For the past two years, Australian Cameron Andersen has been the host of Wuzhen in 2008 and named ICS Host of the Year in 2009, his career is clearly on the rise. We caught up with him to find out how it all happened and some of the fun he's had along the way:
China Travel: So Cameron, first up, tell us a bit about yourself—how did you end up in Shanghai?
[pullquote]"Getaway" is a one-on-one bilingual travel adventure show, where viewers are taken on a trip with the host to places throughout China and the world.[/pullquote]Cameron Andersen: I was born in the Gold Coast, Australia. During school I competed in gymnastics (Junior Champion), wrestling (Queensland Champion), karate (black belt) and weightlifting (Australian Champion, Youth Commonwealth Games Australian rep, 4th place). I also took up Chinese as a second language during high school. After graduating from school, I started to study law at Bond University. Upon graduating from law and being admitted in the Supreme Court of Queensland as a solicitor, I started a Masters Degree in Chinese Studies.
During this time, I took a three month exchange course to Suzhou University. This was my first time to China. After returning to Australia and graduating from my Masters, I decided that my future may well be in China as a legal consultant, because in Australia, the lawyers outnumber the clients, whereas in China it's the other way around! So after finding a local law firm (I didn't want to work in a Western law firm based in China, I wanted to get right deep into the Chinese legal system with a local law firm), I flew to Shanghai to start my three year contract as an associate for TransAsia Lawyers.
China Travel: And how did you then go from a law consultant to presenting your own travel show on ICS?
Cameron: During my three years working as a legal consultant, I developed a base of friends in Shanghai. One group of friends would go on weekend photography trips to document the old architecture in Shanghai's many outer suburbs. One day, the leader of this photography group was asked by ICS to be a guest on the Chinese version of Getaway for a show about Shanghai.
The leader was not very keen about making a TV appearance, so he recommended that they contact me instead. I then received a call from ICS asking if I could appear as a guest on Getaway for their special Shanghai episode. I was of course happy to do it. After filming that episode, I was asked whether I'd be interested in hosting my own episode (which was to be in Shaoxing, Zhejiang).
I took some annual leave and filmed the episode, which turned out to be very popular with the producers. I was then asked to consider becoming a regular host of Getaway. It was during this time when the financial crisis hit, and the business world was suffering a lot, especially the lawyers. I was nearing the end of my three year contract, so after some time of consideration, I decided to take the plunge and change my career from lawyer to TV host.
China Travel: Tell us a bit about the show itself.Cameron: Getaway is a one-on-one bilingual travel adventure show, where viewers are taken on a trip with the host to places throughout China and the world. The 30-minute show is aired weekly. Half of the locations are in China (where I communicate directly in Chinese with the locals) and the other half are in places all round the world. I treat the camera as a fellow traveler, which allows the audience to feel as though they are right there with me. Also, given my skills as gymnast and martial artist, I like to perform a lot of dangerous feats or stunts that other hosts might not even consider attempting.
China Travel: That sounds pretty cool! How many different places have you been to in China?
Cameron: It's so hard to keep track, but it would definitely be around 30 different places in China and over 10 overseas countries in the past two years.
China Travel: Where would you most like to return to and why?
Cameron: I think I'd most like to return to Harbin. The combination of beautiful Russian architecture and immaculate ice and snow sculptures with the hearty cuisine and warmhearted hospitality of the locals made my stay there extremely rewarding.
China Travel: Who gave you your Chinese name and what does it mean?
[pullquote]I actually never imagined that I would ever end up working on TV. As far as I was concerned, I would retire as a successful lawyer and that would be it. [/pullquote]Cameron: I actually created the name myself after coming back from my exchange trip to Suzhou. My English surname is Andersen, so I took the first two letters of my last name "An" which translates to 安 in Chinese (meaning peace or safety), and for my first name I wanted it to be 龙 (meaning dragon), namely because I love martial arts, and both Jackie Chan and Bruce Li have 'long/dragon' in their name. And that is how "An Long" came to be. I then confirmed the name with some Chinese friends in Australia and later discovered that there is actually a road named An Long in Shanghai! So it was perfect.
China Travel: Did it ever cross your mind that you might end up on TV?
