When Blake Jeffers submitted a video entry to become the next Travel Channel Star, he didn’t really expect to get a call saying he actually was in the running for the job.
But from more than 1,000 entries nationwide, the Metter High School biology teacher, first was named as one of the 15 finalists for the grand prize. Now, the Georgia Southern University graduate just learned he was selected as one of the final two contestants.
“I watch the Travel Channel all the time, and they were giving away a free $100,000 vacation and to enter you had to go to their website,” he said. “When I was there I saw the audition to be the next Travel Channel Star, so I sent in a video. I surely wasn’t thinking there was a chance I’d get picked, let alone picked in the top 15.”
Although not originally picked to be in the top five, a landslide of votes from family, friends and his growing fan base helped change the results for Jeffers and pushed him into the top two. The other finalist is Janel Koloski, from the Pittsburgh, Penn., area.
The winner will be picked by three judges, who critique a series of filmed travel segments by each contestant, as well as fan voting via online and Twitter. The winner will appear in a five-part web series, and based on ratings, more web series episodes could be added. Eventually, the winner could make it to prime time television.
And while voting for the Travel Channel Star runs through Friday, Jeffers won’t find out until September if he is the winner. Fan voting is available online at TravelChannel.com, or tweet “Blake should be the next #TravelChannelStar!” on Twitter.
"I would love to be on prime time, who wouldn't? But I think you have to cross that bridge when you get there,” he said. "I think if you ask any young kid playing baseball if they want to play in the major leagues, of course they’d say yes. But until you get there you don’t know that lifestyle, so it just depends. So yeah, I’d like to be there, but who knows what my niche market might be."
Jeffers actually earned two degrees from Georgia Southern – a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2008 and a Masters of Arts in Teaching in 2011.
A self-proclaimed southern guy, Jeffers enjoys outdoor activities like hunting and fishing, along with simply being outdoors, which helped land him the title of “earthy traveler.” So after making the top five, the show sent Jeffers to an alpaca farm outside of Atlanta to film part of the series. “They’ve really allowed me to use my knowledge and education and let that shine through,” he said.
But more important than learning about new animals, he said, was connecting with the farm owner.
"The guy who owns the place is from England, and that’s what travel does is bring common ground," Jeffers said. "He couldn’t be any more different than me, but we found some common ground, and traveling is all about finding what makes you similar."
Jeffers also seems to have connected with the audience through the experience, garnering support from his students, community, church and many others.
“The town of Metter has really had my back, along with my church, support from people in Statesboro and just a lot of really neat people are rallied behind me and pulling for me,” he said. “And I think it’s because I’m not some extravagant person who drives around in a Mercedes or vacations in the Hamptons. I’m just a regular guy, working a regular job and doing regular things like everyone else.”
While Jeffers anxiously awaits the results of the show, he seems pretty confident, even if the odds aren’t in his favor. So what would he do if he lost?
"That's easy--life just goes on. I have a content life, I’m happily married, I live on a farm and have animals, and I couldn’t imagine teaching at a better school than Metter," he said. "So that's a really an easy question. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be upset, but it’s not like I’m at the end of my road."