PBS channel? Thank AT&T…

The saga… why PBS viewers will not be able to travel with us for a few months…

Passport to Adventure was doing pretty well going into this recession. We had some operating capital from past work, some great shows in the can, and more in the queue. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, my co-host, Mark, was digging himself into personal financial disaster, and had spent money that should have been earmarked for Passport to Adventure. Long story short, I assumed control, and responsibility for editing and distributing our new season of programs.

I love this illustration, spot on!

Probably the most infuriating element of the whole mess, was a simple cost-cutting measure that went very wrong. Mark had disconnected the Passport to Adventure toll free number, which seemed like no big deal, as most viewers contact us via email. Until I was notified that our distributor was going to pull the Passport series off the air, due to the non-working # shown in the credit role, unless I could get it reconnected.

I called AT&T and found that the # was still available, and proceeded to get it hooked back up. Easy, right? NOT! Nothing is easy with AT&T, by far the most incompetent company I have ever dealt with. (I guess they’ll never be a sponsor of Passport to Adventure, oh well) After two months, all I had to show for my hours spent, was a folder an inch thick documenting conversations with various departments at AT&T (all said no problem, they’d get it taken care of) and bills I paid for service I was not receiving. I finally had to give up. The whole ordeal was so incredibly frustrating, I was ready to kill someone (metaphorically speaking of course).  It’s absolutely amazing that AT&T stays in business. I have since switched all of my phone, internet and TV to Charter Cable, and so far, I am very happy with their service and price. Now I just have to pray that AT&T quits sending me bills for service they keep assuring me has been disconnected, and that AT&T doesn’t buy Charter!!!

The result of all of this is that Passport to Adventure will be not be airing for a few months, until we release our new programs, and re-feed the archived episodes with updated contact info. So don’t be alarmed when your local station tells you “the rights for Passport to Adventure have expired” and they are unable to air the program.

Stay tuned, we’ll be back soon, better than ever!


9-11 epiphanies revisited…

9-11 left me questioning my life. I looked at my beliefs about people, the way I spent my time, the things I really cared about, and wondered “am I really making a difference?”. I always thought I was, but now, in a flash everything I was doing seemed trivial, exhausting, meaningless.

Nature always gives clarity

Mainly, I looked at my career – work I had so much passion for suddenly felt small, silly, even arrogant. What right did I have to be on TV? Who was I to tell people they should travel more? Why should anyone care what I think? And why beat my head against the wall?  Ever since we started Passport to Adventure, TV industry execs and “ratings data” had been telling us the American TV audience isn’t interested in travel. And now, just as our small band of world-wanderers was beginning to prove the powers-that-be wrong, this happens. (The 1990’s saw increases in the number of Americans traveling to “adventurous”, previously feared, destinations – it was an encouraging trend for us)

In the weeks that followed, like the rest of the world, I tried to get my head around what it all meant. What was true? How do we move forward? What can I do to help? Producing Passport to Adventure no longer felt right. I even wondered if I should pull it off the air – was it offensive to promote travel when our country was suffering?

Then, one morning, I had an “ah ha moment”. I realized that what I did was now more important than ever. Someone had to combat the images and fears bombarding us. A terrible thing had been done, by terrible people, but from my travels I knew that the world is not full of these people.

Travel taught me that the people in every corner of the world are far more like us than not – they are primarily kind & generous, they welcome travelers, and they want to be able to provide for their family, just like us.

Is she really so different from you?

I began thinking… the only way to stop the madness is for the people of the world to know each other, to see other religions and cultures as made up of fellow human beings, not as “with us or against us”. Even for those that don’t travel themselves, maybe a program like Passport to Adventure can help people understand each other? I know, it’s a big task, for a little show, but if we can affect one person, isn’t that worth not giving up?


I remembered a package I had received a few years before from an elementary school teacher in Brooklyn, New York. They had shown our China program in the classroom, then had the students answer some essay questions. When asked what they had learned from the program, one student wrote:

“I learned that Chinese people are not mean”.

And there were other similar comments. It was fascinating to see how early xenophobia can take hold. (Our new slogan? “Passport to Adventure – prying open one mind at a time”)

Ten years later, the same conviction still drives me, as Passport struggles through this tough economy, the shake-up of the  TV industry, and I look for the way forward. Once again I find myself taking inventory of what I value, what is important in life, and where we go from here. One thing I know for sure – I will continue my quest to know the people of the world.

