Fear of Flying

John proves that first out doesn’t mean failure. The Amazing Race can still make a huge difference in your life—if you let it.

miri: Whose idea was it to go on the Race? Was it yours or Scott's?

John: Well, I've always been a big fan of the Race because I'm afraid of doing all of the stuff that you have to do. But I've always wanted to do it. And so they had an open call down in Provincetown, and we found out about it. And Scott was really bugging me to go over there, and I kept telling him, you have no idea how important this is to me. I can't do this. Too real. And we went over, and the rest just kind of all fell into place. Because I haven't flown in eight years, so I said I'd be willing to do the Race and they were like, how are you going to do it when you can't fly? And I said, well, I'd be willing to fly for the Race. Like I'd be willing to do all the scary stuff for the Race.

miri: It was like it took something as big of an adventure of the Race to get you over that hurdle?

John: Right.

miri: Okay. I can see where that can make sense. But that still had to have been a big step for you to take. I mean, obviously, you were worried about it. You were nervous about it.

John: Oh, definitely. Definitely.

miri: Were you nervous that you would come across a task or something that you couldn't do?
John with his Great Dane, Percy.
John with his Great Dane, Percy.
John: Yeah. I was terrified and excited at the same time of doing the bungee jump. That was the one that I was really, really concerned about because of just that free-falling feeling and then the possibility of it breaking. And so I was really afraid that I wouldn't be able—like with a lot of things I can connect with around my fears as far as getting on the plane because I've been on a plane before but I'm terrified of it. But to do something like that—I don't know if I would have been able to do it. I guess I would have done it, but it would have been one of the scariest things that I've ever done in my life.

miri: And from watching the rest of the season, do you think that was the one task that you would have had the most trouble with?

John: Definitely.

miri: Okay. Even more than the skydiving?

John: I think definitely more than the skydiving because I think that with the skydiving, in my brain I would have thought—if the parachute didn't open, I had a back-up parachute and I would have had a couple more options, whereas when you just jump off a bridge and the bungee breaks, you're just—there's no other options. It's over.

miri: I'm completely with you on that one.

John: Yeah. So it's just like my brain—whether it's logical or not, that's what my brain says. Well, you have a couple options. And like with a plane crash, there's a possibility that you could survive and—

miri: And with the skydiving, they had someone with them, too.

John: Right.

miri: You're not on your own. Yeah. So what was that first flight that you guys had to get on—what was that like for you? What was going through your mind?

John: It was definitely pretty challenging. Scott was kind of in his own space, so I didn't really get a lot of support from him, which I thought I would have. And so then I realized that it really had to come from me, that these are my issues, and I needed to not get anything externally outside of me to support me, that I was going to have to do it within myself. And so it's really the takeoff and the landing part of it that are really frightening to me. And I had read that there hasn't really been a plane crash, especially internationally, from turbulence. So I wasn't too concerned about that, more the takeoff and the landing.

miri: That's when you're most aware of gravity.

John: Yeah. Exactly. You're going up or you're going down. Right. And so I would think of things like cleaning my house, or I would just kind of mentally think of things that were so different than what I was doing to try to mirror what was going happen.

miri: And did making it through that flight, did that make the helicopter ride easier later?

John: What happened with the helicopter was that it was just so exciting. We told each other that we would do the scariest thing, things we wouldn't do outside of our normal life. And there wasn't time to be scared until the helicopter got off the ground, and there was the competition of racing. And so there wasn't time to be scared. And as soon as we heard “helicopter,” we picked helicopter. And then as soon as the helicopter took off the ground, that was pretty scary. But it was so beautiful over São Paolo. It's just—the city goes on and on and on and on. And we never, ever saw the edge of the city. So the beauty of—as soon as I would start getting afraid, I would think, this is so beautiful, I would never be able to see this if I was on the ground. So I was trying to trick my brain into thinking about the beauty of the flight as opposed to being afraid, which is why I did the Race, because there are so many great things in the world to do that I haven't been able to do because I'm just so afraid of everything. So this is why I was on the Race.

miri: And do you feel more confident about tackling some things now?
And I've been thinking about flying to Scotland because that's where my family is from. So I'd like to take a trip. I don't know if I'll be able to go this fall or next year, but it's something I never would have thought of doing before.
John: Definitely more confident in situations that I would have otherwise been very nervous about—you know, just meeting people and going into groups, talking to groups of people at work and things like that are really just part of living a life. And that's what I'm trying to do, whereas before I would have tried to avoid that in every way I could. And I've been thinking about flying to Scotland because that's where my family is from. So I'd like to take a trip. I don't know if I'll be able to go this fall or next year, but it's something I never would have thought of doing before.

miri: Well, that's great. It seems like even just getting through the interview process is going to help give you confidence at the way—

John: Exactly.

miri: You know, with how intense the interviewing is and all the steps. Did you have to fly for any of your interviews?

