New TV series aims to redefine destinations

05-27-2015 11:30 am

Through a new TV travel series, a Toronto couple plan to show the positive aspects of destinations often portrayed in a negative light.

Dubbed UPLIFT, the program will showcase various destinations around the world with a focus on ‘change-makers’ working to improve life in those areas, from the use of drones in Turkey to supply aid to nearby Iraq and Syria, to a project in Bangladesh where a fleet of solar-powered boats house classrooms and daycares during annual floods in parts of that country.

Nisha Toomey and Barnabe Geis are currently putting the finishing post-production touches on the series’ pilot episode (filmed in Myanmar) and are pitching the program to potential broadcasters. A successful crowd-funding campaign saw 549 supporters contributing more than $30,000 to the project. While the aim of the series is to show a different side of such destinations from what’s featured in news reports, the stories will be told in a light manner, Toomey said.

“People are hungry for this,” Toomey said. “They want a travel show that goes a little deeper, instead of just looking at the surface and the various tourist attractions and actually talking to people about their experiences on the ground.”

The pair bring similar experiences to the project, combining a background in travel and humanitarian interests. Toomey told PAX that she spent five years working with at-risk youth along the Thailand-Burma border, while Geis, a journalism graduate currently working at the Centre for Social Innovation, lived in the Middle East organizing tours in the West Bank region. According to Toomey and Geis, the experience of seeing those destinations first-hand inspired a need to show what was happening there beyond the headlines and sound bites.

“The newspapers are full of negative news, but there’s all these great things happening around the world and we never hear about that,” Geis said. “There’s a real desire, especially amongst millenials, to talk about the inspiring stories and the solutions.”

And while offering a new perspective on the world is the main objective of the series, increasing travel to those regions featured on the show is a spin-off effect.

“It’s great to go lie on a beach somewhere and get the rest you deserve, but if you get the opportunity, go hang out with the locals and see what life is like there,” Geis said. “If the show can inspire people to be more interested and empathetic, that’s the ultimate goal.”

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