Travel without boundaries on the Peeta Planet TV show
Here’s a little tip: if you’re travelling to Europe and you’re not from the European Union, you probably want to have the right visa before you fly. This is probably especially true if you’re making a travel show.
Unfortunately, whoever was sorting out the visas for Mohamed and Peyman Al Awadhi, the Emirati brothers behind the Wild Peeta shawarma restaurants and hosts of the show Peeta Planet, hadn’t taken this into account. Having started in Singapore and then going on to Istanbul, the brothers and their crew were next supposed to visit Stockholm.
“Our team boarded the plane in Istanbul and we were the last two to get on,” says Mohamed. “Then they stopped us and said that we didn’t have Schengen visas so couldn’t go. We’d asked for Schengen visas but for some reason the guy organising them from Dubai got us Irish ones.”
After about 30 minutes, they were told that the plane had to go and their luggage had been removed. “So we went to Ireland, and our crew joined us a week later. But it got worse because the check-in lady – I don’t know why – had put everyone’s luggage under my name, so everything went with me while the crew headed to Stockholm.”
Although a bit dramatic at the time, the situation was almost perfect for the reality-style production of Peeta Planet, a 12-part show that will launch on Dubai One and online tomorrow.
In the series, the brothers travel around the world, speaking to entrepreneurs in each city. While it may sound relatively straightforward, the difference with this show is that much of the activity is being driven by social media. “Traditionally, when you consumed content, it was all very one dimensional,” explains Mohamed. “You listen to the radio, you’re just listening to the radio. You read a newspaper, you’re just reading a newspaper.
“But over time, because of the internet and then social media, it has become multi-dimensional, so we’ve started to connect and consume in parallel. You can be watching your TV with your smartphone in your hand and you can be Googling stuff and chatting about what you’re watching. Without knowing it, people have become accustomed to consuming content in that way.”
It was from this that the idea for Peeta Planet was born. “We thought, if we shoot this show and tap into that, would it work? Would people be able to grasp it?”
Before arriving at each destination, the brothers – who already have a sizeable following from their Wild Peeta social media presence – get in touch with their followers, telling them which cities they’re heading to and asking if they have any recommendations, especially regarding people they should meet there. “We also go online and look for innovators in the fields of culture, food and entrepreneurship.”
And alongside the usual crew of camera man, director, sound man and producer, the Peeta guys have added a social media director to their ranks. “What we wanted to do – unlike any show ever made – is turn the making of Peeta Planet into part of the show, into content that people can start watching via Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, YouTube or Instagram.”
While adding to Peeta Planet’s “social travel” idea, this has also helped get viewers interested in their international adventures before the show goes on television.
“We’ve already got a bunch of content that you can watch on YouTube, Facebook or whatever. There are pictures from our daily experiences, on and off camera; short videos about what we’re doing, the people we meet.” For example, the incident at the airport in Istanbul has been doing the rounds online.
After Singapore, Istanbul and Ireland, the brothers head to Seoul, Tokyo, Melbourne, Bangkok, Austin, Buenos Aires, Nairobi and Jeddah, spending about four days in each country before returning home to Dubai. “It allows us to basically hit every continent. But we’re going to be in the air for about 150 hours.”
Peeta Planet will also help address stereotypes, and the brothers plan to wear the kandura in each city they visit. “At the beginning, people tend to be very careful about what they say because of years of the media painting a certain image. But after we start talking about things such as culture, food or entrepreneurship, all in a modern context, all of a sudden everything melts away.”
Part of the thought process behind the show is about changing tourism, which Mohamed says has become highly sanitised. “It’s impersonal. You stay in the same hotels, you engage with the same staff, you eat the same burgers and pizzas wherever you go in the world,” he says. “You’re not really connecting with that place. What we’re trying to do is create a new form of travel – social travel. Travel is all about connecting with people and experiencing places through the locals.”
Let’s just hope next time the locals remind them to get the right visa.
• For more on the Peeta Planet adventures, follow the brothers on Twitter: @peetaplanet
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Updated: April 9, 2013 04:00 AM