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I was Interviewed For A BBC Documentary About Lanzhou New Area

Once again going on the Beeb.

Wade Shepard on BBC
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PRAGUE, Czech Republic- I was planning on going to London to do a studio interview for a BBC documentary … but my planning lagged … I didn’t really want to give up sunny days in summertime Prague for dreary days in rainy London. I delayed. “We can book you into a studio in Prague,” they said.


So they made arrangements for me to do the interview at Sleepwalker Studio, which happened to be across the street from the park that I do exercises in each day anyway.

It seemed too banal and simple to work — are the handholds of our self concepts really so flimsy? Is there really so little actual weight behind what we say we like and what we don’t like? Can we just tell ourselves that were something different and have it be so?

I showed up a half hour early … I always arrive early but that was pushing it a little, so I kind of just stumbled around in the streets looking over some notes on the subject matter. It’s not a good strategy to try to script interview responses, but you have to know your numbers. A $6 billion project is a lot different than a $3 billion one. Although this is really only backup knowledge — nobody really cares about numbers; what they’re really after from me are stories, impressions of what it’s like to actually be there.

Be where?

Lanzhou. Or Lanzhou New Area to be specific.

Here’s a couple articles that I’ve written about the place on Forbes:

Why China Is Moving Hundreds Of Mountains For The New Silk Road

A Look At Seven New Cities Rising On The New Silk Road

And a post on Vagabond Journey:

Moving Mountains For A New City

I use to get really nervous before doing media appearances. I had a set narrative for myself that I didn’t like doing them, that I wasn’t good at them. I would still do them, of course, but the toll they took would leave me exhausted. I thought I was a hermit.

But writing is not a job for hermits.

In the lead up to my first book coming out I had a string of big media appearances to do. I feared them. But then something happened:

It was early 2015 and I was standing on my balcony in Xiamen waiting to go live on a national Australian radio program. I was already tapped in and could hear the commercials playing. I knew that I would be going on next. In five minutes, three minutes, one minute … I believe I was crunched up in a pathetic little ball on the balcony, but then something opened up, I’m not sure what, and I had a strange thought:

Rather than saying to myself that I don’t like this why don’t I instead say that I like it? It seemed too banal and simple to work — are the handholds of our self concepts really so flimsy? Is there really so little actual weight behind what we say we like and what we don’t like? Can we just tell ourselves that were something different and have it be so?

As I pondered this I relaxed, and then something beautiful happened: I began thinking about how fortunate I was for the opportunity to tell people on some far off continent about what I was doing. I was overcome with a feeling of awe that these guys in Australia felt that I was doing something interesting enough to have me on their show. Wow, I thought, this is really something special … and it doesn’t have to be this way. If a few things were slightly twisted in another direction I wouldn’t have been there waiting to go on the radio — I would have been sitting in obscurity, toiling in the dark. What happened didn’t have to happen, and the chance that it actually did was so incredibly slim. This was something special, and I felt like a spoiled little ingrate for not honoring how amazing this opportunity was. I then smiled. The nervousness washed away as I filled up with this deep feeling of appreciation.

I did the interview. It went well. But more than anything, I had fun.

When I hung up the phone and looked out over the nighttime city I knew that I suddenly had something to work with. So I began practicing — cultivating a better media voice and rhythm of speaking. It wasn’t easy and the details are rather dull, but I was now preparing for something that I enjoyed — that I embraced — rather than something I tried to avoid. That shift in perspective changed everything.

As I stood outside the sound studio in Prague I was excited. I was smiling, getting pumped up kind of like I used to as a hockey player as a kid. I was getting ready to go play a game. Media appearances for chroniclers is like playing a gig for a musician. I had an audience who wanted to consume what I have to offer. It was show time.

I walked into the studio, hung out with the engineer for a while, and then sat in the booth in front of a mic. The room was dark, and there were only a couple track lights pointed on me. Nobody else was in the room. I stretched by arms out wide, made myself as big as possible and breathed deep. I smiled. We began. I told stories for an hour. I had fun.

Some of my other BBC appearances:

Wade Shepard interviewed BBC Radio Wade Shepard BBC Radio Interview
Filed under: Czech Republic, In Other Media

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

3 comments… add one

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  • Rob June 13, 2019, 4:27 pm

    Yesterday I had to use a speaker to get through a gate, I do this gate often. I push the button and someone answers, I give my destination and my name (I’m on a list) then wait for someone to push a button and open the gate.
    The voice in the box on the wall (She) said I enjoy hearing your voice when you come through, you sound like an announcer (I do this often enough that I make a point of ‘trying’ to be entertaining to the ladies on the other end).
    I told her “Thank you, I was told I have a face made for radio!”. It took her a few seconds to figure that out, then she laughed, told me to have a good afternoon & pushed the button.

    Having fun with what you need to do is important!

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    • Wade Shepard June 13, 2019, 4:31 pm

      This is a nice story. Yes, if you’re not messing around with the people in your world you’re truly missing the plot.

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  • Trav June 13, 2019, 9:41 pm

    Cool. Let us know when it comes out.

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