At first glance, it may seem odd that "Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush would executive produce a documentary about rhino poaching in Nepal. After all, the television personality is best known for reporting on celebrities. Also, he's admittedly bug phobic. But he was excited to team up with the World Wildlife Fund in Nepal to tell the story of the endangered one-horn rhinos and what is being done to help protect them from extinction for the Nat Geo WILD documentary "Chasing Rhinos with Billy Bush."
"It was a true, eye-opening experience, to understand deeply imbedded cultural beliefs," says Bush, 41. "We think people who would steal a horn off of a rhino and grind it up because they believe it can cure arthritis or be an aphrodisiac are ignorant, bad people, when — in fact — they're just misinformed. These cultural beliefs go back years. It's deeply, deeply rooted in their culture."
Q. How did your views on Nepal change after your trip?
A. Well, I confess to thinking when I first heard it, 'Wow, this sounds so cool.' This is an out-of-pocket experience for me. Lindsay Lohan, I'll be back in two weeks, don't worry! And it ended up being something, else — long days, long nights of shooting and getting to meet and know personally the people on the front lines of the conservationists' war against rhino poaching in Nepal. So the people I got to know and work with and to truly understand their life's work was what was so moving to me.
Q. What was your favorite part of your trip to Nepal?
A. Seeing how people in villages live. Seeing smiling faces of children when all they have to play with is two sticks and a rock on the side of the road or the giant smile of a woman who is carrying a bushel of 200 sticks on her head to bring back for the roof of her home. (I saw) the grateful, smiling faces on people who have so little and then I think of all the people I know who have so much and have just as many complaints to go with it.
Q. Do you consider travel to be a luxury, an education, or both?
A. Depends on where you're going. There's nothing worse than traveling a long way for a bad reason, you know? It's absolute torture. Nepal was 30 hours on the way home with a scary landing in Nagoya, Japan, because the winds were too high in Tokyo. Coming back from Nepal was the scariest moment in my life on a plane. In that moment I was terrified, but overall it was an amazing, moving and educational experience. That's not to say there is anything wrong with luxury travel. I like a nice short trip to a sexy place.
Q. If you could travel anywhere to eat your favorite type of food, where would that be?
A. I would go to Greece for some feta and grilled chicken and olive oil and tomatoes, and then I would hop on a plane and go to Milan for some pasta or Florence for some beautiful pasta with some Chianti. I would fly to France for a perfect steak and a Bordeaux. I love food from all over the world, but Italian is my absolute favorite.
Q. What were some of your favorite dishes in Nepal?
A. None. The food was not for me. I'm not going to lie. I ended up eating mostly rice just to play it safe. I'm also a full-blown hypochondriac, so I've got those issues to go with it.
Q. What was the first trip you took as a child and did you love it, or not so much?
A. My family took me to France when I was a little kid. We went to Paris and I was taking French in third grade. I learned how to say, "Can I have some bread?" And I'll never forget my mom sending me into a little brasserie in Paris to buy a loaf of bread. And I came back with the biggest ear-to-ear smile on my face with a big loaf of French bread in my hand.
Q. What is the most important thing you've learned from your travels?
A. To time your sleep and awake time. You know, plan it out wisely. Don't necessarily sleep when you're tired. Sleep when it makes sense a couple days out. You've got to be premeditated about this. So in the big picture, you win.
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. Well, I have a house in Park City, Utah. I ski a lot and am an avid mountain biker and sportsman. So I really enjoy going there and just hanging out in the mountains with the family. With just my wife, though — Cabo San Lucas is an hour and 45 minutes from Los Angeles and it is fabulous. You feel like you're going to Hawaii, but you didn't fly that far.
Q. If you've ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?
A. I'm always skiing in Park City, Utah, over Christmas. It's always the same and it's just because it's easier to sell — Santa Claus landing on your roof when there's actually snow outside.
Q. Where would you like to go that you've never gone before?
A. Africa. On a safari! I think it would be great. My wife's been asking if we could do that at some point. And it's in the back of my mind, making its way to the front.
Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you're on the road, or in the air?
A. In the air, it's binge-watching serious television. Without looking up, I'll bang out six episodes of a show. During my most recent flight from Boston to L.A., I watched six episodes of "Justified" with Timothy Olyphant.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at http://www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)