Erin Ryder wears a lot of hats, and we don't mean the fashionable ones she rocked at Coachella.
Ryder is a well-known TV host, respected explorer, producer, investigative journalist and adventurer for all things unexplained.
She's best known for "Destination Truth," which was the popular expedition show that helped bring cryptozoology to prime time, and also starred on National Geographic's divisive "Chasing UFOs." Behind the scenes, Ryder has worked on diverse programming like the X-Games and the Olympics.
On May 19 "Destination Truth" will hit syndication on the Travel Channel packaged with former partner-in-crime Josh Gates' "Expedition Unknown," which Ryder hopes can revive the series to a new generation of fans.
Ryder has been everywhere and has seen it all, making her a prime poster child for the next generation of explorers.
Q: A lot of episodes of "Destination Truth" always teased at discovery; did you ever feel like you guys were close to finding answers?
RYDER:" Absolutely. The difficulty of working on a 30 minute show for a cable TV network is there is a strict timeline. You have a certain amount of days allotted to shoot and episode or you’ll likely go over budget. There would be times where we felt right on top of something, but we had to leave to fly to our next shoot. There’s some benefit about doing a series like this in that you get to look into so many more cases, but not being able to delve deeper into some is always challenging. There we’re plenty of other factors that would add to the struggle as well – difficult terrain, situations that turned too dangerous, locations that wouldn't allow us permissions to investigate, hostile territories, and the list goes on and on.
One of the cases that I feel adamant that if we went back and had more time we could uncover something huge was the Orang Pendek in Indonesia. The eyewitnesses were some of the best we’ve had and the area was so untouched by man that you had to think this could be hiding big secrets. I wasn't with Josh in Nepal when he was onto the Yeti, but that also felt like one where he left so unsatisfied and wanting more answers and time."
Q: What was your favorite experience/ expedition from the show?
RYDER:"The Antarctica trip was truly a journey of a lifetime and my favorite experience. Josh and I fought so hard to bring that investigation to life. Personally, I never thought I’d ever have the opportunity to go there so it was so unexpected. My favorite part is that Antarctica is like no place on earth; it felt like we were on another planet. The arduous voyage to get there via the Drake Passage, the worst waterway in the world, made it that much sweeter. We were beaten up for four full days on a tiny ship, being pummeled by waves and then one day the ocean calms, the dolphins swim up beside the ship and the glaciers take over the horizon. It was breathtaking.
My favorite episode may be 'The Ghosts of the Great Wall,' and its not because I got to ride in a sidecar, which was pretty amazing. Not only did we get to explore and investigate locations on and around the wall that tourists do not get to visit, but what we experienced was beyond belief. I think that may have been the turning point for Josh, there’s no looking back after the first time you’re touched or grabbed by something you cannot see or explain. It changes you. It did for me in the Aokigahara Forest, and I still have nightmares."
Q: How is it possible to communicate to the masses how hard it is to discover a new species or the unexplained? Many believe you can just make an expedition or two and just discover something or not.
RYDER: "Yes, there are plenty of species awaiting discovery, or rediscovery, but it's wrong to think that most findings are made instantly in the field. It involves tons of research, the right gear, a talented team, the correct permissions, ensuring the political climate is right for an investigation at that time, figuring out how to get to these remote spots that don't often have roads or ports, like mountainous regions or isolated islands, and when there you still need to trek through inaccessible jungles and actually search for these elusive undiscovered species. It’s not for the feint of heart, and certainly not for those who won’t put in the work.
But if you really enjoy fieldwork, and exploration, and are up for the challenge this shouldn’t discourage you it should just make you realize there’s a lot of work behind what you finally see on screen. We have a research team, a management team, fixers in each location, field producers who travel out ahead of us – we do everything we can ahead of time so that when we get boots on the ground we can make full use of our time on location….but even then it can often take months or even years to find what you’re looking for. The good news is the hunt is the best part!"
Q: Out of all the cryptids and unexplained phenomenon, which is your favorite to research and why?
RYDER: "Orang Pendek, Yeren, the Kapre – who isn’t fascinated with the thought that we may not know everything we think we do about what’s lurking in the woods! But I cannot discount the allure of the paranormal cases. Spirits and ghosts are one of the most universal things we all globally share. It doesn't matter your religion or background; your cousin, or friend, or coworker has seen, heard or felt something they couldn't explain. Traveling the earth and investigating some of the most haunted locations in the world is really eye opening and has certainly stuck with me."