Live small, travel BIG!


My summer “travel”…

As much as I enjoy writing, and sharing my oh-so-enlightening thoughts with all of you, I am a slacker blogger. (I feel much better getting that off my chest)  It is tough to find a better place to be in the summertime than Tahoe. After the “awesome” or “horrendous” (depends on your perspective) winter we had, I am really appreciating this “beach weather”. If Mother Nature cooperates, I can comfortably run around in my sarong and bathing suit for about 4 months, so I make the most of it – work, beach volleyball, outdoor concerts, the farmers market, and cooking keep me busy. I like to say “God didn’t make gorgeous sunny days for sitting at your desk, it is your DUTY to get out and enjoy the day, at least for  little while!”


Because I cherish being home in Tahoe, my travel during the summer consists of COOKING! When I get antsy for far away places, I dig up ethnic recipes, hit the farmers market, and transport myself via taste and smell – Indian & Thai curries, steak with roasted potatoes and arugula, Brazilian cod stew with coconut milk, Salade Lyonnaise with a farm-fresh egg on top (my healthy version, with peppered turkey), quinoa & grilled veggie salad, Moroccan tagine, “Caprese” pannini, salsa fresca, guacamole, fresh lime margaritas … those are just a few of my favorite culinary get-aways.

I keep my cupboards well stocked with exotic spices and I buy lots of fresh herbs at the farmers market. I’d share my recipes, but I typically just google the ingredients I want to use, pick a couple of recipes that sound interesting, and then wing it. (I take what I like from 2 or 3 recipes, I never follow one completely) The more specific and bizarre the ingredients you google, the better the search results. So hit your local market, buy whatever looks good, google, and get creative!

Let me know how it goes!

Bon Appetite!


Season Four episode descriptions…

Macau sans Casinos!

401.  Macau, a Fusion of Cultures, China (TRT 27:25)

In Macau, the fusion of the Portuguese and Chinese cultures has merged casinos with Buddhist temples, coconut milk and cod fish, Grand Prix racing with old world architecture. Portuguese chefs shop in the Chinese market to create one of the world’s most interesting cuisines. Residents practice Tai Chi in city parks, waves lap on the shores of sandy beaches, ancient neighborhoods hang on tightly to their identity – join us to discover Macau sans casinos!


Limin' in the British Virgin Isles

402.  Cruising the British Virgin Islands, Caribbean (TRT 27:09)

Whether you fly, ferry, sail or motor to the islands, you be swaying like a palm in the tropical breeze by the time you depart. We’ll explore the cays and bays of the BVI – snorkeling where pirates once buried treasure, climbing granite boulders at the “Baths”, and hanging out with the local characters at iconic beachside watering holes. Combine all of that with learning to “pilot the ship”, and you have a real adventure!


The road less traveled, REALLY!

403.  Patagonia, Chile – Dolphins, Fjords, & Rainforests in Aysen

(TRT 28:56)

In this two-part episode, we explore a truly off-the-beaten-path region of Patagonia. In Aysen, the main highway is mostly unpaved, travel is rugged, and the scenery intoxicating. Waterfalls tumble over lush mountainsides, wild flowers carpet riverbanks and dolphins frolic in pristine fjords – all of nature’s wonders crammed into one destination – and we’ve done our best pack it all into two episodes!


A gorgeous day on the glacier

404.  Patagonia, Chile – Condors, Lakes and Glaciers in Aysen

(TRT 28:05)

Our journey continues in the southern part of the region, where glaciers loom over crystal clear lakes, cows graze beneath snow-covered peaks, and fly-fishermen come in search of their nirvana. Julie kayaks through magnificent marble caves, hikes on a glacier, shares “mate” with the local fishermen, and enjoys pisco sours with an interesting mix of innkeepers.



Fall colors in Jasper, Alberta

405.  The Rocky Mountain Parks of Alberta, Canada

Landing in Edmonton, we step directly into Canada’s railroad history before embarking on the scenic train ride to Jasper. Touring the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, we stalk elk with our lenses, ride the “Sno Coach” onto a glacier, hike, canoe and learn about the early adventurers that made this area a renowned mountaineering center, and a mecca for nature lovers from around the globe.


