Go Away With … George Kourounis


By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
January 24, 2017

When George Kourounis decided to get married, he and his wife had their ceremony on top of an erupting volcano. The Canadian adventurer and documentarian (“Angry Planet,” “Volcanic Planet,” “What On Earth?”) counts that as one of his most memorable experiences.

“I decided years ago what the purpose of my life was,” says Kourounis, who has traveled to all seven continents multiple times. “And that was to travel the world and document the most extreme experiences and share that, whether it’s for a TV program or talking to people about those experiences. I somehow managed to turn it into a lifestyle.” Fans may keep up with his latest adventures on Twitter.

Q. When you’re going on a vacation, do you prefer staying active?

A. Yes. I never lay out at the beach. When’s the last time I just relaxed? I think it was 1997. (Laughs) I like to keep moving and always do something new. I try to travel to new places. I’ve been to all seven continents. I’ve been to Antarctica three times, which even I found surprising. For me, it’s not appealing to sit at an all-inclusive beach. That’s not a vacation to me, although my wife deserves a trip like that. I’ll have to suck it up and take her to a beach and let her enjoy herself.

Q. Any destinations in mind?

A. I’d like it to be somewhere I’ve never been before. Maybe Cuba? I’m not a fan of revisiting places.

Q. What are some places that stand out?

A. I’ve been to Patagonia, and I loved it. Everything looks like a postcard. Very few people know where Vanuatu is. It’s a small island nation between Fiji and Australia and they have some of the most active volcanoes there. I’ve been back there many times. I had my wedding ceremony on (the island of Tanna in Vanuatu) back in 2006. She had her wedding dress and I had my tuxedo and we had no guests, just the locals that performed the ceremony and some people who happened to be walking past. We had a big party after that back home. We weren’t going to ship my grandmother halfway around the world for our wedding.

Q. Is your wife an adventurer, too?

A. She has a business in Toronto and will occasionally come with me. I’ve taken her shark diving in the Bahamas and we’ve been to Indonesia together. She’s interested in places like Hawaii, but not really interested in visiting Chernobyl. I can’t figure out why. (Laughs)

Q. Did you travel much as a child?

A. Not that much. I didn’t get the travel bug until much later in life. I went from Canada to the United States. I went to Greece with my father when I was 19. I got into travel in the late ’90s, when I was in my 20s. I’m a bit of a late bloomer that way.

Q. So how did you get from traveling here and there to chasing tornadoes?

A. I’ve always had a love of nature, science and documenting nature with photography. I was an engineer maintaining large recording studios in Toronto. It was a good job, but I would take my vacation time and go tornado chasing. And, just on a whim, I got really hooked on it. I went to cover Hurricane Katrina on vacation time. I began to build a reputation as a guy that was always there and I was able to quit my job. It was a leap of faith.

Q. Your job ensures that you travel most of the year, but not necessarily in a way that most people would find comfortable.

A. I travel in the most complicated way possible. Traveling is expensive and exhausting, lugging tons of equipment and dozens of bags to obscure places all around the world. You have to get visas issued and permits. It’s brutal. It’s not the kind of travel where I won a million dollars and stay at five-star resorts. I dream of that. Sometimes I camp in a tent or sleep in my car. There’s some glamor, but it’s far outweighed by the difficult things. But I love it. I wouldn’t keep doing it otherwise.

Q. Are you an adventurous diner?

A. Yes! I almost always rely on local food. I’m very fortunate that I have the metabolism of a ferret on amphetamines. I never gain any weight. I love spicy local food. That’s my favorite thing. I’ll try anything once. I’ve had a lot of weird food over the years and eaten things like bugs and snakes.

Q. Have you ever gotten seriously injured during your trips around the world?

A. No, but I have gotten sick. I caught dengue fever in the Caribbean. In Siberia, I had a fever for five days in the coldest place in the world. I was bit by a bat in Africa. And I was on the island of Tuvalu and I had a massive reaction to something there — I don’t know what — and I ended up covered in what looked like chicken pox. I’m still scarred up by that.

Q. Name an item that you always take on your adventures.

A. Imodium. I never leave home without it. There’s nothing worse than having stomach problems when you’re away from home. I get horribly seasick, so that is always in my first aid kit.

Q. Where would you recommend people visit to get a small taste of the things you do, but in a less dangerous way?

A. Stromboli, a small, beautiful island (off the coast of Sicily). You can sit there at a little cafe sipping wine and eating pizza while looking at an active volcano. It’s a little luxury with a fair dose of adventure.

Q. What do you enjoy about tornado chases?
A. It’s always different because the sky and storms are always different.

© 2017 JAE-HA KIM

For those who have written about Patagonia and Vanuatu. … Here is a portion of the column from Jan. 24 in the Chicago Tribune, which was correct. All the outlets that subscribe were alerted to the correct wording (i.e. as it ran on my website):


Comments (21)

  1. George Kourounis says:

  2. Allison says:

    Immodium! 😂

  3. John says:

    It’s clear that you, and/or George Kourounis, don’t know where Patagonia is!

    • Annabelle says:

      ??? I’m not sure where that came from but Ok…

      I will say that while I enjoyed this column overall, I’m not a big fan of the way Kourounis and his wife used the locals as “props” for their wedding ceremony.