Q:Being in such great shape, which exercises do you do to prepare yourself for the grind of an expedition?
RYDER: "I’m an avid outdoors woman, so I love hiking and running with my dog. I use yoga and/or Pilates for flexibility and weights for strength training, and right before we head out on the road I usually hire a trainer to kick my ass because I know I’m in for long days, big treks and little sleep. The more you can do to prepare your mind and body the better off you are when jet lag hits."
RYDER:"I absolutely love action sports, and all sports for that matter. I’m fascinated with how athletes can push their bodies to the brink and beyond. I worked the summer and winter X Games, a few Olympics and just shot that sports show for Nickelodeon. It’s safe to say, if I wasn’t knee deep in monsters, ghosts and aliens I’d be out on the pitch, track or course."
Q: You've experienced so many cultures, explored so many regions of the earth and investigated many mysteries, which is the biggest take away as a person from all those experiences?
RYDER: "The biggest take away is that you have to go out there and experience life. You can’t sit at a computer and read about it, you have to go out and do it. Even if to start you just plan a trip to the next town over, or neighboring state. Adventure can be in your own backyard and doesn’t have to cost you a down payment on a house. But life is meant to be lived to its fullest and that means strange people, cultures, tastes and sounds. It means getting out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself past who you thought you were to who you think you can be. Travel and exploration is so much about your own self growth that every trip you come back just a little bit changed for the better. Its something I wish for everyone. I genuinely think international travel should be required for high schools. I don’t think you realize your full potential till you see how big this planet of ours is – to know what’s out there and to broaden your horizons."
-BY MIKE DAMANTE
Q:You were at your tenth Coachella recently. Care to give punkrockandUFOs.com a mini-review?
RYDER: "I was lucky enough to share this one with my aunt who is over 60 and my sister who isn't even 30 yet. Pretty darn cool to have different generations of my family share in amazing music.
My favorite acts? Favorite is a tough word for me because it’s so broad. I genuinely loved New Order the most. I am such an 80s geek that hearing songs from my childhood just brought me back. And even after all these years their set was tight, masterfully performed and timely as if its all comes back around again. They even ended with two Joy Division songs that nearly exploded my brain. #lovewilltearusapart
Bon Iver may seem soft to some, but on stage he is a craftsman. He layered his set with the right moments to take the crowd up and down. He brought out guest after guest as he blew me away. Then when he brought out Bruce Hornsby to cover Don Henleys 'The End of Innocence' that brought the crowd to its knees.
Radiohead is one of my favorite bands and they certainly had some wow moments on stage but after the first weeks technical difficulties they held some disdain for golden voice that they took out on the crowd. I gave them a pass since i cant imagine headlining a huge festival in front of thousands of people and having the sound go out three times.
Breakout star of the weekend for me was Bishop Briggs, she manages to take me to church with her powerful voice but the beats keep it dance-y and fresh.
After 11 years , Future Islands knows how to perform for an audience. Their energy is palpable and their jams had the crowd going wild the whole set.
The Swet Shop Boyz, headed by Riz Ahmed, had an early set that could have been deadly but the time didn't effect them. The crowd showed up in droves and they delivered. Their political messages along with cultural beats elevated their music from just rap to something more like beat poetry. Riz had a solo set where he spit about the turmoil of religious persecution and he is so gifted with words if didn't come off preachy at all. It felt like he was speaking from the heart and doing something good with his time on stage.
Q: What is the best food/ snacks to bring while investigating?
RYDER: "It always depends on the trip and the climate. If we will be going out for an overnight we have to plan for actual meals on-the-go. And you have to think about things that you can easily pack and wont melt when the temperatures spike to 110, or freeze when the thermometer dips. Tons of water, trail mix and granola is a staple, and cliff bars, or any low sugar protein bars. I also like to pack some electrolyte powder or chews. Last thing you want is a dehydration headache or cramp to ruin a perfectly good investigation."
Q: What are you currently working on?
RYDER: "As a producer, I work behind the scenes both consulting and producing a number of shows during the year. One of my favorites was "Jagger Eaton’s Mega Life," a sports show for Nickelodeon, which was outside of my usual realm but just as adventurous. (You can pretty much guarantee anytime there’s a chance to dive with sharks I’ll be there so that was a huge draw!) I also just finished a cameo on a History Channel show called, "The Unexplained," which doesn't have an air-date just yet and I’m working on another History Channel show about mysterious disappearances."
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