Taking a break after producing a fourth season of their world travel show, two Chicago grandmothers, Regina Frasier and Pat Johnson, stopped in Forest Park long enough to meet their fans and give travel tips.
Frasier and Johnson host Grannies on Safari, a hit PBS show that focuses on the travels of the two women as they circumnavigate the globe. The two played a video clip of their new season — a trip on the Trans-Siberian railroad from Moscow to Ulan Bator, Mongolia; a visit to the interior of Croatia; and trips to Israel, Cuba and Ireland. With them, the grannies haul of crew of filmmaking techies, including a sound man, plus video and still photographers, and always an interpreter.
This year, Frasier said, the work was harder because the show lost its three-year AARP sponsorship and the women had to pay for everything themselves.
“We sold our fur coats, depleted our 401Ks and cashed in an insurance policy,” said Frasier.
The two breast cancer survivors have a bucket list that won’t quit. And they have a message for older people who may think world travel is for other people.
“There aren’t any other travel hosts on television who are older than us, rounder than us and darker than us,” said Frasier. “We are the only travel show hosted by women of color on television today.”
“We’re here to show that older people with rounder bodies and darker skins can travel the world,” she added. The library has DVDs of all three previous seasons that can be checked out.
The crowd was packed with mostly seniors who clearly were fans of the show. Lunch at the Community Center followed the presentation.
Talk turned to finding accessible sites for slow walkers and how to avoid double-occupancy rates when taking a solo cruise.
Then there was the importance of pre-registering with the U.S. State Department if you happen to arrive in Egypt on the day a revolution begins.
“That was the trip where my husband came along in 2011,” said Frasier. “We landed and the revolution started.” After a few days, they said, the U.S. government was able to make contact and the group was evacuated.
Frasier is a country girl who grew up in rural settings, and Johnson has spent her whole life in cities. Fraser said she worked for 30 years for United Airlines but didn’t really travel much with her job. Johnson worked in arts organizations throughout the years. The two met through their children’s school back in the day and something clicked.
“We just enjoy traveling together; we look for the adventure,” Frasier said. “I’m always asking, ‘What don’t people know about this place?'”
The grannies have walked the Great Wall of China and visited cultural museums and restaurants, but they have also visited the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland and orphanages in Tugela Ferry, South Africa, an area hard-hit by AIDS.
“It’s important for us to see the humanity in different places of the world,” said Johnson.
The two are working on a cookbook and trying to find new sponsors for their show. A luggage company has helped pay the bills, they said.
Frasier said she was motivated to be an inspiration to her grandchildren.
“I’m leaving a legacy for them, that these are things their grandmother did and places their grandmother went.”