by Jae-Ha Kim, Tribune Content Agency and Celebrity Travel, January 25, 2017
When George Kourounis decided to get married, he and his wife had their ceremony on top of an erupting volcano. The Canadian adventurer and documentarian ("Angry Planet," "Volcanic Planet," "What On Earth?") counts that as one of his most memorable experiences. "I decided years ago what the purpose of my life was," says Kourounis, who has traveled to all seven continents multiple times. "And that was to travel the world and document the most extreme experiences and share that, whether it's for a TV program or talking to people about those experiences. I somehow managed to turn it into a lifestyle." Fans may keep up with his latest adventures on Twitter (https://twitter.com/georgekourounis).
Q. When you're going on a vacation, do you prefer staying active?
A. Yes. I never lay out at the beach. When's the last time I just relaxed? I think it was 1997. (Laughs) I like to keep moving and always do something new. I try to travel to new places. I've been to all seven continents. I've been to Antarctica three times, which even I found surprising. For me, it's not appealing to sit at an all-inclusive beach. That's not a vacation to me, although my wife deserves a trip like that. I'll have to suck it up and take her to a beach and let her enjoy herself.
Q. Any destinations in mind?
A. I'd like it to be somewhere I've never been before. Maybe Cuba? I'm not a fan of revisiting places.
Q. What are some places that stand out?
A. I've been to Patagonia, and I loved it. Everything looks like a postcard. Very few people know where it is. It's a small island nation between Fiji and Australia and they have some of the most active volcanoes there. I've been back there many times. I had my wedding ceremony on a different island there back in 2006. She had her wedding dress and I had my tuxedo and we had no guests, just the locals that performed the ceremony and some people who happened to be walking past. We had a big party after that back home. We weren't going to ship my grandmother halfway around the world for our wedding.
Q. Is your wife an adventurer, too?
A. She has a business in Toronto and will occasionally come with me. I've taken her shark diving in the Bahamas and we've been to Indonesia together. She's interested in places like Hawaii, but not really interested in visiting Chernobyl. I can't figure out why. (Laughs)
Q. Did you travel much as a child?
A. Not that much. I didn't get the travel bug until much later in life. I went from Canada to the United States. I went to Greece with my father when I was 19. I got into travel in the late '90s, when I was in my 20s. I'm a bit of a late bloomer that way.
Q. So how did you get from traveling here and there to chasing tornadoes?
A. I've always had a love of nature, science and documenting nature with photography. I was an engineer maintaining large recording studios in Toronto. It was a good job, but I would take my vacation time and go tornado chasing. And, just on a whim, I got really hooked on it. I went to cover Hurricane Katrina on vacation time. I began to build a reputation as a guy that was always there and I was able to quit my job. It was a leap of faith.
Q. Your job ensures that you travel most of the year, but not necessarily in a way that most people would find comfortable.
A. I travel in the most complicated way possible. Traveling is expensive and exhausting, lugging tons of equipment and dozens of bags to obscure places all around the world. You have to get visas issued and permits. It's brutal. It's not the kind of travel where I won a million dollars and stay at five-star resorts. I dream of that. Sometimes I camp in a tent or sleep in my car. There's some glamor, but it's far outweighed by the difficult things. But I love it. I wouldn't keep doing it otherwise.
Q. Are you an adventurous diner?
A. Yes! I almost always rely on local food. I'm very fortunate that I have the metabolism of a ferret on amphetamines. I never gain any weight. I love spicy local food. That's my favorite thing. I'll try anything once. I've had a lot of weird food over the years and eaten things like bugs and snakes.
Q. Have you ever gotten seriously injured during your trips around the world?
A. No, but I have gotten sick. I caught dengue fever in the Caribbean. In Siberia, I had a fever for five days in the coldest place in the world. I was bit by a bat in Africa. And I was on the island of Tuvalu and I had a massive reaction to something there -- I don't know what -- and I ended up covered in what looked like chicken pox. I'm still scarred up by that.
Q. Name an item that you always take on your adventures.
A. Imodium. I never leave home without it. There's nothing worse than having stomach problems when you're away from home. I get horribly seasick, so that is always in my first aid kit.
Q. Where would you recommend people visit to get a small taste of the things you do, but in a less dangerous way?
A. Stromboli, a small, beautiful island (off the coast of Sicily). You can sit there at a little cafe sipping wine and eating pizza while looking at an active volcano. It's a little luxury with a fair dose of adventure.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)
This article is written by Jae-Ha Kim and Tribune Content Agency from Celebrity Travel and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network.