Interview with “Boston Rob” Mariano from Around the World in 80 Ways

I recently got the chance to speak to “Boston” Rob Mariano about his new show on HISTORY, Around the World in 80 Ways, which premieres on Sunday, October 2, at 10/9c.

From HISTORY: “For two adrenaline junkies attemptng to circumnavigate the globe using every conceivable mode of transportation, it’s not the destination that counts: it’s the journey itself. Hosts Robert “Boston Rob” Mariano and Dennis Anderson must get themselves around the world in 80 different ways, from rickshaws and hovercrafts to hang gliders and barrels. Packed with extreme escapades in Brazil, Peru, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Dubai, India, Thailand and the United States, their voyage takes them not just across the planet but also through time as they explore the history behind how people have traveled over the ages.

Now and then, these two seasoned daredevils have to concoct and build their own means of transport, taking “off the beaten path” to a whole new level. Mariano, a four-time Survivor contestant, and Anderson, a monster truck champion, aren’t technically competing with each other, but they can’t resist bringing a dose of friendly rivalry to every new adventure. Sometimes, getting there is half the fun. In this series, it’s an epic challenge.”

Jump with us to see what Rob had to say.

On how this show compared to Survivor & The Amazing Race

Rob Mariano: Well it’s just the main difference was that with Survivor and The Amazing Race was competing to win $1 million. There’s no $1 million prize at the end of this show. It’s more about the journey. The premise of the show is to travel, circumnavigate, the globe using 80 different forms of transportation without repeating any form.

When I found out that Thom Beers was behind this show and the idea I immediately jumped at the opportunity to work with him because mainly he makes the type of television that I enjoy watching, shows like Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers. So that’s why I signed on to do the show.

In terms of difficulty, it’s different. I think the race gave me a foundation for traveling internationally. But—and with Survivor, the main thing I learned with Survivor is that, you know, it’s a social game.

And whenever you travel around the globe, you know, you’re immersed in different cultures with different people. And at the end of the day you have to be able to communicate and interact with them.

So the shows gave me the foundation to do that. But in all respects this show is different because it’s not about a destination or a $1 million prize at the end of it. It’s more about the journey and the interaction that I have with my co-host, and of course a celebration of the different forms of transportation.

[Note from Jenny: That was my first question. *squee* Love Boston Rob. lol]
 

On the more memorable forms of transportation they used

Rob: Yes, I mean, we—okay it’s really hard to narrow it down to a most and a least. I’ll tell you one that really stood out of my mind was I got to take a hot air balloon from the middle of the Serengeti over the landscape. And we actually got to see the Great Migration as it was passing by—the wildebeests, all the animals and everything.

And that was a pretty awesome experience. Also something that took me by surprise was we did a version of something called heli-skiing where usually a helicopter will drop you off at the top of a mountain and you ski down.

My co-host, Dennis, thought it would be a good idea to attach some ropes off the back of the helicopter, which we did. And I actually waterskied behind the helicopter, which I had never seen done before, but it was a pretty awesome adrenaline-fueled experience.

We tried to use different forms of transportation that was indigenous to the areas that we were in. So, for example, when we were in Botswana in Maun, which is the donkey capital of the world, we got a couple of donkeys and raced them. We – and likewise when we were in Dubai we were driving Ferraris and speedboats. So we tried to keep with that motif throughout the entire series.

[Note from Jenny: That was my second question. 😀 ]
 

On the most difficult challenges for his co-host, Dennis

Rob: Every single day was a challenge for him, which is what made it great. Unfortunately he’s not on the line to defend himself. So I don’t want to be too hard on him.

But I think just the fact that, you know, he hasn’t really travelled internationally, he’s a complete fish out of water, everything was brand new. I mean, he’s fallen into all the tourist traps. As soon as the first place – the first destination we went to was in Lima, Peru, and he’d fallen into all the tourist traps right out of the airport, you know, buying all the gifts and everything.

He loved the food – to try the different foods in different countries. The street food, which, you know, if you’ve traveled to India, if you’ve been there in the past, you know you don’t eat the food off the side of the road. It’s going to make you so sick. But that didn’t stop him.

So it was kind of—I don’t want to say I took pleasure in it, but there were times where—when he was doing whatever it was that he was doing that I knew he shouldn’t have been doing—it was kind of like a silent payback. I wouldn’t let him in on all the secrets to traveling. (I’ll just have to) figure out—I’ll let him learn it on his own.
 

On the worst part of the experience for him

Rob: You know, the [worst part] for me was just missing home and missing the family because this was 10-1/2 weeks. This was almost twice as long as any of the other shows that I had done before—the Survivors, The Amazing Race (and that stuff).

