When the legendary host of Jeopardy! passed away on November 8, 2020, the world honored Trebek’s showmanship, philanthropy, and vast reserves of knowledge. But the travel community mourned one of their own.
A passionate globetrotter who dearly wished to see Tibet, Manaus, Australia, Angkor Wat, Iguaçu Falls, and Easter Island, Trebek had a bucket list that would make any explorer proud. While he didn’t complete his quest, there’s no denying his wanderlust was contagious. In the words of Laura Byrne Paquet, a travel writer and former Jeopardy! contestant: “I’ll bet he influenced others—if only because he was so careful to pronounce the names of countries properly!”
Wherever Trebek traveled, he took his fans along for the journey through his show. Armchair adventurers tagged along when the game show icon went to Peru, Israel, and the Galápagos Islands. Culture vultures were by his side when he slipped behind the scenes at the 9/11 Museum, the Barnes Museum in Philadelphia, and the Metropolitan Opera costume shop.
Trebek never missed an opportunity to talk about travel on Jeopardy!. When “Clue Crew” member Sarah Whitcomb Foss delivered her lines from Antarctica in 2011, Trebek described it as a trip of a lifetime. Yet he couldn’t resist a gentle ribbing—a trip of a lifetime for her, maybe, but not for him, not yet. Seven months later when he got to make the trip himself, Trebek used the opportunity to promote conservation work. In a video shared by Huffington Post he mused, “To be that close to nature and not upset the balance of nature is very satisfying. It’s a very rewarding thing.”
Trebek racked up passport stamps behind the scenes as well. He made numerous trips with the USO to entertain American military personnel deployed overseas. This volunteer work included visits to Turkey, Italy, Germany, Iceland, South Korea, and the Philippines. Additionally, for more than 35 years, Trebek supported the charity World Vision through donations and trips. Zambia, Uganda, and Ethiopia were just some of the countries he visited in support of its programs.
Throughout it all, Trebek glowed with hometown pride. He often spoke of growing up in Sudbury, Canada. This small city in northern Ontario adored its most famous son. In a statement shared on Twitter, mayor Brian Bigger said: “Alex was an amazing ambassador for Greater Sudbury and was truly responsible for putting our city on the map for the world to know.” Dana Jennings, Acting Manager with Sudbury Tourism and Culture, agreed, saying: “We worked with Alex directly when he was here for the Amazing Race Canada in 2015, where Sudbury’s episode had the highest viewership with 8 million watching. It was ‘amazing’.”
Trebek also championed a second Ontario destination. As a University of Ottawa graduate, the beloved quizmaster frequently mentioned his second hometown on Jeopardy!. He paid tribute to that connection by acting as the honorary president of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society (headquartered in Ottawa.) “I got to see him speak last year when he came to the Royal Canadian Geographic Society’s building,” says Jantine Van Kregten, Director of Communications for Ottawa Tourism. “You could feel his love for the city and the institution in his speech.”
Trebek’s love of adventure impressed University of Ottawa alumnus Graeme Esau. The former United Nations intern and current NGO worker acknowledges the impact of Trebek’s legacy on his own career, stating “Walking by Alex Trebek Alumni Hall each and every day did give me pride… Alex Trebek showed what was possible not just in a career, but also in how to conduct oneself.” Fellow alumna and travel safety consultant Allie George is similarly appreciative, stating: “Alex Trebek is renowned for being an expert packer, and he actually enjoys flying— I’m proud to share my alma mater with someone who shares two of my passions!”
As for what motivated him to keep exploring near and far, Trebek never lost sight of how travel and learning go hand in hand. On route to the Galápagos Islands, he mused, “Even though the information I’m acquiring, the knowledge I am receiving, will not benefit me in any particular area of my work or my life when I get back home… it doesn’t matter. It makes me feel like a more complete human being.”
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