Samantha Brown's new Travel Channel show, 50/50, may look like it's about taking luxurious trips to exotic destinations. After all, it's about a 50-hour escape worth up to $50,000. But Brown, who is also AARP's travel ambassador, says, "It's really about taking people out of their normal, everyday lives and doing something extraordinary." The catch: They must leave immediately.
Premiering on the Travel Channel Sunday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. (6 p.m. CT) and running weekly until Nov. 1, the show features Brown and cohost Chris Grundy. The two scope out potential travelers and then pounce on those who might leave for places such as Alaska or Abu Dhabi. (They can choose between two destinations.) The crucial question is: "Can you leave now?"
Brown explains further.
Q: How did you pick the people who take the trips?
A: We looked for people who might not be able to go — like couples with three or four children in tow. Part of the show is watching [the targeted travelers] call their boss on speakerphone to ask for time off ... or their parents to see if they can come take care of the kids.
Q: Did a lot of people turn you down?
A: It's about fifty-fifty, yes and no. The top reasons people say no are just their legitimate commitments. Maybe their kid's in the school play the next day. I will say that when we call the bosses, they say, "Do it! Go for it." It's really nice.
But we had a couple in Nebraska. They were to attend a friend's wedding — the guy was going to be an usher. So we called the groom and said, "We want to take your friend on a $50,000 trip." There was silence, and he just said, "No. It's my wedding." So they didn't go.
Q. What about the money? Do they have to spend $50,000?
A. There's no pressure on them to spend it. Everything we plan for them is going to add up to that amount, and when there's any left over, we donate it. But this is not a show about unattainable travel that you can only do if you have $50,000.
We always try to choose really neat accommodations, because those are the kinds of things that everyone oohs and aahs over. In the first show, with Today show meteorologist Al Roker [a special episode filmed with NBC's Today show in the United Arab Emirates], the couple stayed at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, in a suite with something like 10 rooms. It gives viewers a peek at a side of life that you never see.
But the activities are really about experiencing the culture, meeting the people. In Abu Dhabi, yes, we stayed in the Emirates Palace, but we also spent time with the only woman in the Muslim world who has her own food cart business. And now she has a restaurant serving Middle Eastern food.
Also, the travel we offer is very active. One couple's choice of activities in the [Australian] Outback, for example, was skydiving or hang gliding.
Q. Why would viewers watch 50/50?
A. Nothing gives us a better opportunity to learn more about ourselves and what we can do [than] when we step outside of our comfort zones. For over a decade, people have watched me travel all over the world. Now, with 50/50, I get to take them with me. I get to show people how, in even two days, travel can change your life.