New TV series transports locals to remote locations

'Wish You Were Here' aimed at exposing Israelis to places they've never been.

people snow 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
people snow 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Traversing Lapland's snow-white terrain, Kate Leaman is pulled along by a husky dogsled. Gripping the reins, she jolts forward as the camera follows her swift voyage with a series of a quick cuts, accompanied by an upbeat music track to guide the 30-minute program. Leaman is the host of Wish You Were Here, a new series that premiered on the Good Life Channel on June 13. The enthusiastic young blonde, who hails from the United Kingdom, takes viewers on an exciting journey through the Finnish town of Kuusamo, located in Lapland Province. In an area traditionally known for its extreme winter sports, Wish You Were Here provides a rare glimpse into Lapland's cultural side. Leaman manages to complete a husky dog race, retire for an evening in an igloo, explore the town's penchant for saunas, ride a snowmobile and partake in a shaman's ritual - all in a couple of days' time. The newly launched program will air more episodes based around themed vacations in areas the average Israeli traveler doesn't usually reach. The series is produced in coordination with each country's foreign embassy and is filmed in English. Susanne Millner, the cultural attaché for the Finnish Embassy in Tel Aviv, helped the show select the activities in Lapland that were most likely to appeal to Israelis. "The extreme sports: the huskies, the motorbikes, it's all exciting," Millner said. "But on the other hand, what Lapland has to offer, especially to the Israelis, is the vast open landscape and the calmness and the silence that you can find nowhere but in Lapland." Millner added that more connections existed between Finland and Israel than many realize, culturally and in hi-tech. "Finland, even though it's a northern country far away from Israel, has a lot of connecting points to Israel," Millner said. "We'd like to strengthen those ties." Dana Luria, the show's producer, said each production was made possible by the help provided from local officials hoping to promote tourism. Future episodes are set to bring to the show's unique journeys across the globe to more Israeli televisions. "Each episode is completely different," Luria said. "You cannot compare Lapland, which is very physical, to the episode that we shot in Korea, which is very spiritual." South Korea will be featured in two of the show's episodes. A spiritual-themed installment in August will include a temple stay, exploring a monastery and a visit to celebrations of South Korea's 60th anniversary. An episode in South Korea based around a culinary vacation will air in the fall. While the host of each Wish You Were Here episode is set to change with the location, the English-language nature of the program is an attempt to increase the show's chance of being shown internationally. "It aired only this weekend," Luria said after the first episode. "We've received very good reviews." The Good Life Channel, which carries the show, is available on both cable and satellite television and reaches over a million Israeli households. Luria said that several episode locations were yet to be decided and the small crew was eager to travel further into uncharted territory. "What we'd like to do is introduce more and more countries that we don't have diplomatic relations with," Luria said. The next installment of Wish You Were Here, on June 27, will feature Budapest as the spa capital of the world, exploring the city's treasured hot water springs.