Hoodoos in the Alberta Badlands

406.  Calgary & Aboriginal Alberta, Canada

Canada’s First Nations culture comes alive at aboriginal sites like “Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump”, and her earliest residents are gloriously displayed at the Royal Tyrell Dinosaur museum, where we get a back room tour! We’ll get back-to-nature at Waterton International Peace Park, get up close and personal with Tara the buffalo, then delve into Alberta’s vibrant foodie scene in Calgary!



Stunning coastline in Wales

407.        The Magical Country of Wales (TRT 26:46)

When legendary crooner Tom Jones pined for “the green, green grass of home” he was reminiscing about Wales.  Rolling pastures, flower-filled fields and hedge lined country roads – a romantic journey into the British Isles. The pristine countryside is ideal for cycling thru quaint hamlets and snuggling up to a fire in one of many lovely B & B’s. For the adventurous, the Welsh coastline provides stunning terrain for multi-day hikes; and the rugged cliffs and coves are a favorite for climbing, “coasteering” and kayaking. We’ll travel by canal boat and steam train, then engage the proud locals to learn about the revival of traditional Welsh crafts from a vintner, a whiskey distiller, and a cheese maker.

Crusing the Fjords of Norway

408.        Enchanting, Natural Norway (TRT 26:46)

Trains, ferries, and fjords – nature and man coexisting in splendor. From clean, green, cosmopolitan Oslo, to artsy, hip Bergen; Norway’s cities blend seamlessly with its pristine countryside. In this episode, hosts Julie Conover and Mark Jennings begin their adventure by cycling through Oslo to visit the royal palace, an outdoor folk museum, and an amazing sculpture park, then, ferry to a quaint fjord-side bungalow to dine on fresh mussels.  Next, they embark on one of the world’s most spectacular train adventures. Their journey takes them over a glacier to Flam, where they kayak and hike to discover breathtaking views; then board a ferry for the scenic trip through the fjord.  In Bergen, Mark and Julie wander alleys lined with colorful wooden houses, and stroll the historic wharf and fish market with the locals.

Authentic Baja still exists!

409.    Loreto, Baja California’s Best Kept Secret! (TRT 26:46)

No timeshare hawkers, high rises or massive resorts; just quiet coves and pristine islands for kayakers, gorgeous desert for mountain bikers, the original California missions, and an unspoiled Mexican town.  In this episode, hosts Julie Conover and Mark Jennings discover the secrets of the real Baja. Whether they are kayaking along the coast, or riding mules through the hinterland, the drama and mystique of the desert is a constant force. Mark and Julie hike with an environmentalist to learn about the delicate desert ecosystem and the preservation of it’s coveted water supply. They visit a remote California mission, and “ranchos” owned for generations by the same families, getting intimately acquainted with the landscape, history and people of Baja California.

Guamaniac Jeff explains a "lomo"

410. Guam – Where East meets West (TRT 26:46)

Warm, turquoise waters, lush jungles, intriguing island culture, cosmopolitan shopping and a plethora of historical sites await the traveler that makes the trek to Guam. The island is an endearing mix of Asia, 1960’s America and exotic Pacific island. Hosts Julie Conover and Mark Jennings venture into the little traveled parts of the island to swim in waterfalls, cha cha with the locals at the Wednesday night fiesta, and meet a refreshing group of teenagers passionate about preserving their Chamorro heritage. For the history buff, Guam’s WWI and WWII sites – both above and below the sea – offer a vivid depiction of the battles of the Pacific.


Nothin’ left to lose…

“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose”.

These Janis Joplin lyrics pop into my head all the time, (I have no idea why, I’m sure there is some deep subconscious meaning here) and they always launch me into a mental thrashing around of what freedom means to me.

Fire is a terribly frightening force.

A few weeks ago, I was woken up at midnight by pounding on my front door.  When I opened the door, there was no one there, but I saw flames shooting from the building 20 yards across the parking lot. As we all ran out into the street, the fire engulfed two condos, and before the fire fighters could put it out, 2 units were completely destroyed and a 3rd badly damaged. Thankfully there was no loss of life. It was very frightening. I did not sleep very well for the next two weeks.

