Before I left on this trip, my father asked me at least a dozen times, "Why in God's name would you want to do something so stupid?"
I'm pretty sure the question was rhetorical. He says that every time I do anything he perceives as "too dangerous" -- such as driving through Chicago during rush hour, horseback riding, or eating sushi.
But this time I think it's a question worth answering. Why am I travelling around the world to random locations to meet equally random strangers?
There are a couple answers. First of all, experience has taught me the best way to find fascinating stories is not to look for them. It seems like whenever I leave my assignments to chance, fate hands me a story I would have never dreamed of telling otherwise. And even if I did dream it, I would have never had a clue where to find it.
For example, where would you even start looking for a story about the importance of extended family as told through the eyes of a blind man?
Or who would even think to look for a story that pits communism against body-building? Yet those are just two of the stories I discovered earlier this year when, in partnership with NASA, we launched "Everybody in the World Has a Story."
If nothing else, picking people at random gives me a guaranteed exclusive. I've yet to run into a single crew from ABC or NBC on any one of these shoots.
But there's also a greater purpose to this project. I think, as Americans, we live in relative isolation -- both literally and figuratively. Most of us don't know a whole lot about the people in other countries, me included.
We may know their history and politics, but what about their fundamental passions and priorities? We may know a country's leader, but what about its regular citizens -- the people you would meet if, hypothetically, you took a few random stabs in the phone book and called them up for coffee? How would their stories compare to ours?
So far I've found more similarities than differences. But our social experiment isn't finished. NASA astronauts in the space station still have 4 more countries for me to visit and fate still has 4 more people for me to profile. As of this writing, I have no idea who we'll meet in Argentina, Australia, China or Indonesia.
As always, I'm a little nervous -- but mostly I'm just really curious and excited for it to begin.
Dad is far less excited. All I can do is encourage him to look at the bright side -- at least I won't be interviewing a horseback-riding sushi chef in Chicago.
Editor's Note: the second round of Steve Hartman's "Everybody in the World Has a Story" picks up Tuesday, September 14. Check back here in Couric and Co. for Steve's travel blogs. The rest of Steve's stories are on his "Assignment America" page.