Dear Travel Channel,
You may not know it, but we’re on a break. Our relationship has been a long one–second only to my lifetime romance with chocolate. For eight years I’ve watched you religiously, wondering where you’d take me next. All those countless nights we used to snuggle on the couch together to pass the time… So you might have noticed how I’ve been pretty distant lately. Sure, I’ll linger for a minute or two to watch Bourdain catch a fish in the Amazon. But at the first commercial break, I’ll stray, flipping down two channels to TLC where I’ll contentedly watch Say Yes to the Dress for the next half hour. And when I choose wealthy bridal fittings over you, Travel Channel, you know it’s bad.
I’ve tried to be reasonable, tried to give you the benefit of the doubt, but my patience is worn through. I’ve stopped watching because I’ve stopped having a voice. As a female traveler, I’m simply no longer represented. You, my dear TC, have gone all-male.
You can try to argue, but I don’t have to look far for the evidence. Man vs. Food, Mancations–the proof is in the promos. It almost seems that being a middle-aged, slightly overweight man is a requirement to host a show. But don’t worry! He may be ordinary, but he makes up for it with a fascination for the Extreme or the Bizarre. So while these Average Joes travel (prove their worth) by testing their physical or intestinal fortitude, your female hosts get to….traipse across the Sexiest Beaches in a bikini?
I know you’ll counter with the obvious: Samantha Brown. God love her, but where is she? Nowadays, the only Samantha Brown I see is from a 2004 rerun at 10 a.m. While I’ll always respect her quirky sense of humor and genuine interest in travel, there’s a reason why Anthony Bourdain occasionally disses her: she’s safe. She takes dainty tours in the pretty parts of town and eats the mint from her hotel pillow at night. Her show is fun and luxurious and escapist, but it’s just not realistic when I’m praying for clean sheets at my 15 € hostel. Samantha Brown gets a taste of culture without having to get her hands dirty. But let’s be straight, Travel Channel: this Travel Girl knows the value of some soap and water.
You and I both know that your one saving grace is Bourdain. He gives viewers their own taste of the authentic with each dish he tries and always manages to tap into the heartbeat of a destination. He’s wise with the years and experience to relate to older travelers but still badass enough to earn a cult following from the young.
But I’m not a chef. I occasionally wear a leather jacket, but I’m not badass. I’m just a girl who wants to learn more about this big ol’ world we’re living in. Ask my girlfriends who have all gone abroad, ask the female editors and writers gracing the pages of magazines like National Geographic and Budget Travel, ask the 80% of women making travel decisions, and they’ll tell you the same. In fact, they already have–but maybe you just haven’t been listening.
Travel Channel, it’s time for you to bring back the female travel host. The one who considers immersing herself in another culture both challenging and entertaining in its own right. The woman who explores the places we female travelers have been longing to go and who inspires us to seek out new adventures. The one who can out-eat Adam Richman and out-drink Anthony Bourdain–or who’s at least not afraid to try. The woman who, at the end of the day, is not defined as a woman at all, but as a traveler.
If it means eating octopus tentacles or log-rolling or getting tribal tattoos, bring it on! I, for one, am up for it. Any of the above is preferable to feeling like the female traveler is obsolete. Far from it, TC. She’s out there and she’s more curious than ever. I hope for the sake of our relationship, Travel Channel, that you can find it in your heart to make things right. If not, well, I just might leave the country…