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‘Traveling is opening your mind to someone else's perspective.’
Gems in this
Travel is the driving force behind Brazilian–born TV host Pedro Andrade’s creativity. He has built his professional path as a journalist, author and TV host by traveling to 65 countries (and counting) and sharing these stories with the world.
From Indigenous communities deep in the Amazon to the people leading the legal wave of cannabis production in Oregon, Pedro digs deep, revealing diverse perspectives with creativity and charisma. Yet, every time he heads out on these trips, what puts a smile on his face is knowing that it’s to New York City that he’ll return for a slice of home. We spoke with Pedro about the inspiring places creativity takes him, now being a proud New Yorker and his favorite Travel Gems to explore in the city.
On your love for travel
Even before I had any idea of what I was going to do professionally, I already knew I wanted to travel. My grandmother was highly influential in my life, she was born in a lower-middle-class family in the north of Brazil, and with the money she made, which was not a lot, she traveled the world with my grandfather. I vividly remember her asking me, what do you want to be when you grow up? I always said, ‘I want to travel.’ She was like, ‘that's not a job.’ So I thought, I'll pick a job that will allow me to travel, like a pilot, a flight attendant, a bus driver or an astronaut. I just had this desire to move, to meet different people and understand other cultures. I'm extremely focused, so consciously or subconsciously, I strategized my entire life around the fact that I wanted to make a living by traveling.
On what drew you to journalism
If I told you that I grew up wanting to become a journalist, I'd be lying. I always loved writing and reading, so when I chose journalism I was looking for a job that would allow me to explore my passions. I dropped out of college in my third year because I had this opportunity to travel the world modeling. My family thought I was crazy, but I knew this could be my only opportunity to leave Brazil and do what I've always wanted to do: explore different cultures. So I left Brazil, went to Greece, Japan, France, Italy, and ended up in New York.
On moving to New York
I don't think being an immigrant or a foreigner is ever easy, but I also can't really complain because I don't believe in shortcuts. I knew I had to work hard. I knew it was going to be one brick after the next. If I could do it all over, I don't think I would change anything at all. Moving to New York is not an episode of Sex and the City; the city really tests you in every single way. I worked as a bartender, as a busboy, a coat check boy at certain bars, as a dog walker, and the list goes on. As a journalist, it wasn't easy at all in the beginning.
On what inspires you
I think my biggest inspiration is emotional honesty. I remember bartending in some of the filthiest bars in New York, and I was curious about the guy helping me behind the bar, carrying ice and bringing glasses, what his life was like, how he got here, what his family was like. I was curious to know what my customers thought of New York. And I think it's a pretty strong part of my DNA, of who I've always been. I'm genuinely curious about people, and that's a big inspiration. Then, I'd be lying if I said that people like Anthony Bourdain didn't have an impact on me. I think he changed the rules of the game by proving that audiences are more intelligent, smarter, more sensitive than networks gave them credit for. Padma Lakshmi has a great show called Taste the Nation. David Chang had some great shows. I like this feeling of learning something, whether it's through books or podcasts or TV shows.
On your relationship with New York
New York is fascinating. There's just this energy about the city that is hard to describe. One of the things I’m most proud of in life is that I feel that, because of my work, I've been able to have an impact on the city as much as the city has had an impact on me. I've written books about New York, I have covered restaurants and plays and interviewed many people. I think through my work, I've been able to allow other people to fall in love with the city and to live vicariously through my experiences.
'I have this desire to move, to meet different people and to understand other cultures. Consciously or subconsciously, I strategized my entire life around the fact that I wanted to make a living by traveling.'
On traveling differently
The type of traveling I do is very different from a lot of travel shows out there. It's not better, it's not worse, it's just different. I think it's cohesive with the way I see the world. I don't have any interest in showing the hottest beaches in the South of France, the coolest restaurants in Paris. When I go to a place, I'm looking a little deeper for the human aspect. Even the concept of travel for me has evolved tremendously over the years. You can travel by taking the subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn. You can travel by crossing the street and talking to the guy making your lunch for you. You can travel by having a phone conversation with someone who you find really interesting. Allowing yourself to travel in that sense can make regular travel a lot more fascinating and special.
On lessons learned while traveling
I've learned that we're all more similar than we think. We live in a really polarized world right now. America is so divided, as is Brazil. It's a really sad phenomenon. We've always been tribalists, but I think now we really have two extremes. And I've realised that we're all asking similar questions, wanting to know where we came from, wanting to protect our kind, wanting to justify our actions by blaming others. So I try to capture these places in a neutral way, not in a partisan or biased way. For that to happen, you really need to have an open mind. I can't show up wanting to teach someone something — I show up wanting to listen. You need to allow the world to affect you, people to emotionally touch you, to still be vulnerable and hope that those people can have an impact on you. I have nothing against people that just want to travel to escape. I think most people travel to escape life, but I travel so life doesn't escape me. My life would be pretty unfulfilled without my trips.
