Teri is very well traveled – focusing her trips on adventure, lifestyle, cuisines, music, parties and more as co-host of the popular Travelista tv – an online travel show. Recently we had the opportunity to ask her a number of questions about her travels and her enjoyable role with Travelista tv.
Q. What is your background and when did you first become interested in International travel?
I grew up in Clear Lake; a suburb of Houston where my mother thought it would be a great idea to learn Spanish at the age of 8, as a hobby. She recognized that I was gifted in languages and encouraged me to continue to study them (Spanish and French) in junior high and high school. This hobby turned passion led me to become a high school exchange student in San Sebastian, Spain where I fell in love with travel, connecting with other cultures, and being out of my element. I realized what it was like to be free, open-minded, and vulnerable while learning and understanding the uniqueness of others and most of all, myself.
Q. You have an enviable role as the co-host of Travelista tv – tell us how this show came about.
I created Travelista TV with co-Founder Andrea Adams (a college friend and fellow travel addict) after we graduated from Florida A&M University’s MBA program. We started Travelista out of our passion for travel, story telling and adventure and wanted to share our journeys and inspire others to get outside of their element and travel. We originally created a series of web videos from our travels in Italy and Croatia and put them online so we could sell our show to The Travel Channel, an idea we thought would be a piece of cake. What we realized is that people don’t get tv shows overnight, so we worked at cultivating relationships with tv networks, ad agencies, brands, etc so we could stay on their radar. Since then, we’ve done projects with BET, TVOne, AOL, Dish Networks, Sundance Channel, and been featured on the Fine Living Network and most recently finished an appearance on a new Travel Channel show (April 2012). We also now work with online syndication partners including AOL, Youtube, Grab Networks, and other online distribution platforms.
Q. Your video’s on Travelist tv really makes the viewer fell a part of your adventures and experiences – what do you think sells a viewer on a travel show – is it unique personality, unscripted adventure or other?
We really want our audience to feel like they are there having the experience or to feel inspired to seek their own adventures in culture, nature, food, or whatever it is that gets them excited. I believe it does take a unique personality and perspective when hosting a travel show. I strive to keep a balance of presenting information while making it entertaining, fun, and interesting. The unscripted nature of a travel show is what really makes it interesting. You really never know what’s going to happen next. When I was trekking in the Dogon Country in Mali, I came across a village of women and children in an onion smashing ceremony. In this village named, Kamakomodigilinatome, me and my crew weren’t able to communicate AT ALL with anyone, as they spoke Dogon dialect unique that their village. They saw the camera and didn’t want to be a part of the shoot. Then I pulled out some CFA currency, and they changed their demeanor immediately. Within a few seconds, they dragged me onto the onions, removed my shoes, and gave me a wooden club to help smash the onions with them while singing in harmony. It was a amazing!
Q. What criteria goes into planning your next filming destination?
Although it might not make much sense, I don’t really like to plan far in advance. I like to be inspired by something I read, watch or by conversations I have with people I meet from different places who tell what makes their country amazing.
Once I know where I’m going, I’ll get in touch with everyone I know who has either been there, is from there, or knows someone who is passionate about the place so I can pick their brain. I also do some research online and I’ll log onto A Small World to see what other info I can get from fellow travelers around the world. I also connect with local camera operators who know the lay of the land so we can capture the best and most visually stimulating places.
Q. I’m sure you have had many memorable experiences from your trips filming for Travelista tv – can you describe one of the most memorable?
One of my most memorable experiences was in Havana, Cuba. I got there via flight from Montego Bay and stayed in a “casa particular” (i.e. in a family’s home). One of my goals while there was to dance salsa with the locals. I absolutely LOVE salsa music and danced for a brief time for a Latin dance company in NYC. After asking around about salsa clubs, four different locals recommended a big spectacle (for tourists) to dine and watch performers, which was very reminiscent of Tropicana in the 1950’s. Initially, I wasn’t thrilled about going to a place for tourists, because I DON’T like to appear and be treated like a tourist when I travel. After watching the amazing performances on stage, I got over my disappointment. At the end of the show, the dancers came on the dance floor and I began dancing with a few. I was dancing, NY Mambo style salsa “On 2” while the Cubans were dancing “Casino” style “On 1”. The Mambo style is faster and a little flashier. Once my partner realized that I was dancing two beats faster, but still on the rhythm pattern known as the “clave”, he called over the entire dance performance team, and had me teach them the mambo style salsa. I couldn’t believe that I was not only in Cuba, the only Caribbean island where Americans are forbidden to travel, but to have the pleasure of connecting with Cuban salseros through a new style of salsa that originated in Cuba, but was remixed in NY.
