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July 06, 2008

Roughing It: Mongolia Interview

As promised earlier this week, we now present the full interview with host Keith Ochwat and producer Christopher Rufo of the exciting new show Roughing It: Mongolia. The guys had some great things to say about the show and really got me excited about watching it!

Interview by Lauren Robuck, KCTS 9 summer intern.

Was the idea of a travel show something you had wanted to do for a long time or was it a spontaneous endeavor?

KEITH: The whole project came together very quickly. We had both just graduated from college. Chris was working in Nicosia, Cyprus, and I was busy studying for the law school entrance exams in Sacramento. I called Chris to see how he was doing and, over the course of a few minutes, we hatched the plan to do a travel film. Chris immediately quit his job, I quit preparing for law school, and we began preparing for the journey.

Once you decided to make a travel show, what made you chose Mongolia, or did the location come before the idea?

CHRISTOPHER: Originally, the plan was to do the whole Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to the Sea of Japan. But once we got through the initial research, Mongolia looked much more interesting and Siberia looked much less interesting. It was our first show and we had to stand out—Mongolia was a good start.

What was your favorite experience in Mongolia, and can you describe it to me?

CHRISTOPHER: Hands down, the search for the Reindeer People. We rode for ten hours on horseback through snowy mountain passes and over miles of rocky, bumpy paths, to track down these nomadic reindeer herders.


Still from Keith and Christopher's trek to find the Reindeer People.

KEITH: Even though parts of the trek were miserable at the time, that experience was the most challenging and rewarding of my life.

You said that the mantra of the show is to capture the sight, the culture, and the adventure that exists off the beaten path. What would you say is the key element that separates your travel show from all the rest?

KEITH: Our show is unique because it focuses on the culture of the country as illustrated through the most telling characteristicits people. We've had amazing experiences when traveling abroad and while filming Roughing It, and we believe it's because of the people we meet along the way. 

CHRISTOPHER: We really made a serious effort to find Mongolia's most interesting people and learn about their lives. To put it another way, lots of travel shows wrap production on a half-hour episode in one or two weeks. We spent that much time roaming the taiga in search of the Reindeer People.

I read that Roughing It: The Great Pacific is next on your agenda. Has this trip already taken place or is it still in the planning stages? What type of information about the Great Pacific do you hope to take home with you?

KEITH: We're currently in the process of fundraising for Roughing It: The Great Pacific and plan on making the six month trek through the South Pacific in early Spring of next year. Look for a PBS release in late 2009. The reason this region of the world calls to us is that its done a better job fending off Western influence then anywhere else on the planet and we intend to experience these cultures that have endured for thousands of years.

What other places would you like to have a "roughing it" experience?

KEITH: Roughing It: The Great Pacific will take our viewers through some of the most exotic and remote countries on the planet. We're in the process of mapping out a rough path through Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and East Timor.

CHRISTOPHER: But you can't always be  roughing it! We're planning six months of production for the Great Pacific seriesthat's a long time. After that, I'll definitely be looking for some peace and quiet. I already have my heart set on San Donato, Italy, my father's hometown.  It's a 2,000-person village tucked away in the Apennines between Rome and Naples. I can't imagine a better place to rest, think, and catch up on some reading.

Can you offer a few words of wisdom to fellow young, adventurous travelers?

CHRISTOPHER: Burn your guidebook, throw a dart at the map, and set out. And, most importantly, have a purpose--creating a film, book, photo essay, journal, anything. There is a book by one of my favorite travel writers, Bruce Chatwin, called What Am I Doing Here? The title says it all. It's that feeling of absurdity that every traveler suffers from on occasion. In a way, it's good. You're really getting out there, you're bewildered, you're primed to learn something. But what's going to help you get through that feeling is your project. 

KEITH: My best advice is to be curious. You have to think like a journalistmeet people, ask questions. Get over whatever timidity you might have. Hunt around in the strange parts of town, ask to go along with people. If you're respectful and genuinely interested, they will welcome you into their lives and culture.

Roughing It: Mongolia airs Sunday, July 6, at 6:30 p.m.


I enjoyed watching this special! Not least because Keith's a HOTTIE :-) Love to see more of him in the future.

I enjoyed watching this special! Not least because Keith's a HOTTIE :-) Love to see more of him in the future.

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