Samantha Brown is a people person, first and foremost.
The affable host of Places to Love, which begins its second season Jan. 5 on PBS, never tires of meeting people and experiencing new cultures throughout her travels, which are considerable.
By her own estimates, Brown has visited 67 countries and 39 US states since she landed her first travel gig as host of Travel Channel’s Great Hotels in 1999, and she spends on average 230 days a year on the road.
“I love spending time with people in their own environment and getting to know them as opposed to visiting historic attractions from centuries ago,” she says. “I enjoy the human side of traveling.”
Her enthusiasm for travel along with her passion for connecting viewers to the people and cultures of the destinations she explores means that Brown’s focus remains on the “must meet” rather than on the “must-do’s.”
With her engaging personality, Brown is a natural for television even though her educational background almost took her down a different path. After graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in musical theater, she headed to New York City to pursue her dream of working on Broadway. An audition with the Travel Channel’s production company led Brown to abandon her performing arts career for the opportunity to host her own TV show.
“It was my musical theater background that helped me during the audition for the Travel Channel,” she recalls. “The audition was set in a diner and I improvised my way through the process which evidently impressed the producers.” The rest, as they say, is history.
Soon after Great Hotels other shows followed, including Girl Meets Hawaii, Passport to Europe, Passport to China, Great Weekends, and Samantha Brown’s Asia, thus establishing Brown as the most recognized woman on travel television. With her easy smile and natural ability to relate to people, some would say the most likable travel television host, as well.
After her successful run on the Travel Channel, Brown threw her creative energy into developing Places to Love for PBS, which has quickly become one of their most popular travel shows.
According to PBS, the series features Brown seeking out the little known spots and haunts where innovators and disrupters are creating a brand new travel experience. Whether it’s food and drink, art and design, culture or adventure, at the end of each episode viewers will have a well curated list of experiences that focus on not just how to visit a destination but how to belong to it.
Her PBS show affords Brown the creativity and flexibility to delve into the very psyche and emotions of the people she encounters. “New Zealand proved to be a phenomenal country filled with an everyday kindness,” she says. “Despite Christchurch being hit by a devastating earthquake, there is such a sense of optimism in their people.”
Brown’s love of travel did not develop instantaneously with her first assignment for the Travel Channel. “I guess you can say that I enjoyed traveling at first, but I didn’t love it,” she explains. “I’d be visiting historic sites throughout Europe, but not really getting to know the people. It wasn’t until my first trip to Latin America that I discovered that traveling is more about being in the moment by being with people of different cultures. I love spending time with people in their everyday routines.”
With a desire to make travel more affordable and accessible, Brown debuted her own stylish luggage line in 2011 on HSN, the Home Shopping Network. Designed from her travel expert’s perspective, the line instantly became a top “customer pick” and was one of the most successful brand launches for the year. Featuring a full array of large suitcases, weekender bags, accessory cases, handbags, and a packing system that offers both ease and elegance, Brown’s system travels well and encourages people to “Go Ahead and Jump In.“
Adding to her impressive list of accomplishments, Brown recently was announced as the Godmother of AmaWaterays’ revolutionary new ship, AmaMagna, and will “bless” the ship alongside AmaWaterways’ executive team during a Christening ceremony in Grein, Germany, Germany in July, 2019.
Looking into her crystal ball, Brown predicts that facial recognition, currently being tested at several major airports, will become commonplace in the near future. “It’s really exciting and could cut the wait time in half in lines at airports,” she says. “Also, airports themselves have gotten much better over the years by offering great food and plenty of shopping options, although the airlines themselves have a long way to go.”
Despite the perceived glamour that many people associate with hosting one’s own travel show on a major network, it’s not all fun and games. “I’m certainly not complaining, but I experience many of the same hassles of travel that most people experience, such as long lines at the airport, a hotel not being up to par or people not showing up on time,” she says. “But overall, I’m grateful that I get the opportunity to see first-hand that people, no matter the country, are generally kind and they don’t hate Americans. We’re going to be all right as a society.”