Fortunately I was able to stay connected and stay in touch with my family by phone and internet and video calling and all that stuff, which we had done a lot to deal with Survivor. But even still, you know, I have two young kids at home. So that was probably one of the biggest challenges for me.

And I think the end as well—I mean there was a point probably about three weeks into it where I think he wanted to pack it up and stand this one out. And I think he was homesick. He’s never been away from home for any extended period of time and it looked almost surmountable. We were having some trouble with where we were going, our destinations. And so I think for both of us that was the biggest challenge, was being away from home.
 

On Dennis trying to kill him during the show

Rob: [That happened] pretty much every time that he was in charge of driving anything and I had to be a passenger. I mean, he wrecks stuff for a living. That’s what he does.

One in particular was we were on the Chobe River in Botswana on a dugout canoe with an engine on the back of it. And we were traveling down the river looking at all the wildlife—saw the hippos, the crocodiles.

And we’re traveling along and all of the sudden the engine cuts out on the—Dennis was like revving the engine, stopping it—all of the sudden the engine cuts out. We ended up in between the hippo and the land where all the pod was, where all the family of hippos were. There was one on the land.

All of the sudden the hippos started charging us in our boat. Now granted these are about 60 feet away, but he’s coming right at us. And at this point I’m looking at him and he’s trying to start the engine.

And I look over—there’s another boat obviously with the production crew in it—the producer, the cameramen, the sound guys—and they’re standing there completely white-faced with their mouths wide open, you know, as if to say like, “I don’t know what to do.” And I’m looking at them.

Luckily he ended up starting the vehicle, the engine, just in time. But, I mean, it was like—at that moment where I looked around and we stopped and we talked and had a meeting with production and everything—it was like, “We’re not in Disney Land. This is not a Magic Kingdom ride. We’re in Africa. This is real. We need to be careful what we’re doing.” And Dennis thought the whole thing was a big joke.

That little kid in the candy store is fun except when, you know, your life is on the line. And it happened time and time again. Pretty much any time he was driving a vehicle and I had to be a passenger in it he was trying to be reckless and funny. And I felt like anything bad could happen.
 

On what surprised him most during the show

Rob: You know, a lot of times we were doing different things throughout the course of the show. And we weren’t sure what direction we were going to go next, meaning that like we had an itinerary, but a lot of it was up to our own, you know, ingenuity.

So we got on this boat in Zambia and we were going to travel to Tanzania. We were going up Tanganyika. And the name of the boat was called the (Liamba). It was actually the inspiration for the movie the African Queen. It was an old steam ship.

And we got on this boat and it was supposed to be a two-day journey to the top of Lake Tanganyika. It ended up taking four days only because, you know, things in Africa run on their own time and their own schedule. So it’s not really punctual.

The thing that surprised me, kind of blew me away, was that there were three different classes of cabins on this boat just like there are, you know, in the States or anywhere else—and not too much different from an airline that has, you know, first class and coach or whatever.

But the third class on this boat was literally a scene out of Titanic where—you remember the scene where they had the gates with the locks on them? They literally have this in the year 2011 where they lock the passengers in the third class with the steerage down below. And they packed this boat with—like literally the capacity of the boat’s probably like 600 people—there must have been 2,500 people on this boat sleeping on top of each other arm to arm.

And we’re in there too like sitting up sleeping and like just packed in like sardines. And I’m looking around going, “This is completely Revolutionary War archaic,” you know, like there’s no way this would ever happen.

And then all of the sudden it hit me; this is completely normal to them. This is like everyday life. This is how they live. This is how they get up the lake from one place to the other. All of the sudden it puts perspective.

So you asked the question, you know, “Was there anything that surprised me?” Yes it surprised the hell out of me. But then when I took a step back and looked at it through their eyes all of the sudden it’s not as shocking.

So I think like just no matter where we were we ran into situations like this. And I think I’ve learned over time that a lot of times things are the perspective with which you look at things.
 

On where he would go back to visit, such as when his kids are older

Rob: I went to New Zealand. I went to Queenstown and I thought it was absolutely gorgeous. It’s the adventure capital of the world. It’s where I first bungee-jumped. It’s where (the whole camping), the shuttle, the jet.

And I just think that whole island is gorgeous and I would love to take my family. I talk about it all the time with Amber and the kids. I’d love to take them down there to see that.

Additionally there’s a couple places that I would personally like to go that I haven’t gone to. I want to go down to the Southern Ocean in Antarctica and see the whales and the icebergs and Tasmania, that whole area of the world I haven’t really explored yet.
 
 
Don’t miss the series premiere of Around the World in 80 Ways on HISTORY this Sunday, October 2, at 10/9c.

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