    • Mina Chae says:

      It’s clear that you don’t know how to read.

      And totes agree about the props.

  4. Larry Kegon says:

    Thank goodness for the FULL article posted on this site. My dear wife, upon reading the article informed me that she never knew where Patagonia is and the article clearly states it’s an island in the Pacific. It’s not, it’s a big chunk of S. America. Read the article, searched Wikipedia, google maps and even the Fiji Airlines route schedule for this mythical island Patagonia. No avail and clueless until I read the article online which has that one, somewhat important sentence included, “Very few people know where Vanuatu is.” THAT money shot explains the confusion but it’s absence from the printed version misinforms anyone with a memory and certainly will surprise those who book tickets to Patagonia and end up in high cold desert.

  5. Betsy Thieke says:

    Why don’t we just deport her for treason?!!! My word, you people are so quick to make judgment. My guess is that there are many people that get their hands on a story. Some make it better with good editing, some make it worse with bad editing. FWIW, the right story showed up in my outlet. So maybe it’s the Chicago Tribune that needs a good scolding.

  6. J.Pater says:

    After reading your today’s column of 2/5, I didn’t realize Patagonia magically moved to an island between Figi and Australia. Why would you reprint an erroneous article after you received correcting comments in January? Is this column “alternative” news? Shame on you (no disclaimer), and shame on George as he most likely never visited Patagonia since he is not cognizant of it’s location.

    • Sally Bennett says:

      J.Pater dear, it’s always in good form to not make grammatical and spelling errors when you’re complaining about errors. Why? Because it makes you look stupid. Let me help you: “your today’s” is incorrect. “Figi” isn’t a place. Fiji is. You also should learn the difference between “it’s” and “its,” because you used it wrong. It should be “its location.” Otherwise, you did a fine job of making yourself look not very bright.

    • 미나 says:

      What do you mean by “Shame on you” (no disclaimer)? If you’re an ESL student, my apologies. I don’t mean to be rude, but your command of the English language is weak and you appear to be a mean, petulant person.#바보

    • Ester Matwell says:

      I’m not sure why people feel the need to be so rude when pointing out an error, however that error got there. Either Ms. Kim made an error that was not caught in production. Or the newspaper inputted an error into the story. Is this really something to vilify? Mistakes happen. Corrections are made. As has already been pointed out, your own comment is riddled with misspellings and errors and your attempted humor is just sad. Get over yourself, J.Pater.

    • Jae-Ha Kim says:

      June, it’s silly and erroneous to assume that I knew of errors and chose to let them remain. Why would I want errors in a piece that has my name on it? Rest assured, the appropriate people were alerted. It’s unfortunate that the wording wasn’t rectified in all the outlets. Thanks for your concern. Have a nice day.

      • Melissa says:

        Wow, you’re way nicer than I am, Jae. I would’ve added at the end, “Have a nice day, Bitch.” Yes with a capital B!

  7. LizW says:

    I read “Celebrity Traveler” every week in the Chicago Tribune. I came here because of the Chicago Tribune article today…..February 5. It seems that in their quest to shorten things they left out the Vanuatu sentence. It was quite confusing. I am glad I was able to find this to clear it all up.

    • Jae-Ha Kim says:

      Thank you for your being such a loyal reader and for understanding that mistakes sometimes get made in production. Your comment is very appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to read…and comment!

  8. Alan says:

    To all you morons who want to know how this TRAVESTY occurred, I’m a copy editor and will explain to you how an article gets from Point A to Point B.

    Jae writes a syndicated column. You would’ve been able to figure this out if you bothered to read the byline. It doesn’t say “Chicago Tribune,” it says “Tribune Content Agency,” which is a syndicate. She does not work for any individual newspaper. She does not communicate with the editors at the Chicago Tribune. Her contact is through the syndicate, who handles all the copy and payments for the copy.

    Do you know how syndicates work? Creators like Jae file a story. A copy editor goes through her work and makes any corrections if necessary. It is the copy editor’s job to find any mistakes. In Jae’s case, it would be an editor who is well versed in geography. Another editor may look at it after that. Once the editors have given it a stamp of approval, the column gets sent out to publications across the country (and sometimes the world). As long as they pay for it, any outlet can run it at their leisure. They can also edit it to their liking, which means another editor (or team of editors) have gone through the work again. Unless you have a rogue editor intent on creating the kind of mayhem that this Patagonia slight has caused, no one is going to intentionally input an error.

    So what happens when an error is caught? The same team that went through it is alerted and it is updated. The syndicate then sends out a correction. At that point, there is nothing the syndicate can do. It is each individual newspaper’s job to fix any errors. Creators like Jae do not work for all the newspapers that run the articles. She is not at every single newspaper making sure that every word is correct. It amazes me that some of you morons believe that she is going from newspaper to newspaper, setting the type by hand, making sure that everything is A-OK.

    It has already been established that the copy ran correctly on Jae’s personal website. So why did some outlets get it right and some outlets didn’t? Because some outlets have editors who paid attention to the original copy and didn’t try to shorten the paragraph; and some outlets didn’t. Why else would it appear correctly in some places, but not others?

    To all of you who are still upset about this, let me know and I’ll send you a cookie. Just calm down.

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