In the summer of 2013, I applied to be a contestant on Samsung’s SOS Island survival competition and was chosen out of over 11,500 entries to travel to Puerto Rico and compete for the grand prize… my own private island.
And so I found myself the only person to have visited every country in the world without flying, flat broke, living with my parents (at the grand old age of 34, that’s how cool I am!) and slowly losing the will to travel, inspire and entertain… instead I contemplated giving up and becoming a teacher, because you know, money.
I also received some terrible news from my friend Kendra in Egypt. A few days ago she posted a news article on her Facebook feed about a Frenchman who had been arrested in Cairo for breaking curfew. He was beaten to death in the jail cell by his fellow inmates. We worked out today that the victim was Eric, the crazy Frenchman we went out drinking with back in January 2010.
Arriving at JFK around 8pm local time, I was greeted at the airport, for the first time in my life, by a guy holding a sign with my name on it. Well, almost – he’d missed the second ‘h’ in Hughes. But it’s the thought that counts. Yes indeedy, your humble narrator here got Lincoln’d all the way to Manhattan, courtesy of CBS.
I walked through Greenwich Village, imbibing the sights and sounds and all the crap that travel memoirists are supposed to bang on about. New York is pretty much the place it is in all the movies and needs little in the way of introduction. Everyone you meet is from another corner of the world, which is fun for me – I can say I’ve been to that particular corner and it was great!
Although one day I’ll meet somebody from Greenland or Pitcairn Island and the wheels will come off that particular parade.
With consummate (freakish?) professionalism, I awoke 30 seconds before my alarm went off at 6.30am. After a quick shower and change of clothes, I made my blood sacrifices to Bacchus, jumped in the waiting limo and sped off towards the CBS Broadcast Centre. I was met at the door and taken up to the newsfloor. Now this is more like it! A nice big studio for me to run about. The warehouse-y interiors looked a bit like my old office in Liverpool. I was a bit disappointed to discover that the brickwork wasn’t real, but this is television, folks! IT’S ALL MADE OF MAGIC.
Sunday was spent getting to know the other contestants – Murad from Jordan, Veronica from Italy, Rosa from Texas, Brittany from LA, Robin from Sweden, Chris from LA, Kalyn from Canada, Liron from Israel, Tom from Perth, Alex from Moscow, Tan from Sydney, Natalie from Brighton, Jo from South Africa, Karen from Boston and the aforementioned Mert from Istanbul.