Planes, trains and travel-reality TV

The Baltimore Sun

There are many television shows and programs geared toward armchair travelers. National Geographic and Discovery Travel Channel come to mind quickly. But one reality TV program has proved to be the ultimate in travel fantasy. I'm talking about The Amazing Race Sunday nights on CBS.

This show features nearly a dozen teams of two - family, friends and couples - who travel from place to place, searching for clues, taking detours and, sometimes, physical risks. The teams book flights, are delayed by bad weather, can't find cabs and miss train and ferry connections. The same as any traveler might.

Admittedly, the time the team spends at each destination is short - they call it a "pit stop" - but meaningful, as they interact with the locals in ways both mundane and fascinating. All the while, a camera follows the action and reaction. True, some of these interactions with various cultures are definite 'travel don'ts," but others are incredibly moving and touching, such as a visit to the jail cell in South Africa that once housed anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.

This is the 13th season of The Amazing Race, which has won several Emmys, and the 11 teams will travel more than 30,000 miles to five continents in just 23 days. Some of the destinations include Brazil, New Zealand, Cambodia, India and Russia.

The show airs tonight at 8, or after 60 Minutes, whichever comes first. Tune in for a journey that I'm betting travel lovers will find amazing.

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