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Hey there! Explorer At Large (XAL) founder Josh Bernstein here. I am writing this in first-person, as the creation of XAL is very personal to me, and I feel this is the most authentic way to capture the reason we’re here. So perhaps you’ll indulge me as I share our "origin story." Warning—this is a bit lengthy! Thank you, in advance, for listening.

Part 1 - The Wilderness & Traditional Living Skills


My first career was in the wilderness education industry, where I developed a deep respect for the skill, beauty, and wisdom of indigenous cultures and the power of nature to teach. If you're not familiar with BOSS, the Boulder Outdoor Survival School, perhaps check it out. Like other outdoor programs, BOSS students (ages 18-80) spend up to a month in the wilderness learning outdoor skills. Unlike other outdoor programs, though, BOSS teaches traditional living or 'survival' skills—like making fire without matches, building shelter from the forest,  . BOSS students do not bring backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, etc. on courses. The goal is to turn the clock back several hundred if not thousands of years to help people reconnect with a more primal state of living with the earth.


After 25 years, I transitioned to television, where I was a full-time documentary host for the History Channel and then Discovery Channel. My two largest series, Digging for the Truth and Into The Unknown with Josh Bernstein gave me the life-changing opportunity to explore the biggest mysteries on our planet. From lost cities in the Amazon to Biblical relics of the Holy Land to enduring legends of archaeology, my small documentary crew and I worked our hardest to deliver 50+ hours of primetime shows that were engaging, entertaining, and––to use a word not spoken much these days in television––educational.


This last part is important, as I believe passionately in the power of visual media to educate. Like many other kids who grew up in New York City in the 1970’s, I watched programs like Sesame Street, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and The Magic Garden almost every day.

These programs invited audiences to enter a world of magic and make-believe. Mixed among these daytime programs were primetime TV specials from media luminaries like Jacques Cousteau and Carl Sagan. Prior to the fast, digital world we live in now, this was analog storytelling at its best. Quality mattered. Values mattered. Authenticity mattered.

When I became a television host, my goal was to embody the values, authenticity, and high standards of my childhood heroes. I mention all this because when Digging for the Truth became a hit (#1 show, highest rated original series in the history of the History Channel), the most meaningful responses we got came from people who really loved to learn. They would watch me––wearing my "explorer hat"––go into ancient temples and hidden tombs and, as a result, viewers wanted to become world travelers, explorers, and archaeologists. University professors in anthropology and archaeology departments would write to tell me enrollment was up in their classes. This was a big deal because it proved to me the power of quality content to make a tangible and positive impact on the world. 

Fast forward to today. As I look at the media landscape of 2024, I don't see the quality programming of my youth. I don’t see the spokesmen for science like Carl Sagan. I don’t see the role models for emotional intelligence like Mr. Rogers. In general, the media landscape has gotten much more crowded and competitive and, as a result, our society suffers for it. Our world and our media have become so polarized that we no longer tolerate other perspectives much less other cultures.

Explorer At Large was originally created for students—to create generations of curious and courageous explorers. Our goal at the time was to provide authentic, standards-aligned content and activities both in school and afterschool that expose students to the wonders of our planet and the experts who work hard in the field or in the lab to make a difference. With the success of XAL, we expanded our programming to include stories about aerospace, creating two new educational programs for NASA. But in recent months, I've realized we need to work more on adults than children. We need to find ways to help people return to a more tolerant, respectful outlook. We need to take a fresh look at where we're heading as a civilization. 


And so, after working with the Smithsonian and NASA for years on educational content for students, I've decided to focus again on creating content for adults. Together, let's visit other people, places, and cultures and search for common ground. Let's listen to indigenous voices and learn how we might more deeply engage with and honor the earth. Let's listen to scientists on the front lines and learn how we can live more sustainably on a planet approaching a populations of 8 billion people.

There is wisdom to be found in indigenous mindsets. There are solutions to be found in new technologies. My goal for Explorer At Large is to explore how we can put those together and build a bridge to a better world. If you're up for that, Let's go exploring!

Josh Bernstein

Founder & CEO


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