The host of Travel Channel’s Mysterious Islands, Kellee Edwards, recognizes that she has the coolest job in the world. Edwards is paid to discover remote corners of the globe and find rare cultural traditions. The host is not afraid to take on any challenge, from mountain climbing to skydiving.
Her broadcast journalism experience, her social media presence and her skillset – she is a certified scuba diver and a pilot – caught the eye of executives at the Travel Channel. “I never want to be looked at as a fraud,” Edwards tells Forbes. “Because I am such foreign concept for most people, I’ve always been an overachiever… since I’ve been young.”
The first African American woman to host a TV show on the network, Edwards is also only the second woman ever to have a program on the channel. “You have to do something that no one else is doing,” Edwards says. “I looked for things that weren’t being represented on TV and I did every single one of them and made it my brand.”
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We are one month into the year. How are those resolutions holding up? Whatever your goals are this year I’d love for you to build a bridge to BALANCE. Yes, at times it can seem unstable, wobbly and as if you are hundreds of feet off the ground. But what do bridges do? They are a pathway to the other side, a gateway to the destination you are trying to get to. So walk over that bridge, don’t look down or back because if that’s where you wanted to be you’d never begin crossing in the first place. Wishing you Balance and Wellness all 2019. • • • I found my foundation for this journey on my #GWellness trip with @Gadventures. [SP] Link in Bio for more information on this trip! OUTfit: @outdoorvoices #doingthings #KelleeSetGo #outdoors #outdoorwomen #exploremore #adventure #adventuretime #travel #travelgram #wanderlust #travelphotography #wellness #journey
“The only reason I didn't get lost [in the travel space] is that I went to fly airplanes. I went to adventure travel…I go in the ocean as a black woman and people don't think we swim,” she adds. “You have to go in having confidence in yourself even if those around you don’t.”
As a child, Edwards took road trips to Hearst Castle, a national historic landmark located on the Central Coast of California and went camping in Big Bear near the rugged San Bernardino National Forest. She credits these early experiences with leading her to a career in travel.
Edwards' adventures may take her thousands of miles away or right next door. A trip to Sapelo Island, an 11-mile-long barrier island off the coast of Georgia, which is only accessible by boat or plane, brought her in touch with the Geechee people, direct descendants of West African slaves who were brought to America in the 1700s. “When I first arrived on Sapelo, I felt like I had taken a step back in time,” Edwards says. “Modern conveniences are nonexistent. They truly live off the land and sea.”
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Where it all began... Kellee Set Go! Travel and adventure by land, air and sea. Over a period of four years I went incredibly hard with my adventures so that I could document me flying airplanes, diving in oceans around the world and embarking on intrepid explorations. I had a vision and if you were around me at the time you were holding a camera whether you knew how to operate one or not. 🤣 With the help of friends and family I was able to make this video, this is what @travelchannel first saw in 2014 and years later well here we are! Put the work in guys even when the success doesn’t come as quickly as you’d like. The journey is just as important as the destination. #TBT • • #KelleeSetGo #travelchannel #livetravelchannel #mysteriousislands #pilot #scubadiver #adventure #explore #exploremore #aviation #cessna #c172 #inspiration #outdoorwomen #kelleeedwards @travelchannel @discoveryinctv
On another trip, she traveled 10,000 miles away to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, where she visited a place called Tana Toraja. After a Torajan dies, their relatives embalm the body and keep it at home for months or years. They believe the deceased is not dead but sick. “Being able to physically see and interact with them helps with the grieving process.” In time, the body is laid to rest in an extravagant funeral ceremony. “To call it elaborate would be an understatement,” Edwards, who attended one such ritual, says. “It’s like nothing I could have imagined.”
The host says it’s about making the most of the experience, whether you are exploring an exotic locale or taking a trip into a nearby city. She says that “the adventure isn’t less if there isn’t the perfect Instagram picture.”
Edwards says that her goal is to upend the stereotypes associated with adventure travel. On a recent trip, the host, who is five-foot-three and weighs 120 pounds, had to reassure airport staff that she was in fact a pilot. “I am ok to take the stares and the jabs,” she says, believing she is breaking barriers for others who will follow in her footsteps.
Her philosophy is that “you only have one life,” therefore, she strives to make the most of it. Aside from hosting Mysterious Islands, Outside Magazine named Edwards "The Most Interesting Woman in the World" in 2018, which she found “incredibly exciting."
“I am a vessel for the masses to see," Edwards says. “I have to see what the world wants to show me.”