Lonely Planet photographer pushes limits

Photographer and TV personality Dominic Bonucelli takes a moment to check out the surrounding landscape during filming of Lonely Planet Stressbuster. (Photo/Dominic AZ Bonuccelli)

Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor

If you ask me, there’s a little false advertising going on with this show.

The first question that comes to mind when you watch Lonely Planet Stressbuster is obvious — why Stressbuster? Because at the risk of sounding like a bit of a smart-ass, it seems the show should have been called Stress Inducing. The premise of the show: Dominic Bonuccelli and Anita Kapoor “embark on a series of short breaks across Asia to explore some very different ways to kick up your heels and kick start your motor.”

Sounds simple enough, but diving with great white sharks off the South Australian coast and riding with the Khampa warriors in Shangri-La seem to be activities geared more toward doing somersaults than just “kicking up your heels.”

Bonuccelli, who took a few minutes out of his adventures to speak with Vacay.ca, is a professional photographer for Lonely Planet and Getty Images and a seasoned world traveller from Spokane, Washington. He has worked for Variety, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. He also spent several months on assignment co-hosting the travel TV series Lonely Planet: Roads Less TravelledLonely Planet Stressbuster airs every Thursday at 10p m on Travel + Escape (Rogers 267, Bell 527).

We asked him about his show, his favourite places to visit, and most importantly when is the show coming to Canada.

Vacay.ca: You grew up pretty close to Canada.

Bonuccelli: I grew up in Spokane, Washington, which isn’t far from the Canadian border so I’ve always loved coming to Canada.

We would visit Lake Louise, and Banff, and Vancouver. I love Vancouver, it’s like the emerald city from the Wizard of Oz. I took a trip up there when I was eight.

One of my favourite memories of Canada was when I tried to take a road trip as far north as I could past Banff, I think we got up as far as Prince Rupert, and wow, it just felt like the end of civilization. And yes, I  know it’s not even half the distance to someplace like Yellowknife, I know it’s not very far north, but I just felt like I was off the map. And Canada just seemed like such a huge, untamed land to me, the great white north. I need to just take a year and buy a Volkswagen, and disappear up there.

Stressbuster is an odd name for this series. It’s not really a stress-free show.

Yeah, it’s not necessarily a series about being stress free or avoiding stress. Maybe it’s more about busting stress on the long term. It’s more of a series about getting outside your plastic bubble, pushing your own boundaries. It’s not just about laying on the beach and putting your time in at the golf course, although we do have a few episodes that are like that. But it is about trying different things and challenging yourself when you travel so that you go home a changed person.

How has the show been going?

It seems to be great, the first wave of it aired in Asia, and I live in America, so I was a little out of touch with how it was received in Singapore and Malaysia where it first aired. And all the first episodes were shot in Asia. But I think that people are really responding to it because I think there are a lot of travel shows that are a little more stationary based, this show is not about drinking a mai tai on the beach. It’s not about man versus food, where you’re trying to eat as much as you can. It really is about having a transformative travel experience.

And that can happen anywhere. You don’t even have to travel to have a transformative experience. 

Absolutely, it doesn’t mean you have to be travelling in Tibet. A transformative experience can happen 20 miles from where you live. Perhaps you can go and work on a cattle ranch or something out in Calgary for a couple of weekends, it’s just something where you’re pushing  yourself beyond your normal limits.

Do you have any plans to bring the show to Canada?

I truly hope so, it all comes down to cash doesn’t it unfortunately. If the show is well received in Canada, and if we can get a channel to sign up for a second and a third season, then fantastic, I would love to do every continent eventually, that’s my goal, but Canada is so vast culturally and geographically we could shoot five seasons there and not shoot the same thing twice.

If you had the chance to film one thing in Canada right now, what would it be?

The Calgary Stampede, without question.

That would have been wonderful. The Calgary Stampede celebrated 100 years this year, an anniversary that was celebrated across Canada.

Really! Yes, that would be number one on my list. I want to ride in a calf-roping competition at the Calgary Stampede. That’s my hope for season two. Let’s float that out there, let it marinate, see if anybody bites.

Rod has previously worked for Canoe.ca and is currently freelancing for Huffington Post Travel. He’s also written travel articles for the Toronto Star and Up! Magazine. Living in Toronto but raised in the small central Ontario village of Holstein, Rod is a country boy at heart who has never met a farmer’s market he didn’t like.

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