John: We interviewed on the Cape, and then we did a video, and then we interviewed in Boston. So there really wasn't a clear situation to really fly very much.

miri: Well, that made that first leg all that much more special. Right?

John: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

miri: So the one thing I seemed to observe when I was watching you guys is that you were really having some communication problems, or maybe some agreement problems.

John: Right.

miri: You were communicating, but you weren't necessarily agreeing on much. Do you think that's what—

John: Well, what was happening is that I was trying to drive us forward and I wasn't getting very much from Scott as far as—and when you're in a situation like this and you've invested so much time and energy in your team, you really want to have buy-in from both people. And so you don't want to make the decision and then have it be the wrong decision and be the downfall of your team. So what I was trying to do is trying to get buy-in for my ideas, and it was—I think it was very—and I can only speak for myself, but it appeared to be very overwhelming for him to make a decision. And so his decision was not to make any decisions.

And so that really—and with me trying to have us both make the decision, at one point I just said, you know what? If you're not going to come up with a decision, I'm just going to make the decisions and you're going to follow me. Because that's when it started falling apart within the cab because the cab was not working and he did not want to get out of the cab, but he didn't have an alternative to what to do. And I just said, we realize this doesn't work so let's try something that does. And if that doesn't work, we'll just keep doing something until something works.

Because we were in second place until we got—once we got to the hotel, then we got in third place. We got behind Eric and Jeremy. So when we got out of the hotel, then we were waiting for the cab, and it started falling apart there. And then getting the cab, we just—I don't want to think about how long we were in that cab. It was two hours or something.

miri: Wow.

John: Yeah. There was one thing I noticed the other teams were doing, is keeping track of everything that they did. And we didn't do that. We didn't keep track. Because we were ahead for such a good part of the Race. We didn't know it most of the time, but we were ahead until that cab ride.

miri: The way it looked on TV, and I know that we're only seeing part of things, is that it seemed like Scott did make a decision, but that decision was to stay in the cab.

John: Right.

miri: And it's just that you didn't necessarily agree with that decision.

John: When we were having that discussion, the cab wasn't moving. We were in bumper-to-bumper traffic. We had been driving around to the point where we were circling just an area. And so he wanted to stay in the cab, but we weren't moving. And then I wanted to ask people directions out the window, and he didn't want to do that. So there were a lot of—and really what you saw was what really happened. I mean, you have a good sense. I personally think that it was a very good portrayal of what happened. It's just that you don't get to see every single interaction where we're trying to come up with an idea of what to do.

miri: Right. So you said you enjoyed seeing Brazil from the sky. Obviously, that's the way to see it, then, since the traffic is so bad.

John: Yeah. Exactly.

miri: And is it a place you think you'd like to go back to one day?

John: I definitely would like to go back. You hear a lot about crime and different things. I didn't really see any—just being back in the United States, I just hear a lot of things that I heard from friends about traveling and that it would be dangerous. And I didn't really feel unsafe at all, ever. The one thing I did note, there was security everywhere you went. Like outside of stores, there would be a security guard. I mean, they have security guards in Boston, but not to the extent that they have there. That's the only thing I thought was a little bit different, other than the fact there were so many people living there and it was so big. So I would love to go back there.

miri: Yeah. Now that you've got a little bit of a travel bug.

John: Oh, yeah. Definitely have that. Definitely have that.

miri: That's good. You know, it is so interesting to hear—I've talked to quite a few different Racers, and all of them seem to come away saying that the Race has changed them. And it doesn't matter whether they're in it one leg or all the way to the end. It really seems to have a big effect on people. And why is it do you think that is? Just because it's making you push your boundaries, or—
One is just the interview process, and being selected to go on it makes you feel really special, and that your feelings are validated about the importance of doing the Race by them allowing you to do it.
John: I think it's all different. For me, it's just a bunch of different things. One is just the interview process, and being selected to go on it makes you feel really special, and that your feelings are validated about the importance of doing the Race by them allowing you to do it. They can see what it means to you, and they say, yes, we would like you to experience that. We agree with you. So that's a huge thing to me. The other thing that—just the interactions with people. Interacting with your teammates, interacting with the other teams, and interacting with all the people that you have to deal with, from the people on the planes to cab drivers to the different people in the different cities. I mean, it's a huge life lesson, I think.

