Nick Leighton
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Hometown: San Francisco

Travel Specialty: Embalmed Bodies of Communist Dictators

Nick Leighton has taken a propaganda tour of North Korea, lived with a family in Beijing to study Mandarin, hiked the Inca Trail in Peru, and spent Thanksgiving in Beirut, Lebanon.

What excites you the most about travel?

What I love when I travel is trying to picture what my own life would be like if I grew up there. What would my house look like, and how would it be decorated? How would I dress? What would I eat and drink? Who would my friends be? What would I do on a typical weekend? How would I think about politics and the rest of the world? Exploring these types of questions is definitely what excites me most about travel.

What do you like the least about travel?

Tourist traps, artificial/packaged experiences and doing things that I could easily do back home (such as eating at a chain restaurant). I just don't find these things satisfying, and it's also more difficult to tell fun stories about the experience to friends back home (and I love doing stuff to get a good story).

What was your favorite travel adventure?

Spending 5 days in North Korea was bonkers. Completely, totally bonkers. There's a lot to say, but a big highlight was the Mass Games, which is this spectacular 90-minute show featuring 100,000 performers, including 20,000 children who hold up individual colored pieces of paper to form pixels on a human Jumbotron. You have a lot of mixed emotions watching. It's truly amazing, but then you are also very aware of how abusive it is to the performers to acheive this.

What do you like to do for fun?

Besides planning trips and traveling, I love playing sports and working out, having friends over for dinner and drinks, cultural stuff (galleries, museums, live performances) and continuing education(such as sewing lessons, Italian language classes, improv).

What's your guilty pleasure?

I absolutely love a good beauty pageant. My favorite I've ever attended? The Paris Glamour child beauty pageant in Houma, LA. I made my friends take the 3-hour round-trip drive from New Orleans specifically to see it.

Why do you want to be the next Travel Channel Star?

I'm a natural storyteller, and it'd be so great to have the opportunity to share my adventures and unique point of view on such a large platform. My hope is that my style will resonate with your audience and that being on the show will be just the star of a long partnership with Travel Channel – that would definitely be life-changing.