'Amazing Race' winner circumnavigates the world again, this time with no cash

Alex Boylan won the second season of CBS's fantastic The Amazing Race in 2002, back when teams of good-looking white guys were the usual victors. And although he shared the $1 million prize for his efforts, what seemed to linger was a love of travel and of seeing the world. So in September 2007 he set off to do it again -- this time without a penny in his pocket.

Using his fan base as a social network, Boylan created a website where people could offer free lodging, transportation, or know-how, and five months after he set off, he arrived back home again, having seen 45,000 miles, 159 days, and 16 countries.

He also brought along a camera, of course, I guess because he got used to traveling around the world that way (and let's be honest, having a camera trained on you all the time keeps petty crime down and makes strangers more likely to help you, as fans of the TV show can tell you). The resulting 11-episode series, produced by Survivor: Pearl Islands hunk Burton Roberts, will air on WGN America starting Thursday, April 16. You, too, can see how a guy goes around the world without spending anything.

It goes to show that anyone can do it. If you start out as a celebrity, that is. Being gorgeous doesn't hurt, either. Still, I wish more people would try what Boylan did, rather than just dream they could. I wonder if Boylan was influenced by Race host Phil Keoghan, who was gone on Oprah to cheer lead his own hyper-positive, you-can-make-it-happen worldview.

Having traveled around the world on a dime myself, I will attest to Boylan's theory. All it really takes is an open heart and a sense of adventure. Yes, you can go around the world for free or nearly nothing, and while it's not always comfortable, it's actually remarkably do-able in the Westernized countries. Outside of America, it's astonishing and humbling how generous people can be to strangers who wander into their land, speaking another language.

But when you get to the third-world countries, begging for handouts from people who barely make a few bucks a year will make you feel like the biggest Ugly American on the planet you claim to love. But the lessons you learn in places like that have the power to make you a conscientious consumer for the rest of your life. I'll be watching to see how Boylan handles getting through the poorer places. That is, if I can figure out where WGN America is on my cable box. Travel, sadly, vital and enriching as it is, is not a valued topic amongst the broadcasters or basic cable suppliers.

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