And whereas before, if I was ever in that situation, my first reaction is to get money to make whatever it is that I want to have happen, happen, I don't think that way any more. I think, how am I going to accomplish that? What would I do if I was on the Race and I had to do that? And I've been doing that a lot, especially over the last couple of months. And I have a different approach to just things that happen to me in my life, and I try to take away more from the interactions that I have—when I go to dinner and am talking to people in a restaurant or something like that that I wouldn't have done if I hadn't done the Race.

miri: What you're saying about not looking for money to make something happen kind of goes back to what you were talking about when you were on the plane—that you really realized that you had yourself to get yourself through this situation.

John: Exactly. Yes.

miri: And nothing else. And it seems like that's kind of carried over just into your life, then.

John: It's really represented in the backpack. The backpack was extremely overwhelming to me. I was moving at the time before we did the Race. I have three dogs; I had just gotten a new dog. And I was renovating my building. So all this stuff was happening and I just kept panicking about the backpack. So I just put everything in there that I could possibly think that I would need. And if I ever do the Race again, I would have the smallest backpack in the world. I would just have a few things because what you bring is so much more important than what's in that backpack.

miri: And just to kind of tease you a little bit, that is something that a lot of people look at on the first leg, is they try and gauge how long people are going to be in the Race by how big their backpacks are.

John: Right. Right.

miri: The bigger the backpack, the more short-term we feel the Racer is.

John: Yeah. Yeah. And I could see why someone would think that now that I've done the Race.

miri: Well, you guys seemed to really bond with Joni & Lisa right there on that first leg.

John: Yes. I love the Frosties.

miri: I mean, you were still sad, but were you happy when you saw them come to Sequesterville?

John: I was. There was just—Lisa just cried and cried and cried and cried and cried for such a long time. I did not cry. And even we were on the mat, I thought, I would feel so much better right now if I could cry. But I couldn't cry. And Lisa just cried and cried and cried when we first saw her. And then once I got back, I still didn't cry. There's a lot of pressure around trying to keep secrets and, you know, you're only able to share this with a very few people until it gets out there. And when I cried was when I saw—because I saw them on the mat, and that's when—when I saw Lisa's face, that was everything that I felt and wanted out of the Race. I could see it in her eyes. And that's the first time that I ever cried over the Race, was when I saw Lisa and Joni on the mat.

miri: Wow. That's a pretty long time, then, to wait.

John: Yeah.

miri: Was it hard? I mean, it's got to be so hard when all of a sudden your friends get to find out that you're on this big adventure, and you don't want to say, oh, yeah, well, don't get too into it because it's not going to be—

John: Yeah. It was hard. A restaurant a couple streets from me rented a big huge screen TV and they had a huge party. And I couldn't be there. And I just thought, like, oh my God, they're renting a huge TV and I'm not—you know, they're going to do it for months. And we're out the first night. And I guess there was a reporter there, and he had said that I didn't win a million dollars, but I had a million dollars worth of friends there. And so everyone was being really supportive. I live in the greatest place in the world, in Boston. And everyone has been really, really supportive, and it's all been positive.

miri: Well, that's great. And especially, like I said, if you're taking those positive changes into your life. Because there's always got to be a team that's going to be out first. It's going to be someone.

John: I'm an extremist, so I thought we're either going to be first or we're going to win this. And I honestly did not think we were going to lose. I really thought that there were so many signs that we were going to win. So many signs, just different songs that I heard along the way and different—I saw a dog, a Great Dane, when we were briefing, and I thought, that's a sign. I have two Great Danes, so I'm like, we're going to win this. I saw that dog. And it just unraveled so quickly.

miri: So do you still believe in genie power?

John: I haven't used it for anything. That's really the only time that it didn't work. The only time.

miri: Well, maybe you don't need genie power any more now that you have the power of yourself.

John: Yeah. Right.

miri: So what was it like—I mean, you're stuck in Sequesterville. You're not getting to race. And is it just like you guys sit around and kind of wonder who's coming—do you place bets on who's coming in next?

John: Yeah. You kind of try to guess who might show up and that sort of thing. And it's different for everybody. Some people, by the time they get there, I think they're relieved in some ways. And some people, it takes a long time for them to accept it. And you have to just accept it because you definitely can't do anything about it at that point. And you have to try to get past—and I really thought strongly like I had to just let that go. It was just meant to be for whatever reason. It was meant to be that way.

miri: And maybe the reason it was meant to be that way is because you already did learn that valuable lesson out of it. Who knows?

