Spin a globe, and chances are Matt Lauer has been wherever your finger lands—that’s no surprise, considering he’s logged 248,166 miles on Today’s “Where in the World Is Matt Lauer?” He’s helped transport millions of viewers to far-flung destinations, making him the ideal recipient of Travel + Leisure’s first Travel Missionary Award. Here, he shares some highlights of his travels.
Q: Why is travel so important?
A: Travel gives you a different perspective on the world. With “Where in the World,” we want to show people places that they either won’t get a chance to go to on their own or that will spur their curiosity.
Q: You were the first to report live from Mount Everest and the Taj Mahal. Is there pressure to outdo your past trips?
A: You always want to be the first crew to report live from somewhere, but we’re not going to be thrill-seeking this time around—so no bungee jumping. We want to go places that are awe-inspiring—either visually or culturally.
Q: What have been your favorite places so far?
A: My favorite trip of all time was Easter Island. Cambodia and Laos were also breathtaking. I love places where, when the door of the plane opens, I know I’m someplace different. In Bhutan, you fly in after making hairpin turns through the Himalayas, then you taxi, the door opens, and you think, We are not in New York anymore.
Q: How about the most challenging trips?
A: For the Mount Everest segment, we went from Kathmandu to a teeny village at 13,000 feet in a few hours. We had no chance to acclimate to the altitude, and we weren’t feeling particularly well. We also did a show from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, with rivers of lava literally running past us.
Q: Any special souvenirs?
A: I have a beautiful carved moai statue from Easter Island, and a jade carving from China that I cherish. But I don’t buy something just to buy something. If I have time, I’ll ask my guide to take me to meet a local artist—somewhere tourists don’t go.
Q: What’s always on your packing list?
A: Oh, God, water. It’s all about water. An iPad, because I need to have music. And in some of these places, you’ve got to be careful about eating local food, so I bring a lot of granola bars. And Purell wipes.
Q: If you could telecommute from anywhere, where would it be?
A: Scotland. It’s got everything I love: natural beauty, warm people, golf, horses, incredible fishing, great culture and museums. It’s a wonderful place. I feel very much at home there.