CBS reality heartthrob Jeff Schroeder, who appeared on last summer's Big Brother 11 and the most recent season of The Amazing Race, will head up a new show by himself. This time, he'll travel the world over 100 days with not a penny in his pocket. In a true test of budget travel, he'll see the world with nothing more than a backpack and help from fans on the Web. The show, Around the World for Free, will be on CBS.com.
How will it work? Schroeder leaves New York City in July, and every day, he and his field producer, Zsolt Luka, will travel and film. Luka will edit and publish webisodes for CBS.com as they go. Both of them will leave without cash, relying instead on the help of the strangers they meet and the itinerary planning of their fans.
Schroeder isn't without those: The affable, toothsome Chicagoan was one of the most popular contestants on both his previous programs. He didn't win either, but the girlfriend he met on Big Brother, Jordan Lloyd, won the $500,000 jackpot, and the couple went on to play The Amazing Race together. Schroeder's two-time reality show failure has turned into a big personal win: travel the planet for free, and host a show about how he did it.
It's the second series for the optimistic travel program. Last year, an Amazing Race winner, Alex Boylan, was on its first season, hitting four continents, 16 countries, and covering more than 45,000 miles. That series, which spanned 129 webisodes over 159 days, was compiled into 11 one-hour episodes that aired on WGN America, and CBS liked it so much, it acquired the rights to the show for its own site.
A Web-directed travel show isn't a new idea. Travel Channel's excellent 5 Takes took on the same challenge, with a crucial difference: They had a little money. Still, like Schroeder will, the young people hosting that series often found free or cheap things to do thanks to the kindness of viewers. In one episode, a viewer arranged for the hosts to have dinner with his family in Singapore. In others, people shared their favorite hangouts on the channel's message boards.
Ironically, the fact their activities were cheap and free made the show more about the cultural and personal connections they made as they went. It was heartwarming, and more than a little jealous-making.
Having traveled around the world for nearly nothing myself, I know the joys that Schroeder is in for. It often astonishes and humbles Americans, who are so used to zealously guarding what they own, to learn how generous people can be to strangers who wander into their land, speaking a foreign tongue.
Traveling around the world without spending cash may not be easy, and it won't always be comfortable, but the rewards go far beyond the pleasures of mere tourism. Experiencing the generosity and open-heartedness of total strangers can be the thing that actually changes your life.
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'Big Brother,' 'Amazing Race' star Jeff Schroeder to travel 'Around the World for Free'