John: Yeah.

miri: But I imagine those—because right after you're eliminated, you have to do a bunch of interviews. Right? For like the confessional interviews, whatever they call them?

John: There wasn't a bunch, though. I think there was just one.

miri: Just one?

John: Yeah.

miri: That's got to be hard.

John: Yeah. It's really hard, especially, I think, for me because again, I couldn't cry and it just meant so much to me. And in every other part of my life, when something was really hard, and I wanted something and I was disappointed, I was able to cry. But there was so much shock involved, too. I mean, there's just so many things. Like you're in Brazil. Like I would never be in Brazil. And then you keep reminding yourself, you're on the Race. You're on the Race. I mean, I remember when we took off in Colorado, I just kept thinking while we were running up the stairs, we're racing. We're racing. We're racing. I just couldn't stop saying that in my head. While I was trying to breathe.

miri: Yeah, that must not have been fun, in that altitude.

John: Oh, it was awful. It was awful. And you just had to keep chugging through it. I've never experienced anything like that. I could not breathe. And we're from Cape Cod in Boston. We live on the water. And I've never been up a mile in altitude. I just never experienced that.

miri: Especially because you've probably been standing on that starting line for quite a while, and I think practically hyperventilating anyway before you even have to start running.

John: You don't really feel it until you start moving.

miri: Really?

John: Like I didn't notice it when we got there. Like I didn't notice a difference until someone mentioned it. Then you kind of feel it. And I have really bad allergies to pollen and dust, so I don't have the strongest lungs in the world. And then when we started running, I mean, you could barely breathe. And Lisa looked like she was going to die.

miri: I can't imagine—yeah. Because I live in Texas, so it's flat. So I don't have to deal with the altitude, either.

John: Right.

miri: Well, is there any moment from your leg that you wish had made it on TV that did not?

John: There was one thing—well, this goes back to the whole sign thing. But there was a moment when, if we had won—I wish—if we had won all the money and we made it all the way around the world, I wish they had shown us running through the airport in D.C. where behind us is like a huge glass wall. And it was lit up like the gay flag, a rainbow flag. And I just thought, we're going to win this. I mean, we are going to win this. And we went running past it, and it didn't make it on there, and we didn't win.

miri: Yeah. Well, is there any favorite moment from Sequesterville you can share with us?

John: Favorite moment from Sequesterville. Really, it's just spending time with the Frosties, especially Lisa. She's like a sister to me. And the Pinkies, and Dave and Lori. They're just—they'll be friends of mine for the rest of my life.

miri: That's great.
Everyone on the Race I feel that I'm close to, whether they made it to Sequesterville or not. There's just something that happens very, very quickly when you're in this kind of situation that just bonds you forever.
John: Everyone on the Race I feel that I'm close to, whether they made it to Sequesterville or not. There's just something that happens very, very quickly when you're in this kind of situation that just bonds you forever. Like with Eric and Jeremy I'm very close to, and we didn't really spend any time with them.

miri: Because even afterwards, they're the only people you can talk about this with for quite a long time.

John: Right.

miri: Well, you say you were a fan, you said, for a long time?

John: Day one.

miri: Day one. Really?

John: From day one. And I used to go to work, and there was one other guy at work that saw the show. And I would sit in my apartment and I would literally be screaming and yelling and sweating, I was so scared. But I wanted everything to happen. And then this one guy at work, he was the only one that saw it in the very beginning, and we used to talk about it all the time. And then once the media stuff started and everything, I spoke to him and I just said, I was so sorry. I wish I had done it with him. We had shared so many moments at work together. He said, John, don't worry. I'm so proud of you for getting on the show. You know, I'm so proud of you. It's unbelievable that you did it. So just everybody has been so amazingly great. And I hope everyone gets to do what they really want to do in life because we're only here once, I believe, and you should really go for it.

miri: No Opportunity Wasted, as Phil would say. Right?

John: Exactly. Exactly.

miri: Yeah. Do you have a favorite team from any of the previous seasons?

John: I would say Mirna and Schmirna. I think that people look at them and think they couldn't have done stuff, and I was really proud of them. And eating the caviar, I just thought that that was amazing. And so that's who I kind of thought about a lot when I was doing things. Because, l’ve gained a lot of weight—I've gained like 40 pounds, and it's harder to get around. And I just thought, I'll just push through, and if they can do it, I can do it, kind of thing.

miri: It just really inspired you to think about them?

John: Right.

miri: Is there any place on either a past Race or a leg subsequent to yours on this Race that you really wish you could have seen?

