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Say hello to Savvy Traveler host Diana Nyad...

Diana Nyad

Minnesota Public Radio welcomes a new host into its family of national programs. Diana Nyad - journalist, globetrotter and world-record holding swimmer - came aboard The Savvy Traveler® in July 2001. Steve Anderson, editor of the "Inside MPR" supplement of Minnesota Monthly magazine, talked to Diana to gain insight into her approach to the show.

You've been swimming with whales in Patagonia, tracking leopards in Belize, and biking across Vietnam. Is it safe to say you prefer adventure travel to exploring local markets?

It's not my particular curiosity to go traipsing all day through shops and things. That doesn't mean that I don't like the local flavor, but I like to get it in different ways. When I went to Bali, my friend and I biked the entire island. Everyday we wound up riding alongside Balinese-chatting with them and laughing. I find that I end up hanging with the local people, because I'm out there biking along with them or hiking up their mountain, more than I do going to the local market.

Information technology and increased travel budgets have made the world smaller than ever before. Has travel lost some of its allure as a result?

I hate to say it, but I think so. A couple of years ago, Travel & Leisure magazine asked me to do a "My Favorite Place" column. I thought swimming with whales in Patagonia and being with the Dyak Indians - a very remote tribe in the interior of Borneo - would be exotic. They called back and said, "We're bored with that Borneo story and we've done Patagonia swimming with whales a dozen times." I thought, "Wow! Has it really come to that?" The world does shrink by virtue of our traveling.

That same "small world" phenomenon poses a challenge to a travel program. How do you make your stories stand out?

I'm very uninterested in the travel guide description of a place. A woman [on The Savvy Traveler] went to India and kept a journal. Yes, she went to the Taj Mahal and the tearooms and old British colonial hotels, but [her story] was much more about her internal experiences and how absolutely overwhelmed she was by the colors, people, crowds, and poverty. I'd like to think that all of our stories fall into that category.

What's your secret to meeting the locals?

I think people get very intimidated because they don't speak the language. But I find that...if there is a curiosity and a light in your eye that says, "I love where I am, I love being with you, I love discovering how wonderful your life is here," then you can communicate.

Do you have any travel goals that you haven't met yet?

There are lots of places I'd like to see and lots of adventures I want to do. I don't know Turkey at all. I've never been to Istanbul. I've never been to Ireland. I'd like to do the Amazon trip. I have a friend who quit his job in New York and moved to Kenya. For 18 months he went for a run in the morning, drank lemonade, and read in the afternoon. Doesn't that sound like heaven? Most of us are lucky if we get two weeks [off to travel]. To think that we could have the luxury to go someplace for months, really settle in and get to know everybody there, feel the rhythm and the language of the place-that would be something.

Any advice on how to make our daily lives more adventurous?

There's value to tuning in to what other people are doing and what their experiences are. I don't go to marketplaces when I travel, but I go on Sundays to the farmers' market in my neighborhood. I love talking to [the vendors]. It's partly about the food, but it's partly about their lives. I ride my bike all over L.A. and I've seen much more of the city going 12 miles an hour bumping along on that little perch than I do driving around in my car.

What can travel teach us about ourselves?

When I travel I feel not just like an individual in my own struggles, but someone who is part of the collective family of human beings. You really understand that we're all just flesh and blood, heart and soul, pretty much living the same dream.

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