This week we are getting an insight into life as a jet-setting journalist with Rajan Datar, who presents for the BBC Travel Show. Rajan has visited over 50 countries with his career as a roaming reporter for the BBC which is the biggest and one of the most repeatable broadcast networks in the world.
Could you tell us how you got into the broadcasting industry and the BBC?
Rajan : “After studying politics I joined the BBC as a trainee radio journalist and then worked as a trainee producer/director in Television. While I was doing that I was asked to present a youth travel programme (this was before the days of the internet!) called “Rough Guide to the World”. Having done two series I then got into serious current affairs reporting for a number of years before the lure of travel presenting returned in the shape of “Fast track” , now called “The Travel Show”. I now specialise in the half hour travelogue specials. Coincidentally the ska and reggae group I co-founded way back, Maroon Town, also enabled me to travel the world as were signed to a Spanish record label plus the British Council took us to ten different countries on tour! So I guess I was fated to explore the world.”
What it is like working on the BBC Travel Show? What are the best things about your job and what is a typical day in the field like?
Rajan : “Surprise, surprise, the best bit is travelling the planet, meeting some amazing people and experiencing many fascinating things. We get told where we are going to for the half hour specials by the BBC as they plan mini-seasons involving several programme strands in the same country. The average day ( if there is such a thing) involves getting up really early, getting into a van with a producer, camera operator and local fixer to go and film a story which we have sorted out in advance. If I use the most recent example, two weeks we found ourselves on Inle Lake where there are floating farms, houses, schools and shops on stilts, fishermen who row with one leg….and an incredible serenity. It was also the monsoon season while were in Myanmar, so it rained a lot! Among my highlights in recent years have been abseiling with Brazilian refuse collectors in a favela in Rio, singing with a 25 man Georgian choir in the mountains bordering Russia and spending two nights as a trainee Buddhist monk in Thailand.”
Is there anything about being a roaming reporter that you don’t enjoy?
Rajan : “I can usually handle jet lag although flying east from the UK definitely throws the body into disarray. It’s very intense being on the road filming because the days are long and there are no breaks where you can just flop out as you do at home. Sometimes I liken it to holding your breath for ten days! But I am not complaining…any headaches are usually because of technical breakdowns or five hour car journeys that turn into thirteen hour car journeys because we get lost.”
What destinations have you visited with the BBC Travel Show and can you tell us a little bit about your favourite places?
Rajan : “I’ve been to fifty plus countries with the programme so it’s hard for me to single any out – usually it’s the people and your own specific experience that shapes your view of a destination. BUT I do love Latin America as a region- and Colombia stands out as a beautiful country. Sri Lanka has always been lovely and a recent trip to Mongolia was fascinating. The first time I went to Beijing was like visiting a parallel universe although urban China has obviously changed radically in recent years.”
Do you have any tips for aspiring broadcasters?
Rajan : “Travel can become a bit of an addiction, it has to be said. I see a plane overhead and I immediately I wish I was on it going somewhere exciting, experiencing something new! My tips to any aspiring broadcasters is to practise your craft at all times– writing, researching, asking questions and then telling stories. Get a thick skin and prepare for rejection. Sell yourself. It’s a tough super- competitive world out there! But most of all be genuinely passionate about a subject, perhaps even become a specialist in something quite distinct because then you be more likely to be in demand.”
You can find out more about Rajan on the BBC website and follow him on Twitter for updates on his travels. To catch the the latest episodes of the show featuring Rajan and the other Travel Show reporters, check out the BBC Travel Show website.