Not many people enjoy free stays on Love City, but that is just what Alex Boylan did last week, thanks to business owner Christy Dove.
The Season Two Amazing Race winner launched Around the World For Free on September 18 on the CBS Early Show in New York City where he literally walked out of the studio with no money and no credit card.
Along with cameraman Zsolt Luka, Boylan is planning to travel across South America, Africa, India and Asia before making it back to New York within six months. His first ride, from a construction worker, took Boylan to New Jersey where he was given a train ticket to South Carolina, and so the journey began.
Around the World For Free is the first “interactive reality series,” with daily internet posts on the site www.aroundtheworldforfree.com and weekly segments airing on the CBS Early Show.
Early Days of Reality TV
Boylan, who lived on St. John for about nine months in 2000, got his start in television after winning the Amazing Race in 2002 with a friend from his hometown of Boston — back before reality television permeated all aspects of popular culture.
“I was on Amazing Race when reality television was more reality and getting on got you a bigger name,” said Boylan. “It was a really good time to be on reality TV then. People saw me on the show and called me up to host other shows, which really doesn’t happen.”
While getting a break in the television business usually doesn’t result from appearing on a reality show, for Boylan it was simply following in his family’s footsteps.
“My brother is a writer and my sister is an actress, so it’s in my family,” Boylan said. “They were always trying to get me out to L.A. and I didn’t go. Then when I did the Amazing Race, I just fell in love with the whole industry.”
Joining Family Business
With roughly $300,000 in Amazing Race winnings — after splitting and paying taxes on the $1 million grand prize — Boylan worked in LA hosting several television shows.
“I was hosting some shows and then I also got into the behind-the-scenes,” he said. “I got to produce a few segments on a show I was hosting, which was great. I got the chance to be creative and line things up as well as be in front of the camera.”
Boylan further tweaked his production and directing muscles working on a surfing documentary “Dropping In…Panama.” The budding producer met future collaborator Luka during production of a second surf documentary in El Salvador.
“Zsolt is a very, very talented editor and I asked him if he wanted to edit the second surf documentary,” said Boylan. “He said he’d be interested as long as he could direct it — which was fine by me. During shooting he and I would go off on our own with just his camera and it was amazing the places we got into.”
“That’s when this idea for Around the World, in terms of the way we were going to shoot it, came from,” Boylan continued. “All of the footage we shot was used because we were getting amazing stuff. People talk more openly and honestly when you are more one on one.”
With technological advancements today, Boylan and Zsolt realized it was possible to create professional quality work with only two people and basic equipment which further convinced them something like Around the World was possible.
When Boylan met up with good friend and fellow reality TV veteran Burton Roberts the ideas which would eventually produce Around the World further germinated.
On the Fast Track
“One year later I met up with Burton Roberts who was on Survivor and also produced a show for Fox,” said Boyle. “He was interested in doing a project together. So we got together and started getting ideas flowing.”
“Then Zsolt made a demo tape and 11 months later, here we are,” Boylan said.
The concept of traveling around the world with no money or credit card is not the only unconventional aspect of the interactive reality show. The producers passed on a number of offers, choosing to self-finance the project themselves — with private investors — and retain ownership of all footage.
Although Around the World consists of only Boylan and Zsolt traveling alone, there is a production engine back in L.A. which takes care of all the other intricacies involved in producing the show — but that’s about the only difference between what is seen on their Web site and what happens in real life.
Keeping It Real
“We thought about setting up all these rules and things, but I think we’ll hammer that out for the next season,” said Boylan. “I know myself and I know that I am going to keep this real. Given the choice between a flight and a camel, I’m going to choose the camel.”
“I’m going to be pushing the envelope all along,” he added.
And it’s not too early to talk about next season. The internet posts are so popular the site burned through several servers when it was first launched. Boylan attributes a part of that popularity to the public’s desire to travel.
“Everyone wants to see the world,” he said. “The audience really feels like they are a part of this travel experience. I get such inspiring emails from people it’s incredible.”
Amazed by Generosity
While the ease of Boylan's travels from New York to St. John — where CBS is broadcast and his show is popular — is not much of a surprise, the kindness of strangers still awed the traveler.
“The most unbelievable thing is seeing the generosity of people,” said Boylan. “That’s what makes the show so great. The people who step up and invite us to stay with them are so generous, they want to show where they eat or what they cook or where they work.”
“The public not only makes the show happen by bringing us from place to place and dictating what we do, they also participate in making the show,” Boylan continued. “It’s a glimpse into the world of TV for a few days — being a part of it and being in it.”
Boylan and Luka are also learning about their own instincts, as the two wade through emails and decide which offer to take based on their gut reactions.
“We go on our gut feelings,” said Boylan. “We decide everything and so far everything has worked out. We’re really interested to see where this goes.”
Traveling to remote corners of the world is nothing new for Boylan, who credited his parents with nurturing his love of adventure.
“My parents weren’t rich, but wanted to show us the world,” Boylan said. “We didn’t go to Disney World, but we backpacked across Greece and Turkey.”
While Boylan is sure to see his share of rough quarters, in the meantime he was enjoying a stay at a villa thanks to Dove, who owns Big Fish and Little Fish in Coral Bay and runs the family villa management business Book-it VI.
“I never watch the Early Show, but I had it on one morning while I was getting ready and I heard about his show,” said Dove. “I checked out his Web site and I didn’t even know that he used to live here. Everyone thinks St. John is expensive, but I told him you can hitchhike and I could hook him up with a place to stay.”
Skinny Legs to Sunday School
The owners of Villa Venturoso agreed to open their home to Boylan and Zsolt, and Dove picked the pair up in St. Thomas and showed them the St. John sights.
While stops at Skinny Legs and Island Blues in Coral Bay were on the agenda, Boylan also talked to students in Dove’s St. John Methodist Sunday School class.
After posting a segment filmed at the villa above Cruz Bay, Boylan and Zsolt were lining up a boat ride to Tortola where speaking engagements — and who knows what else — awaited them.
A Beautiful Place To Live
Although not everyone can travel the globe — for free or not — Love City residents can sit right at home and enjoy one of the most beautiful places on Earth, according to the seasoned world traveler.
“Even though I used to live here, I haven’t been back in seven years, so arriving on the ferry was just amazing,” said Boylan. “I’ve seen a lot of places in this world but St. John is one of the most beautiful.”
Around the World For Free segments air weekly on the CBS Early Show either on Friday or Saturday. To keep tabs on the traveling duo, check out their Web site www.aroundtheworldforfree.com, for daily updates.