On your recent travels
In the middle of the pandemic, I spent four months in the Amazon, but right now, I'm working on a fascinating project for CNN. It's a show about communities, what sets us apart but also what brings us together. One of the episodes is about ultra-orthodox Jewish communities, another is about Native Americans, about Asian Americans, and one is about people who left their lives behind and now live in a van. There's an interesting episode about sex workers and an eye-opening episode about people who live in the weed world, LLC (Limited Liability Company) basically, the evolution of how we see drugs in our society, whether it is mushrooms, LSD, or cannabis. It's been really amazing.
On the ‘Unknown Amazon’
I've always been fascinated by the Amazon. Yet it took me traveling to 65 countries to head back to my own country and really explore the largest rainforest on Earth with the right eyes and the right questions. I think the Amazon demands an emotional maturity that I did not have 10 years ago. The world understands that Brazil is going through political turmoil, that we have issues with wildlife trafficking and wildfires. But I don't think the world understands who those affected are. I'm Brazilian, I've been in New York for 22 years, but I can honestly say that I didn't know who these communities were. We're talking about over 350 indigenous ethnicities and 180 languages.
'I think most people travel to escape life, but I travel so life doesn't escape me.'
On sharing the stories of the Amazon
If the Amazon was a country, it would be the sixth-largest country on Earth; it's larger than Western Europe. It is, without a doubt, the most environmentally important place on the planet. If we lose the Amazon, we will lose everything. Buckle up because we're gonna see more melting glaciers, more hurricanes, more wildfires, more refugees — this will all impact the economy too. Unknown Amazon is a show about people and it tackles issues that affect all of us: women's rights, racism, climate change. It's great when you are proud of the work you've done, especially on a project that demands all of your energy and all of your enthusiasm.
On Pedro behind the scenes
Honestly, I'm proud to say that I think I am pretty much the same person in front of and behind the cameras. The work I do isn't about me. It's about giving a megaphone to people that deserve the platform. Once I'm filming, the only thing in my mind is being present. I'm having a normal conversation and trying to bring out the most honest and truthful facet of the person I'm talking to.
On your relationship with New York
It's hard to think of the things that don't make New York special. I love the change of seasons. I love the cultural richness. I love the fact that you go into the subway, and sit next to a Cuban drag queen, a woman in a burqa, a stripper, or a Mexican chef. It's the energy in the city. I've traveled a lot, and I don't think there's anything like it. People often talk about the love–hate relationship with New York — I go through the motions, but never land on hate. When I leave New York, I leave with a smile on my face because I know I'm coming back.
On showing a friend around New York for the day
I'd get one of the public bikes, and bike to Chelsea to visit a bunch of galleries. I would go to Chelsea Market, and I would probably eat a burger at this place called Miznon. It's an Israeli restaurant that has, in my opinion, one of the best burgers in the city. Then I’d take the subway — which is probably my favorite place in New York City — to head to the Metropolitan Museum or the Brooklyn Museum. There's so much to do; it's New York freaking City. I think Brooklyn has some really interesting neighbourhoods. I love Bed-Stuy, 78% of the residents are black, and they have this amazing food of Southern and Jamaican mix, so I really like the vibe there. They also have great outdoor block parties. Maybe then go to the Public Theater and if we're lucky, the Hot Sardines, my favorite jazz band, will be playing. If you haven't heard of the Hot Sardines, go to Spotify and check them out. They're amazing.
'People often talk about the love–hate relationship with New York — I go through the motions, but never land on hate. When I leave New York, I leave with a smile on my face because I know I'm coming back.'
On where to drink in New York
Because my life is so all over the place from traveling so much, I usually go to the same places when I'm in New York. I love Keith McNally's restaurants. He is a British restaurateur and one of the best in the world, in my opinion. He created Pastis, Balthazar, Minetta Tavern, Morandi, and the list goes on and on. He is smart, witty, talented and demanding. I think he really understands the human aspect of hospitality. He wants people to feel a certain way in his restaurants, and I think he is an inspiration for many. I love his place called Dante, which has been ranked as one of the best bars in the world.
On where to eat in New York
I live in the Village, so I usually stay around here. I love Cookshop. I love this new place called Shuka. I love Middle Eastern food so much, and I don't know a lot of places in New York that serve Middle Eastern food this good. BONDST and Indochine are two classic restaurants that have been around for decades and are both amazing. And now I'm obsessed with a place called Zero Bond. It's a member's club created by this other hospitality genius called Scott Sartiano. He is responsible for places like Butter and 1 Oak and now has this huge project. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t go there at least a few times a week when I’m in town.
On a hidden gem in NY
A hidden gem in New York City is a bar named Little Branch, in the Village. It has a tiny door and is in a really random spot. I lived across the street for years and had no idea the bar was there, but you walk in and go down the stairs, and it's a whole new world. It's pretty amazing.
On New York in one word
On a window or an aisle seat
Without a doubt, an aisle seat.