John: I wish I could have seen our bungee jump. I really identified with the way that Fran jumped because I have a feeling that my experience would have been very, very similar. She felt like the rope was pulling her and the bungee was pulling her off. And she was not going to bungee, and Barry was going to bungee. But she read the clue and then realized that it was the bungee jump, and then she had to do it. And I was so proud of her when she did that. And I feel—she was so afraid, and she pushed through it. And I wish I could have seen that.

miri: And you wish maybe that you had had that, almost that opportunity to be forced to do something that you were that afraid of?

John: Exactly. To push through it. I don't know if I could—my friends are asking if I'll go bungee jumping with them, and I don't know if I can do it in that kind of setting. I definitely think my opportunity would have been on the Race.

miri: Right. Well, maybe it can't hurt to try. I mean, maybe you'll surprise yourself.

John: I'll build up to that. I've got to get on a plane again, maybe take a helicopter over New York. I heard there’s a great helicopter over New York.

miri: Speaking of New York, did you enjoy the big finale party?

John: Oh, yeah. It was fabulous. I had such a great time.

miri: I thought it was really cheap that CBS didn't throw you guys a party this year.

John: Oh, we had the best time. We really did. They put it all together for—everyone came together. There was like a lot of e-mails on what to do, and everybody really—I guess being with everyone is the most important thing. I didn't care where we were. I honestly couldn't have cared where we were as long as we were all together. That's what really mattered. And then to go to The Early Show the next day was awesome.

miri: Yeah. I was surprised that Joni was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at The Early Show.

John: Exactly. That was pretty amazing.

miri: And you were pretty loose and having fun the night before.

John: Yeah. I was suffering from being wild before because I'm wild and crazy as it is. Because of my allergies, I was really stuffed up. And I had to stop drinking. I don't think I had a beer when I saw you. I don't think I had a beer then. I was just drinking water. Yeah. But then I kept thinking about we had to get up so early. I think maybe if we didn't have to get up so early, I probably would have drank more, and with the allergies and everything. But I knew we had to get up.

miri: Right. Well, this way you remember more of it, too.

John: Exactly. It's just hard—you know, I wish I could have stayed in New York longer and gone to the lunch and everything else. But it was the first time I'd left my dogs since I'd been back, and I left them in my house. Before, they went to a kennel. So I had a dogwalker come over, but the dogs were all alone in the house. So I had to get back to Boston. Everything worked out fine for now. Next time I go, maybe I can stay a lot longer.

miri: One step at a time. Right?

John: Exactly. Exactly.

miri: What kind of dogs do you have?

John: I have two Great Danes, Percy and Hector, and then I have an Australian Cattle dog named Sadie. They're all named after past relatives, my grandparents and a great-uncle and a great-great uncle of mine. So hopefully, Hector, I'll be showing him in a few months. I have to get some training under his belt. He'll be doing dog shows. And I've been painting. I had my first show at the restaurant across the street. I paint chickens or cocks, roosters. And I sold 22 paintings my first show.

miri: Wow!

John: Yeah. So I've been doing it for like 20 years, just giving them away as presents, and a lot of like folk art type stuff. And I'm going to be launching my website, So that should be up and running hopefully by this weekend.

miri: Well, great. So those are your main things. Are you still doing—I think your occupation was listed as a wealth planner on—

John: Right. I'm an investment advisor, and I'm an artist. And I'm going to eventually, I think, transition into real estate. I'm very interested in it. I'm turning my building into three apartments—I have a single family brownstone in Boston. So I think I'd like to get into that. I'm really doing a lot with the investment advisor stuff right now.

miri: Right. Well, it's good to—

John: The dogs eat a lot of food. We didn't win the Race, so it costs a lot of money to keep them going.

miri: Yeah. It usually ends up—especially, I think, the teams that come out first, it costs you money to go on the Race, doesn't it?

John: Exactly. Exactly.

miri: But you're selling paintings now.
But it's something I never would have done, and Lisa really encouraged me to do it. But she has an art gallery down in Florida.
John: But it's something I never would have done, and Lisa really encouraged me to do it. But she has an art gallery down in Florida.

miri: Oh, that's right. Yeah.

John: And she kind of coached me over the phone just on how to kind of approach things and kind of the right attitude to have, and just it is what it is. Because I'd sort of kept it to myself. And it's definitely not fine art by any means, but people really like it. And I've had people buy three or four paintings. And people keep coming back, so it's cool.

miri: That's great. That must give you, like you said, a good sense of satisfaction in knowing that you are making those steps into feeling differently and more self-confident about yourself.

John: Exactly.

miri: Well, listen, it's been really great talking to you, John.

John: Thank you so much.