Journalist Bill Weir explores the world in his CNN series, "The Wonder List." As a kid, his family did a lot of car camping across Wisconsin. "We paddled the Boundary Waters of Minnesota and backpacked in Colorado with my dad. These are some of my fondest memories, and since he taught me to love the natural world, these trips were the original inspiration for 'The Wonder List.'" Fans may follow Weir's journeys on social media, including Twitter (https://twitter.com/BillWeirCNN) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/billweir).
Q. You covered Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Had you been there before?
A. I've been to 83 countries and 49 states, but this was my first trip to Puerto Rico. It has been on my personal wonder list for years and we came close to shooting an episode on the reefs, rain forests and bioluminescent bays. But I ended up falling deeper in love with Puerto Rico than I ever could have as a tourist. It is the worst humanitarian crisis I've covered since Katrina, but despite the raw desperation, the vast majority of the people are coping with such strength and grace. Irma and Maria are the ninth and 10th hurricanes I've covered and I'm sure they won't be the last.
Q. In what city did you cover your first story?
A. I started in small market local news, and then worked my way up to morning anchor/sportscaster at WGN in Chicago just as Michael Jordan's Bulls were hitting their dynastic prime, so most of my early travels came covering major league teams. I got my network break in 2003, joining ABC to form a weekend edition of "Good Morning America" and began tasting war and disaster zone coverage. Diane Sawyer was a kind mentor and when she noticed my brand of curiosity, she suggested that I "go explain what's happening in China" in a special series for GMA. For the first time, I was going to a new place to truly explore without the narrow lens of disaster or a preconceived pitch. I was hooked. It took a while, but "The Wonder List" is the extension of that first experience.
Q. Have you ever been denied entry into a country?
A. North Korea is the only denial. Most nations don't deny entry but do vigorously try to shake us down. To film mountain gorillas in Uganda, for example, the government demands outrageous sums.
Q. Of the places you have been to for work, where would you like to return for a vacation?
A. Iceland, Vanuatu, New Zealand and Botswana leap to mind. Since each episode is a different wonder of the world, any of them would be a treat.
Q. Have you ever forgotten to renew your passport and panicked, because you needed it right away?
A. I've needed extra pages urgently sewn in over the years! I once discovered that my daughter's passport had expired on the way to the airport for a family trip to Paris. There were tears.
Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. You can now take a cruise from Anchorage to New York over the top of the planet, floating through the once ice-locked Northwest Passage, sipping cocktails and waving at polar bears. People should know about it, because it is staggering proof that we've broken earth's air conditioner and it is time to brace for the worst.
Q. What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?
A. A four-day cruise on one of those floating apartment buildings. It was pure misery.
Q. What's the most important thing you've learned from your travels?
A. That people on every side of the globe are more alike than different. We may cook in different styles or pray to different powers, but we all want safety and stability for our kids and genuine connection with friends and neighbors. The happiest communities around the world are those with the least corruption and most trust in each other. That is easiest to create when everyone looks, prays and earns the same, but can we do it in America? The experiment continues.
Q. What are your five favorite cities?
A. Paris, Hong Kong, Florence, Cusco (Peru), San Francisco.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. Mongolia, Siberia, Antarctica, the moon.
Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. Long-form magazine journalism and the best fiction set in my destination.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)(c) 2017 DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.