For the 15th episode of Wider Worldview on Fireside, Color & Curiosity founder & CCO Megan Zink interviewed Kris Kosach – as seen on the Travel Channel, MTV2, Tech TV – and producer, writer, podcaster, host of Text Prose & RocknRoll, TV and radio personality, and adventure travel expert! Read on for tips for trying new adventurous, some surprising advice and the scariest thing she’s ever done.
Wider Worldview is a new live podcast hosted by Color & Curiosity founder Megan Zink that explores the power of travel – how it can change the world: spark new ideas, foster different perspectives, catalyst curiosity and lifelong learning. Join her for interviews with entrepreneurs, educators and explorers and get inspired to tap into travel as an experiential learning and empathy building tool.
Head over to this link to catch the full audio recording with Kris Kosach – but in the meantime, here’s a snippet of the conversation. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Kris, it’s no surprise you’ve got quite a global presence. Many of your jobs and your projects have taken you all over the world. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you went from being a radio DJ and VJ to a TV host and producer to having Travel Channel and tap you and say, ‘hey, would you like to test extreme sport gear out for us on TV?’
It’s a twisty, twisty road – I mean, it’s switchbacks worse than they are in Montenegro. I will try to do what I always used to teach in broadcasting classes and that’s say it in as few words as possible so I don’t bore anybody. It’ all started in a radio station in Central Valley, California – outside of college, I got a job at a radio station. I was very lucky. A lot of my luck has been being in the right place at the right time, and a willingness to ‘go for it’, what I think goes with the theme of your show. A fearlessness, so to speak, and making yourself present.
I wanted to be a serious journalist but I started spinning records at my local college radio station and somebody suggested I should do that instead of doing journalism, and I said, ‘you know what, this part is way more fun.’ So I contacted my favorite radio station and they said, ‘come on in for an informational interview, and make sure you bring your demo tape.’ And I said, ‘you got it. Sure thing,’ and I got home and thought, ‘oh god, what’s a demo tape?’. So I called the competitor and played stupid and asked them – I told them – I didn’t lie, really – I said I was a college student and I needed to come up with a demo, and I didn’t know what went on one, and so they told me (and this was before the internet). And so they gave me some ideas and I put a tape together and went to the station and right place, right time, first radio gig.
I was there for about 3 years, got a job in Reno, NV, and then a job in Omaha, NE – and got recruited out of Omaha to go to St. Louis for their morning show, which I found myself doing and the truth is I probably never should have taken that job because I’m not a morning person. But as they say, when there’s a door closing, there’s a window open. So at that radio station in St. Louis, I happened to have a connection at the TV station and a camera man helped me put together a tape, and I sent it off to MTV. Again, right place at the right time – I worked for MTV for a year and a half.
I had always been this adventurous girls growing up in the Sierra Mountains, I was a bit of a hiker and a little bit of a nutcase who will do just about anything – whitewater rafting, skydiving – and after MTV ended, I went to work for Tech TV. So all of this is a long way of explaining how the Travel Channel job came along – it was a part-time thing with me and three other hosts, and we’d go see the same city four different ways. And that show only lasted for about 6 months, but it put me on Travel Channel’s radar. So a few years later, they called me back and said ‘we think we have a show that’s perfect for you.
It really was just this meld of all your backgrounds and putting yourself out there – like you said, getting yourself on their radar and also saying, ‘I’ll try it, I’ll figure it out – I don’t know how to do this but I will build the plane while flying it.’
So diving into that – do you have any tips for doing things when your brain is like, ‘oh, heck no’?
My advice would be to responsibly go for it. Don’t jump in the deep end, don’t go base jumping without some kind of training. But yeah, I think it’s like standing on a stage – there are those who can do it naturally, and those who can’t. And then the vast majority of us stand on the edge, in the wings of the stage, and get really nervous, but then once you do it and the adrenaline kicks in, you come off that stage going, ‘oh that was great.’ And so when you start to do that sort of thing enough, you jump out of enough planes, or spelunk enough to get that adrenaline rush – you start to become an adrenaline junkie, you miss it. And so it gets easier – but again, just go for it.
Okay so that is easier said than done, I think for some of us out there. So for those who maybe are a little more trepidatious, do you have any tips for that in-between?
I would say start small. Instead of going base jumping, maybe go to a rock-climbing gym. Start small – that’s number one. Number two is an emphasis on safety. If that gut is saying, ‘this is wrong’ – there’s a difference between ‘I’m nervous’ and ‘this is wrong’. You need to get to know those voices. If you try to do too much too fast, you’ll turn yourself off because you’ll be scared. And like anything else, your fears are greater than any reality.
Thank you for that reminder of baby steps – if you will. The other thing is the anxiety. The fear of the unknown, and honestly, that can be the most paralyzing. There’s been many amazing conversations here on Fireside about the fear of the unknown polarizing our society right now. A lot of it has to do with fear, which can manifest as all different kinds of emotions – anger, etc. So piggybacking off of this – how do you get from saying ‘no’ to ‘maybe I’ll try it’ – getting outside your comfort zone and finding new things to try – do you have any tips for that?
Again I would say baby steps – and I would also say the buddy system is what’s going to work here. You don’t want to go at this stuff alone – you need someone who has done something like it before and can take you by the hand – that’s the best way to go. Whether it’s someone you hire or it’s a friend or family member who’s been there.
The support system – there’s group travel, guided tours – so many different things you can tap into to get the benefits from travel as an experiential learning too.
Kris, I gotta ask you – I got goosebumps last night watching you jump off a bridge. You make it look easy. So I gotta, know what is the scariest thing that you’ve ever tried?
Probably again it is the fear of the unknown – I haven’t really been too afraid of anything, other than like, hanging on the side of a cliff, having a fear of the ropes breaking, or being deep, deep 150 under water in a cave, and having to crawl through a small space, and just for the briefest second getting stuck and thinking, ‘oh my god’ – and starting to breathe a little bit heavier, and thinking ‘I could have a heart attack in here’.
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