Cameron: I actually never imagined that I would ever end up working on TV. As far as I was concerned, I would retire as a successful lawyer and that would be it. During my legal career, my friends and even clients always telling me that my energetic character and bubbly personality were going to waste in my current job. I then started to wonder if it would be possible to do something like that in China, and not long after that, the call from ICS came!
China Travel: Have you always enjoyed travel? What is the earliest travel experience you can remember?
Cameron: I've always been fascinated with travel and discovering all kinds of unique cultures. My first overseas travel experience was to Japan, where a friend took me around Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara. It was an amazing experience, and my first taste of international culture.
The second time was when I flew over to Edinburgh, Scotland with the Australian team for the 2000 Youth Commonwealth Games. Unfortunately, I was under a strict training schedule, so I didn't get much of a chance to see the city. I did however see the Royal Tattoo from a different perspective, as all competing teams marched in the Tattoo for the opening ceremony, that was certainly an unforgettable experience.
China Travel: Do you ever get the chance to actually travel alone or do you always have a film crew in tow?
Cameron: These days, the majority of my travel is spent with a film crew. However, I did recently make a trip back to Japan to visit my sister, who was taking an exchange course in Tokyo. After being on the road for two years with a film crew, I almost forgot the feeling of traveling for pure pleasure, so it actually makes my private trips all that more special!
China Travel: Describe your perfect China vacation.
Cameron: I think that the perfect China vacation is the trip that I did with two other foreign friends while I was studying at Suzhou University. Our two week holiday was a train trip from the far right side of China (Shanghai) all the way to the far left of China (Kashgar in Xinjiang). Being based on the train, we were able to really bond with Chinese travelers and local commuters on the train with us.
China Travel: With one show per week it must be a pretty tight schedule, how far in advance is it planned, do you always know where you are going to be from one week to the next?
Cameron: Luckily, I have a co-host who also travels around China and the world filming, so we manage to share the burden quite nicely. There are also some times where a one week trip will produce up to three episodes, so in those cases I get to spend more time in Shanghai. I also have to juggle three other weekly TV shows: Screen Talk is a movie-based talk show on ICS that teaches English phrases based on movie scripts; The All or Nothing Show is a variety game show on Dragon TV that has four celebrity guests each week who compete for charity to guess the outcome of challenges that are given to four uniquely talented guests; Fashion Asia is a new weekly entertainment and fashion news show to be aired on Star TV from November.
China Travel: What is the weirdest thing you have encountered while making the show?
Cameron: Actually, one of the weirdest things I've encountered while making Getaway was when we where filming in Istanbul Turkey. I was walking through the Spice Bazaar when I came across this man who was walking around the show with a cat sleeping on his head! The cat would occasionally get woken up when going through big crowds, but other than that, it was just there perched on his head like a hat! I've even got a picture to prove it.
Another weird experience was having to eat fried bees for lunch in Guizhou.
China Travel: Tell us about your best and worst travel experiences.
Cameron: I'd have to say my best travel experience was when our crew took a trip to Hamilton Island to visit Ben Southall (the winner of the Best Job in the World campaign). I actually took over his 'job' for a day which involved scuba diving to inspect coral in the Great Barrier Reef, checking up on the flora and fauna on some of the most exotic Whitsunday Islands, and chilling out in his million dollar apartment. Now that's what I call a perfect day!
Another one of my best trips was to Egypt, where I was able to fulfill my childhood dream of exploring inside the pyramids and deciphering hieroglyphics.
As for the worst travel experience, I couldn't really say which trip was the 'worst' per se, but I could perhaps say the most unluckiest trip was in Dubai, where we were almost arrested by the local police for accidentally filming the outside of a private home (the fact that it was over 500 meters away from us didn't seem to make a difference). After telling the head police commissioner our story, he luckily let us go, and allowed us to keep the footage as well.
China Travel: What is the one thing you cannot travel without?
Cameron: Above all, I never travel without a camera, because you never know what amazing shot can pop up at any moment. I also keep a photocopy of my passport handy at all times, just in case something happens to the original and I need to explain to the authorities who I am!
In China, I also cannot travel without business cards, because these days it doesn't matter where you go, there is always a boss or government official that wants to meet you and exchange business cards! It also serves as a good form of identity if my passport is not handy at the time.
Tune in to Getaway, every Sunday evening on ICS at 6:00 p.m.