Traditional travel shows spend months scouting locations. But then there’s Around the World for Free – its two-person crew doesn’t know where they’ll be shooting from one day to the next. In a new twist on an old genre, visitors to the Web-based reality travel series’ site determine the path of its host, former Amazing Race winner Alex Boylan.
Boylan and editor/director Zsolt Luka departed New York in September, leaving their wallets behind and their destiny in the hands of visitors to www.aroundtheworldforfree.com. Users suggest places and people the penniless duo should visit, along with leads on where to crash for the night. Boylan plans to visit South America, Africa, Europe, India and Asia over six months.
Short clips of the voyage air in webisodes on the show’s site, which is powered by FanRocket, a user-generated content platform helmed by fellow reality TV vet, The Apprentice‘s Danny Kastner.
To make sure he sleeps with a roof over his head, Boylan puts out feelers to potential local tour guides as he’s leaving one location. So, if he’s departing Puerto Rico for the Virgin Islands, he’ll check the site for users in the Virgin Islands, search his messages for people there who’ve contacted him via the site, browse their online profile, and let them know he’s on his way.
Sound like a risky way to film? It is. ‘I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow; I might be sleeping on a beach, I might be sleeping in a mansion, but we can’t even think about the next day. It’s here and now,’ says Boylan.
It’s not just the off-the-cuff nature of the show that makes it unique; the level of audience engagement is also rare. Burton Roberts, a former Survivor finalist and Around the World coproducer (with Boylan and Luka), says while TV allows for live voting, it doesn’t allow watchers to actually appear in the show. ‘This is a great way to bring in people who might be fans of either Alex or reality TV or travel; they’re an integral part of this,’ says Roberts.
Although they won’t say how many messages Boylan has received, Roberts says it’s ‘more than we can ever possibly follow up on.’ Good thing, otherwise Boylan wouldn’t have a place to sleep.