Q. What advice can you give to those looking to get into film – specifically focused on travel and or related to travel?
My advice to those interested in getting into telling stories through travel video is to be passionate about it. You really have to love travel, cultures, people, and to have an open mind. Watch a lot of travel related video and determine what is going to make your form of story telling unique. Develop your angle and always keep that in mind when developing your itineraries and video production schedule.
Q. What is your ideal trip?
My “ideal” trip would be in a destination that has it all – nature, beaches, fascinating culture, delicious but unique food and most of all interesting people. My dream trip is to visit the Galapagos Islands to see the animals and aquatic life that inspired Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.
Q. You obviously have a passion for travel – but I also saw that you are interested in wine and studied Italian wine in Florence – tell us how you got into wine and what are some of your favorite wine regions around the world?
I do love wine. My love for wine came from travel, of course. I’ve had some great experiences throughout my travels and some of my favorite moments happened in Italy. Italians are so passionate about everything, including wine. I went to Italy for a summer to study Italian, and ended up enrolling in an Italian wine class to get a more in depth understanding of Italian culture, especially when it comes to food and dining with friends and family which is molto importante!
Q. You have lived in a number of countries; if you had to decide which destination has been the most influential in your life (outside of the United States), which destination would you choose and why?
To date, the destination that has been the most influential in my life has been Haiti. I never lived there, but I’ve been there 4 times- Twice before the devastating earthquake in 2010 and twice post earthquake to volunteer and connect with the grassroots organizations making a difference. The Haitians I met were such resilient people who have so much faith. Being in Haiti made me realize that there really isn’t much to ever complain about in life, as we know it. As Americans, we often take things for granted and we don’t appreciate the free world and truly realize the opportunities we have to achieve our dreams. If you’re ever looking for a reality check, spend some time in Haiti.
Q. You currently reside in New York City – what do you like about living in New York and can you recommend any favorite places to visit in the city?
NYC is the greatest city on earth. It is truly a melting pot and a place for people who are on their grind to make it in whatever industry they choose. It’s the city where you can explore culturally diverse neighborhoods, eat every type of cuisine, hear every language, see any type of film, and connect with other like-minded people.
My favorite areas to visit in NYC are the meat-packing district, Harlem spots such as Red Rooster and Corner Social, and my favorite restaurant in NYC is Annisa.
Teri Johnson is the Co-Creator, Executive Producer and Host of Travelista TV. She created Travelista TV out of her passion for global travel, storytelling and her love for connecting with different cultures from around the world. She comes from a family of world travelers and began globetrotting at the young age of 12. She considers herself a Global Citizen and has lived in France, Spain, Italy and Brazil to work, study and record her journeys. Teri has traveled to over 50 countries and speaks Spanish, French, and conversational Italian.
In 2010 she licensed the Travelista brand to BET for an original web series entitled “Travelistas Inspired Journeys”, sponsored by Ford. In 2011, she produced a web series for TVOne that focused on the African American filmmaker experience at the Sundance Film Festival. For 2012, she has licensed the Travelista brand to produce an original webseries for AOL and Choice International Hotels that is currently in production.
For Travelista TV, Teri is the “Free Spirit” while her partner Andrea is the “Cultural Enthusiast”. As a free spirit, she is a true adventure seeker and has hunted with the Kuku-Yalanji aborigines in Australia, trekked through the mystical Dogon country in Mali, danced with the Shangaan people in South Africa, and learned how to samba in the favelas of Rio.
Teri is also an independent producer and director with projects ranging from feature films to social and cultural documentaries. She co-directed her first feature-length narrative film entitled “Hey Diddle Diddle” (2009), which aired as a mini-series in 64 million households. Teri has also worked as an Actress, Producer and Writer on other feature length films.