Meet the Speaker: “Mysteries at the Museum” Host Don Wildman
Don Wildman is the Travel Channel’s resident host for all things behind the scenes. From “Mysteries at the Museum,” where Don unearths the significance behind some of the United States’ treasured artifacts, to “Monumental Mysteries,” a look at many of the country’s history-rich monuments, Don brings to the forefront fascinating stories from the past. Touring the country has made Don a travel expert; he’ll share his insight this weekend at the Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show.
Q: When and how did travel become a significant part of your life?
A: When I was young, my parents were great about including my sisters and me in the planning of our summer vacations. Partly because it was very simple—all we ever did was car camping. I never stayed in a hotel until my late-teens. Travel was for our family; we went places together. I’m sure my older sisters often groaned about it—but for me, the little brother, it was magical.
Q: Why do you think traveling is important?
A: Quality of life improves because of travel. I believe it’s vital to expand your horizons and see how other societies exist. That’s a huge benefit of travel. But, personally, I most appreciate travel for how it improves my home life. When I’m away in exotic locations (even not so exotic), inevitably I find myself reflecting on my own domestic life and environment. Through travel, I develop a healthier perspective about home.
Q: What topic(s) are you speaking about at the Travel & Adventure show?
A: In my job, I’m a guy who goes behind the scenes, whether it’s descending into a collapsed tunnel system or climbing to the top of something ambitiously engineered. I go where the public isn’t invited. This is a precious role to me; all my life I have insatiably wondered about stuff. My shows allow me to ask all the burning questions about places people rarely see.
Travel Channel’s “Mysteries” apply the same mindset to museums. Most archival holdings throughout the United States never see the light of a glass display case. How could they? There are more than a billion artifacts in American museum collections! At this year’s Travel & Adventure Show, I’ll be illuminating this shadowy and sometimes cobwebbed world, investigating how museums do the job of choosing and creating exhibitions Americans travel so often to see.
Museums are the one of the driving engines of today’s travel industry. By understanding their mechanics, how museums work, we better appreciate our travels—plus, I’ll be showing some cool artifacts.
Q: How do you hope to inspire future travelers who attend the show?
A: A traveler should be active, not passive. Of course, travel is a chance to relax and be entertained (this is not a bad thing), but it also affords us a unique opportunity to grapple with some big questions about ourselves. It’s the greatest aspect of going away—you learn so much about where you’re from.
If I have any inspiration to offer, it’s to emphasize that really anyone can do what I do, anyone can act on this attitude. You needn’t be filming a television show to be investigating and exploring a subject more deeply. I’m no different than any other traveler. I just happen to have a camera crew following me around. But there are plenty of days when I’d really rather be out on my own—and, trust me, so would the cameraman.
Q: What piece of advice do you wish someone had shared with you before you set off to travel the world?
A: Learn a foreign language, even barely. That and not playing a musical instrument are my greatest shortcomings as a human being, much less a traveler.
Q: Do you have one destination you find yourself visiting over and over again? Why so special?
A: London. Can’t help it; the city’s magical to me. I like Paris and Istanbul as well, but London takes the cake. It’s vast and authentic and expands my world in some surprising fashion every time I visit. I like the parks and, yes, the museums, but I’m always most delighted by finding neighborhoods I’ve never seen before—and after a half-dozen trips there’s still plenty more to go.
Q: What was one of your most memorable travel experiences of 2013?
A: Without question, Marrakesh. I’d never traveled to Morocco before. We stayed in the Royal Mansour Hotel, which is a dream luxury I could never afford in real life. But this being a dream job, I got lucky. I really like traveling in Arab nations, and Morocco was a particular pleasure. And, of course, I bought some super-nice carpets.
Q: Do you have any travel predictions or trends you see for 2014?
A: As our economy improves, Americans travel more frequently and more boldly. Inevitably, this has a healthy effect upon our nation. By traveling, you appreciate and value the world beyond your own. My prediction? More travel will have a good effect on us; we’ll be a better people for it.
Hear Don and other top travel personalities speak at the Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show February 8-9, and be sure to stop by and say hi to the Jetset Extra team in booth 1062! Purchase tickets online and get $2 off with the code “JETSET.” See you there!