Angel David Verde, the host of “A.W.O.L.” (Air Water or Land) who also runs the show, said his four-person camera crew spent a week last October meeting locals and exploring Northeast Tennessee’s outdoor resources, which will be the subject of one of the show’s episodes.
“We sort of use the outdoors as a vessel to explore and experience different places around the U.S., North America and beyond,” Verde said. “We let locals take us out, and we tell their story, what makes their place special and why they are attracted to the outdoors.”
Verde, who enjoys paddle boarding, said he first came to the region a few years ago to attend NoliFest on the Nolichucky River in Erwin, and that experience motivated him to come back while filming for “A.W.O.L.”
“I was just genuinely blown away with how community-oriented everyone was,” Verde said.
“Even though Virginia is so close, it felt like a completely different part of the South that I’d never really experienced, and I’ve lived in South Carolina, Texas (and) Virginia.”
On top of that, Verde said most of the people he encountered during NoliFest were genuinely passionate about the outdoors.
“To me, it was such an exceptional community to come to and it was kind of a no-brainer looking at what we believe in as a show and me as a host, Northeast Tennessee just fit the bill all around. It was almost a perfect fit,” Verde said.
From sailing on Watauga Lake to watching the sunrise while hiking on Roan Mountain, Verde said his team packed as many activities into their schedule as possible, filming 10 to 12 hours each day.
Verde also mentioned his team went rafting on the Nolichucky River, fly fishing with the South Holston River Co. and rode mountain bikes at Tannery Knobs, although the pump track at the top of the mountain was not yet complete.
“As far as towns, we went to Johnson City, we spent some time in downtown Bristol and then Jonesborough,” Verde said.
“Jonesborough was actually a pretty unique experience. I met with the storyteller residents there, and she did some storytelling and performing for us. I actually wrote a poem story on the fly that morning and performed it in front of folks outside (Tennessee Hills Distillery) down there.
“No one primed me to do it. I was just like, ‘If I’m here, I might as well tell a story.’ My story is kind of about my view as an outsider and what I saw while I was visiting there.”
Verde said he was also surprised by the variety of restaurants in Northeast Tennessee. He said his team ate Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Mexican and Latin while staying in the region.
“The show’s not really about food, but I thought it was really unique. As a traveler, the diversity of food options is really telling to the type of people who live in your community,” he said.
To prevent spoilers, Verde did not reveal exactly which locations will end up in the final cut of the episode. Viewers will have to find that out for themselves once the show is released on the video streaming site Amazon Prime, which does require a subscription.
The first episode, or pilot, of “A.W.O.L.,” showcasing Nelson County, Virginia, is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime, but the remainder of the first season will not be released until May or June, Verde said.
To learn more about A.W.O.L., visit https://www.airwaterorland.com/.