Disney Enterprises, Inc.
When ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff was globetrotting with his son, Mack, 29, he couldn't imagine that their new series Rogue Trip (July 24, Disney Plus) would debut in the middle of a pandemic. But their travelogue about conflict-troubled locations — Colombia, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Ukraine — provides homebound viewers a virtual world tour, and a chance to see how countries cope with challenging times. In these times, we need this show.
Many Americans are feeling fatigued by forced togetherness. On your trip, how did you and Mack make it work?
It was the first time in my life where I was able to spend hours every single day for almost four straight months with Mack. Stuck in the car for long periods, we had plenty of fights. It introduced us to a whole new technique of getting along with each other. He would get up very early in the morning, to get away from me. He would wander off as much as he could — Mack's true love is photography and digging up pieces of information that he never knew about before.
In 2006, a roadside bomb in Iraq gave you a life-threatening brain injury; you spent 13 months recovering. Why did you go back to some of the places you'd been in more dangerous times?
It was crucial for me to show Mack [and his daughter Cathryn, who joined them in Ukraine] some of these countries where they had seen me, but always in conflict. Every time we've covered wars, we know that somewhere in these countries were amazing people in many ways similar to us. We've seen images of these countries buried in these very intense news stories. In journalism we've always covered the negative — the negative is the tiny minority.
Were your kids afraid because of what happened to you?
I think a wake-up to the danger was when I was actually hit. When I was covering wars, I would not tell them details if there were confrontations, potentially dangerous. They didn't see a ton of that danger.
Daniel Hollis/Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Was this a trip Mack wanted to take after all you went through?
Mack is in some ways similar to me. I'm not sure I like to use the word “risk taker,” but Mack seems very comfortable going to places that have potential danger. He'd read about the dangers of these areas or watched it on TV, but this is the first time he went to see them live. Just outside Beirut, a drone was dropped on a Hezbollah office, and so I, of course, wanted to go down and see it. Mack peeled away to see a different part of Beirut. I don't think it was because he was afraid. I think in some ways he doesn't want to do what his father does. War correspondents/reporters want to see the conflict, other people go to rogue nations because they want to see something that is very different from their own country.
Then you came back to find our own country living through another type of terror. Is there a comparison to make with the places you saw?
Right now our country is going through a moment of fear and violence. This is the first time since 9/11 that we've been attacked. In the past, I always went off to some other country and I was the one taking the risk. If anybody was going to get hurt or killed, it would have been me. Now when we take risks to try to cover this story, it's going to be someone else at risk. [The pandemic] is the most frightening war I have ever covered. We could come back and be carrying the bomb [the virus] with us, and injure or kill one of our own family members.
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What did you learn in going back to these places?
When you watch this series, you'll have a chance to see these countries in happy times. It will give a break from all this horrible news that's happening. Half of these countries, I'd been there during wars. One of the things we experienced is that these countries recover. When you go to a war zone, there's all this fear that they'll never return to normal, that the suffering will continue unendingly. But when you go back, you realize these countries can get better, and eventually tourists will return. That's the hope. I wanted to show my kids that countries can come back.
Mack Woodruff/Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Hometown: Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Education: B.A., Colgate, 1983, J.D., University of Michigan Law School, 1987.
Record setter: Set a 1983 Colgate lacrosse record of 131 goals and 184 points. Today, Bob still ranks third in goals, fifth in points and 13th in assists.
Family: Wife Lee, children Macklin “Mack” Robert, 29, Cathryn, 26, and twins Claire and Nora, 20.
Do gooder: After recovering from his Iraq war brain injury, he founded the Bob Woodruff Foundation, a nonprofit helps injured service members, veterans, and their families after they return home.
What's your favorite return destination?
I really loved going back to Pakistan. Usually you think about the war in Afghanistan right next door. I rushed off to Pakistan to get into Afghanistan to cover the war after 9/11. Going back to this gorgeous country of mountains, the Old Karakoram Road and K2, the second-highest peak in the world, you realize these countries are so beautiful; there are parts of them you never see when covering the war. You can see a lot of old history. I loved going to Ethiopia, which was new to me. Lebanon, too, is one that's been nothing but conflict there, and now you can see it as fascinating but also beautiful.
What was the most difficult part of journey?
Papua New Guinea, traveling up and down the Sepik River — that was exhausting. Colombia in the Amazon. The Amazon was filled with bugs and mosquitoes all the time. Part of that country you were never really able to access before, but now you can since some of these conflicts have settled down.
After all this travel for your work, do you still have a bucket list of places to see?
I'd like to go to Antarctica. I've been to about 130 countries, so I'm trying to figure out the ones I hadn't been to. Certainly more of Africa. It may be awhile until we're able to travel again.
As we watch your journey, are you thinking about our country's future? What is next for us when we go back to normal?
I think this will eventually go back [to normal], which is kind of what I'm trying to tell in the series. All these places that go through horrific times in history will change and go back to some new normal. In the United States, the generations before us suffered way more than us and look at what happened to our country. I like to be positive. I always, as my wife says, see the cup as half full, not half empty.
Watch it here: Disney+