After a fire, we all automatically begin making mental lists of what we would take with us as we flee. What I found very interesting about my reaction was that I began looking at everything I own more critically. I am definitely not ready to suffer losing everything, but I suddenly felt that 95% of my possessions had little real value to me. I was overcome by an urge to purge. To get rid of all of that stuff that was cluttering up my closets and shelves. One of my neighbors, who had lost everything, said “oh well, most of it was crap anyway”.  I knew she had suffered a much deeper loss recently, and I admired the way she was handling a second tragedy.

Even when we know too much stuff is oppressive, it’s so hard to get rid of it.  Fire does it for you, it cleanses the clutter, leaving space for clarity. I would not wish the trauma of a fire on anyone, but, in a sense, it must be very liberating? How freeing to have “nothing left to lose”! I have a new perspective, and inspiration to pair down to what I really value, in order to better appreciate what truly matters.

I’ll let you know if I can actually DO IT!  It will not be easy…

Live Small, Travel BIG!


Am I crazy, or are they?

I certainly don’t have the credentials to be blogging about economics (I was a stockbroker for 10 years, so I have a decent grasp of how the financial system supposedly works), but listening to politicians talk about how to stimulate our economy, leaves me pondering… I feel like they are missing the primary issue.

Lots of laughter in Vietnam!

“America is a consumer driven economy”. True, but what if Americans are changing? (isn’t insanity doing the same thing over and expecting different results?) And our politicians, promoting the status quo system, fail to recognize this? Maybe I am in “la la land”, but it seems to me this economic crisis could actually have a very positive purpose, if we don’t allow the “powers that be” to distract us from the valuable lessons we can learn here.

We talk so much about “security” in our country, yet we promote the thing that leads to massive insecurity – consumption as the answer to everything. Maybe Americans are beginning to consider the possibility that consumption of “stuff” is not the path to a fulfilling life?  Maybe they want to pay down their debt, forgo that kitchen remodel, drive their old car for a few more years, and seek enriching experiences – like enjoying nature, community service, voluntourism, and travel – as the new normal? And maybe the reason corporate America is not hiring, is that they see this new reality? I have faith that America can figure out how to prosper in a more sensible culture. That we can toss off the shackles of our addiction to credit. This paradigm shift may cause a slower economic recovery, and patience, but in the LONG TERM, we would be building a better, stronger, more “secure” world.



Live Small, Travel BIG…

Happy with what they've got in Cambodia!

There are many different ways to live this life. So many choices, that we often don’t even realize we are making.

Much of the way we travel through life, an expression of things we were taught by the experience we were born into, for better or worse.

Living “within your means”, to me, has always meant spending less then I earn. Early in my adult life, I realized that, above all, I did not want to become a slave to my possessions. Debt makes me nervous. This may not be the recipe for accumulating enormous wealth, but it lets me sleep at night. Isn’t it interesting that living “small”, or frugally, seems to be frowned upon in our culture? Or is it just human nature to want to accumulate?

As a kid, this would have been my dream house, I loved building forts and sleeping in them!

Society, media, government, all tell us that it is our responsibility to consume, acquire, buy more, and bigger. It is easy to rationalize charging it all on credit cards when we really believe we NEED all of these things. I somehow missed that part of the ‘how to be a patriotic American’ indoctrination. I am just not a big consumer. I did try it for a brief stint, but found it left me cranky. Buying is intoxicating, but the high wears off quickly, and I was left pissed off at myself for wasting money that could have been allocated to my next plane ticket.

My “Live small, Travel BIG” motto has not always been easy, I have at times questioned myself.  Do I lack drive, ambition?  Am I just lazy? Am I missing the boat by not taking advantage of “leverage”? (that oft-heard, cocktail party buzz word of the 90’s) For the last few decades, I watched people pass me by in the race to have a bigger house, newer cars, and more toys, and I wondered, why don’t I want all of that?

No garage to fill up with stuff!

