Holly Morris is an American author, television documentary producer and presenter, and the former editorial director of the book publishing company Seal Press. Morris was born in Chicago, Illinois and is the daughter of former Chicago Bears wide receiver Johnny Morris, who became a long running sportscaster for WBBM-TV in Chicago and a football commentator with CBS Sports. Her mother is Jeannie Morris, a sports reporter and writer who is the author of the bestselling book Brian Piccolo: A Short Season, the story of the NFL player who died of cancer at the age of 26 who was portrayed in the TV movie Brian's Song.
Morris is a writer and editor and frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review. She is the former editorial director of the publishing company Seal Press, which was acquired by Avalon in 2003 and then Perseus in 2007. As an editorial director, she acquired and edited fiction and nonfiction on diverse topics including third wave feminism, health, international politics, and travel.
Morris is the executive producer, writer and host of the eight-part international PBS documentary series Adventure Divas, as well as author of Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe for a New Kind of Heroine - Random House, 2005, 2006 - named a New York Times Editors Choice. She is also my hands down favorite host on the television show Globe Trekker where here travel reports are always exceptionally interesting and delivered in her own authentic adventure travel diva style that lets you know she has far more travel savvy than most anyone else involved in traveling to exotic, difficult and out of the way destinations.
As a producer and correspondent, Morris has made programs in Cuba, Iran, India, Niger, Borneo, Zambia, Brazil, Guyana, Malawi, and Gabon, among other countries.
Morris is one of the main hosts of Treks in a Wild World, a Pilot Productions adventure/eco/history series, as well as one of several hosts of Globe Trekker which is also called Pilot Guides in Canada and the United States and originally broadcast as Lonely Planet. Her Globe Trekker presentations are always splendid and make her one of the most popular hosts on the adventure travel program.
She has also been a correspondent for National Geographic Today and the environmental series Outdoor Investigations. Morris currently resides in Brooklyn, New York, with her partner Michael Kovnat and their young daughter.
Morris is also the founder of Adventure Divas, Inc., and is the director and Executive Producer of the award-winning PBS documentary series of the same name. She travelled for a year in a van with her family across Western and Eastern Europe and even into the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Morris says that this travel with her family may have been what imprinted travel into her lifes choices.
She is the author of Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe for a New Kind of Heroine, which chronicles her journey from desk-bound editorial director of the publishing company Seal Press, to global correspondent. The book was named an Editors Choice and one of the year's notable books about exploration by the New York Times.
Whether for TV or print, interviewing Prime Ministers on the hot seat, or Black Panthers on the lam - in the brothels of Mumbai, the cane fields of Cuba, or the beauty parlours of Iran - Morris chases down her subjects and exacts a story that is fresh and idea-driven. The quality of her reporting is enhanced by her delivery, which is relaxed and believeable due to her unique presence.
Her work as a television correspondent includes Outdoor Investigations, Lonely Planet Treks in America, National Geographic Today, Treks in a Wild World, and Globe Trekker. In these programs she’s climbed the Matterhorn and roped reindeer in frozen Lapland; she has eaten rat in Arunachal Pradesh, warded off jealous elephants in India's Andaman Islands, entered a camel race against Tuareg Nomads in the middle of the Niger Sahara, and dealt with large numbers of Indonesian leeches.
Morris is also a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, is a regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review and in addition to Adventure Divas, she has published two of her own books - A Different Angle and Uncommon Waters. Both are anthologies that reflect her love for fishing.
When asked about her response to getting attention in some of the different places she has been:
"Well, if you mean attention for being the 'other' or different, I think kindness and patience are a good response. We're on their turf, after all. It's natural to stare at something very different that saunters into our space. If you mean lewd men - those pesky guys get the same kind of response they get from me in the United States (ignore them, or if the situation requires, an acid tongue lashing). Traveling with a film crew does 'protect' one from some of the unwanted attention from men that women can receive on the road.
Magic hour sweeps over the glimmering, rocky fields of Uruguay’s Pampas region. In the distance, little gray puffs of grazing sheep dot the slopes. Herds of cattle amble over bright-green hills, their moos a happy din. Every once in a while I see a man on a horse with a wide-brimmed hat and high leather boots, his silhouette briefly turning toward the road.
"In gaucho country I’m taking a detour from a TV assignment in South America to explore off-the-grid parts of Uruguay and a persistent feeling that it’s time for me to leave New York City, a place defined by cement and the tyranny (and opiate) of screens, where the din arises from traffic and arriving e-mails and texts, not moos.
I've long wanted to live on a wild patch out West. But can I really pull up stakes and drive them in elsewhere — a move that would fly in the face of practicality and career, even if it might make deeper, happier sense? Lately, in my dreams, this desire shapes itself around a memory of my nine-year-old self riding bareback through an Illinois cornfield, my legs gripping my horse with thoughtless confidence, our long manes streaming behind us in the humid Midwestern air as we playfully blaze a tunnel through head-high stalks of corn."
"For a few years, in the 1970s, this image was my reality, but as I entered my teens, that visceral sureness, that solid glee I found in nature, was eroded by the gaze of the outer world. Of course, few girls outrun the avalanche that hits us at adolescence — hormones, institutionalized sexism, a damning pop culture.
But three-plus decades later, as the heat of the outer gaze cools and old instincts rumble, I remember that barefoot, bold nine-year-old who thought nothing of going full tilt and saddle free."
And a week later in her own words...
"And I guess part of what has landed me in Uruguay, driving a lonely stretch of gorgeous terrain far from the urban chaos of my everyday life, is an impulse to dig up that lost, instinctual clarity. In my rented Volks-wagen, I head into the wildest off-grid parts of the country. My first stop is Pa-n-agea Estancia, a 2,200-acre working ranch in the heart of gaucho culture."
"Juan Manuel, the ranch's owner, is a fourth-generation gaucho with a quiet, commanding presence. Early gauchos, descended from Spanish, indigenous Quechua and African ancestors (the last brought to the Americas by slavers), were skilled, nomadic horse people, he tells me. They tended and drove cattle on the open range until the government issued an edict in 1877 requiring fences and branding. Gauchos were — and still are often solitary figures 'who find freedom in the landscape,' says Juan."
Horse lover Holly Morris had headed to gaucho country to ponder a major life change and corral her inner girl:
"The dappled appaloosa is wired, kicking and snorting at the white sand that covers Cabo Polonio, a remote beach settlement on Uruguay's eastern coast. The gaucho saddle cinched to her back and topped with a sheepskin is foreign to me, and the stirrups are ancient. 'Sorry, they can't be adjusted,' says Roberto as I mount the horse and ask about shortening them."
'She hasn’t been ridden in four months,' he adds ominously. 'If she senses you can’t handle her, she’ll throw you down and stomp you.'
"The wily mare, descended from ancestors brought over by Spanish conquistadors, suddenly bursts off, galloping along the shore and bucking wildly. She's mad, on fire. She tries to hurl me over her head, then off her back. Then over her head again. I reach for the saddle horn that doesn't exist and for the stirrups, which fling around uselessly. Uncertainty spreads through my gut. I grab for the back rim of the saddle, willing my herniated disks to stay put, and think, Once upon a time, I would have taken this moment in stride..."
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