So The Coolest Thing Just Happened to Us in New York City…

[Posted January 28, 2017]

Yep. Well, actually, lots and lots of really cool things happened to us this past weekend in New York City. Holy moly, man. What a trip.

So if you didn’t know, we were in the Big Apple these last few days to attend our first-ever New York Times Travel Show, which is one of the travel industry’s largest worldwide annual gatherings. It was, we’d been told, a terrific way to spend a few days learning from experts in all kinds of travel and travel media-related fields, and to get important face-to-face time with representatives from travel companies, agencies, vendors and tourism boards and ministries representing countries from literally all over. And turns out? It was definitely that. We had an excellent time.

Plus, we got to hang out at the Create TV booth, we got to spend some time with a few of our dearest long-lost friends, and we got to kick it big city style in NYC for a few days! So, yeah. Good times.

Nik, Dusty and Rick Steves! LOL! Arm in arm in arm!

But, really. There was one particular encounter we had at the show that just made our hearts dang-near explode. It’s a pretty good story. And it all as to do with high hopes, crushing disappointment, and the real motivation behind “Two for the Road.” So get this.

‘Bout ten or eleven years ago now, Nik was driving down a street in Amarillo, Texas with a car full of screaming nieces and nephews (we love all you little brats) when her cell phone rang. Some weird number from some weird area code. California, maybe. Probably a telemarketer. Ugh. Certainly nothing new. And nothing serious. But she answered anyway.

Good thing, too.

On the other end of the line, and yes, calling from California, was a casting agent for an in-the-works new show on the Travel Channel called “1000 Places to See Before You Die,” based on the wildly popular best-selling book of the same name, written by travel journalist Patricia Schultz. They got our tape, she said. And they absolutely loved it, she said. And they wanted to talk seriously about getting us on as hosts for the new show.

What the what?

Yep. So as it happens a couple of weeks prior to that call, we had produced ourselves a little audition tape. By this point in our lives we were full-on bitten hard by the travel bug, you see, and one regular ol’ day just surfing the internet, dreaming and scheming about places we could go next, we happened to come across – somewhere – an ad. Placed by a production company in Los Angeles. Looking for an everyday American couple, who were willing to put their normal lives on hold for five months to travel the world and be the hosts of a new show on the Travel Channel called… you guessed it…. “1000 Places to See Before You Die.”

So yes of freaking course that got our attention. That’s a dream gig. For anybody. Literally the experience of a lifetime. Hell yes we sent a tape.

Here’s an actual screenshot from that tape. We may show y’all the whole thing someday. When we’re feelin’ real secure about ourselves.

But, no. We had no actual idea, or any actual expectation that we’d have any kind of real chance at something like that. Nah. Nope. Not even gonna worry. But what’s the harm in trying, you know?

So, yeah. Just imagine the feeling and the thrill and the adrenaline that shot through us the day that call came. What a rush.

The next several days were absolute madness. Turns out the casting agent told us we were one of the very last tapes they’d received and that we’d made the very short list of prospective hosts for the show. But lots had to be done. And because we dropped in so late in the game, it had to be done in a hurry.

She sent us over a whole bunch of paperwork and forms to fill out, background check authorizations, drug and personality screening authorizations, credit checks, releases, all that stuff. Meantime, she says she’s gonna get us booked to fly out to Los Angeles for a face-to-face with the producers. Like, soon. Like, as in a few days. So we’d better get packed and we’d better get ready. Oh! And she gave us a homework assignment. Go through the book, she told us, and pick out thirteen of your own, personal dream destinations – and include one from each continent – and write a few sentences about why you’d love to go to each. And get it to her pronto.

Safe to say that never in our entire lives had either of us completed a homework assignment so quickly, yet so diligently and so carefully and so meticulously and so well and thoroughly thought-out. We’d never been so excited, and maybe so terrified at the same time. That this could actually happen. Yeah. Wow. What if it did? Nope. Nope. We can’t even think that way. It probably won’t. It wont. It just won’t. But… what if it did? Holy crap, man.

Two days, we think, went by. Don’t really remember that part of it. But if we’re guessing, we’d say with pretty good confidence that we didn’t get much of anything at all done those two days. That includes sleep.

And then, the next phone call came. The last one. And it hurt like a kick in the face.


Long story short: we obviously didn’t get the job. Turns out after going through all that hubbub and excitement and rigmarole, the show’s producers had already made up their minds. No trip to L.A. necessary. They were passing on us and decided to go with a couple they’d already met with, face-to-face, and loved. No show, no go.

Well. Shit.

But! Here’s where we think it gets interesting! And how this all comes back to what happened this weekend in New York.

The sweet casting agent who was our contact through that whole process way back then, who was just super the whole time and who genuinely sounded heartbroken for us when she told us the bad news, said something that’s stuck with us ever since. And probably changed our whole lives.

If you really want to do something like this, she said. Just keep after it. You guys are amazing. And do it yourselves if you have to. Just keep after it.

Now whether she meant that sincerely – which we sure thought she did – or if that was just something she told everybody who didn’t get the job, well… it didn’t matter. We took it to heart. And now, ten or eleven crazy, crazy years later, here we are. In season two of our national TV show. Giddy. Up.


So Patricia Shultz, the author of the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die, and therefore the real reason we’re probably doing what we’re doing, and why there’s a Two for the Road on television at all, was at the New York Times Travel Show this weekend.

She was just walking away from giving a jam-packed session in the exhibit hall when we cornered her in the aisle.

Patricia, we said. It’s so nice to meet you and we know you’ve got a thousand things going on, but…   we’ve got a quick story to tell you.

Now to be very, very clear: we never blamed her for not getting the gig. We never blamed anybody. We knew full well how the television business worked, as far as all that stuff goes. Well, at least enough to know that you just don’t take it personally. And, to know that Patricia probably didn’t have anything to do with it anyway. Plus there’s the fact that we didn’t really ever expect it would happen to begin with. So, yeah. It was a big disappointment, for sure. But we got over it. And we learned a lot from it.

Anyway. Point is, when we cornered her there in the aisle, Patricia didn’t know us from Adam.

But she was immediately very gracious. She’s just got the best presence. And y’all should have seen her light up when we told her we were finalists for the show all those years ago. We told her our story, about our audition and the homework and the trip to L.A. and how the trip to L.A. never actually happened and about our heartbreak and what the casting agent told us and how our show was now in its second season on PBS and Create TV and how we got three Lone Star Emmy nominations and all that stuff. And she genuinely hung on every word, with a big, warm smile. It was just too stinkin’ cool.

Better still, we stood there and talked and laughed and talked and talked and made fast friends. And we talked travel, of course. Yeah. Good stuff.

After good while and a great visit we all said a warm goodbye. But not before we asked Patricia for a quick selfie, of course. How could we not? And of course she was happy to oblige.

Yep. How cool is this?

So thanks Patricia! Thanks for inspiring so many people (including ourselves) to explore this amazing world of ours through your fantastic book. And thanks for being so very kind to a couple of crazy strangers on the floor at the New York Times Travel Show.

And if y’all get the chance, go pick yourself up a copy of 1000 Places to See Before You Die. It’s a great read. Hell, it’s a great blueprint. Use it to build your biggest dream, even if only in your mind for the time being. And do us a favor, and think of us once or twice when you flip through the pages. 🙂

Cheers guys! Happy travels!

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