Well, I am still not sure what made me a saver, not a spender, but I am damn glad I missed the “credit” boat! (That doesn’t mean I am completely immune, we have a mortgage, and I somehow managed to clutter our little condo with way more “stuff” than we need)

We have to discover our own path to happiness, and I do not presume to have the answers for the rest of you, all I know is that living a simple life that allows me to pack up and GO, is what fulfills me. Maybe, contrary to what has been drilled into us, it is an option for you too? I guess we just continue to strive for balance in our lives.

Recently, I have been feeling an even stronger urge to purge, load the backpacks, and wander the world for a few years. Watch for more to come on those plans! 😉



Relationship Test Drive…


Guys get big points for carrying the purse!

Before you get too far along in a courtship, travel with your beloved (a “vacation” doesn’t count, sipping Mai Tais at a beach resort will not really tell you what you need to know!) I guarantee this will be the best relationship advice you ever get, and will save you a fortune in self help books and therapy!

To test your compatibility, invest in a real trip, preferably with few set plans. If you have been dating someone for awhile, and are wondering if this is “the one”, traveling will answer that question, in 2 or 3 weeks, instead of years!  The daily trials and tribulations – figuring out where to eat, where to sleep, and navigating, either in a rental car, or public transport, will test every skill you will ever need for a long relationship. You get to see how your mate behaves when they are tired, hungry, and frustrated. You see how they handle challenges, and what sort of problem solving skills they possess. It takes a whole lot of energy to hide the whiner, pessimist, blamer, control freak, for extended, uninterrupted periods. If these personality traits are lurking behind the curtain, they will be exposed. Better to find out now, than later!

My best travel partner, sherpa and hubby!

You will also see what kind of team the two of you make. Are you both struggling to be the leader? Or do you fall into natural, comfortable roles? When one person is having an off day, does the other “step up”, or crumble at having to pick up the slack? Are your biorhythms in sync? Does one enjoy sharing food, while the other guards their plate? Travel is the best way to discover these important answers in a short period of time.

My husband David had not traveled internationally when he met me. (That seems hard to believe now!) After about nine months of dating, we rented a car and toured Italy. He drove and schlepped bags,  I navigated and scouted pensiones. Our final test came in Florence, where a train strike thwarted our plans. Faced with missing our return flight from Milan to the U.S., David sprang into action. While I sat on the curb with our bags, he ran off to rent a car, again, then drove at break neck speed (not in his nature) on the autostrada to come screeching up to the curb at Malpensa, where we handed the keys to a porter and ran for our flight. We were stressed, but still laughing, and I was impressed by his ability to keep cool under pressure.

All travel has challenges, as do all relationships, but in three weeks we had learned more about each other than most people do in years. Fast forward 20 years, and we are still happily rockin’ down the hiway together! (He has learned to ignore me when I tell him how to drive) 🙂

For the male perspective, read Mike’s very funny take on the travel and relationships!

Will it be the crude or nude charter?

Cruisin' the BVI

Cruisin' the BVI


“Would you prefer to bare boat, or a crude charter?”

This was the first decision I had to make on our recent shoot in the British Virgin Islands. I thought, hmmm, not sure nude or crude will fly on PBS, but what the heck, worth a try!

OK, I am messin’ with ya… “Bareboating” refers to a self-skippered yacht rental , whereas a crewed charter comes with a skipper and private chef.

Our "cat" at Peter Island, BVI

As the daughter of an avid sailor, I was raised to regard any motorized craft with disdain – if it wasn’t wind-powered, it was called a “stink-potter”, and we would have nothing to do with it. So, my first challenge on our BVI shoot was letting go of my prejudice – trading “the romance of the sea” for the ease of power cruising – without cringing.  I was able to accomplish this fairly quickly. The Moorings “power cats” are sexy, comfy and easy to manage for those electing to be the master of their voyage. Bareboating is also less expensive, but, in my opinion, a professional captain is well worth the money. They not only handle the boat and give you peace of mind, but will make sure you discover the best beaches, bars, and protected anchorages.

Lunch aboard our power cat.

The next step up in luxury is a fully crewed yacht vacation – you get meals prepared and no KP duties! (and who knows, you may not even have to give up the bare boating, if that’s what you’re into!)

Traveling with no agenda, no itinerary, no place to be, for me, is true freedom, and I think it’s the reason that so many people are attracted to yacht chartering. Whether you cruise bare, nude, crude, or crewed, it’s the perfect combo of relaxation and adventure.