When a series on The History Channel spawns its own comic book, you know that the times, they are a-changing. With Digging for the Truth and host-turned-comic-hero Josh Bernstein, the network has proved that history can be hip. Beyond the obvious comparisons to Indiana Jones and his rugged good looks, Bernstein is the real deal when it comes to smarts about “stones and bones.” A survivalist expert and graduate of Cornell University, Bernstein logged more than 100,000 miles during Digging‘s first season, and is in the process of upping that number in Season 2. “This time [I visited] 21 countries, and [did] 125,000 miles of flying,” he says happily.
At stops along the way, including Stonehenge, the Aegean Sea and Ethiopia, Bernstein and a variety of local experts give a fresh, hands-on spin to the exploration of some of history’s greatest archaeological mysteries. Instead of just talking about history, Bernstein lives it. Rappelling into ancient caves, coming face-to-face with poisonous snakes — it’s all in a day’s work for the native New Yorker.
As of late, that day’s work also includes Hollywood premieres, talk-show interviews and an appearance in the premiere issue of Men’s Vogue. Bernstein insists that he is enjoying the ride, but is taking all the attention in stride. “For me, it’s more about the message than the messenger,” he says. “I’m not interested in seeing my name in bold, just for the sake of celebrity. I’d rather deliver something meaningful and share excitement, and hopefully inspire people to travel and explore and appreciate the world.”
As for the inevitable comparisons to Harrison Ford’s famous archaeologist and adventurer, Bernstein doesn’t mind … but admits he had a stronger influence while growing up. “I liked Indiana Jones, but in terms of the posters on my wall as a kid, it was Clint Eastwood more than Harrison Ford. I loved the West; I loved the whole do-it-yourself Western mentality. The say-less, do-more, get-the-job-done approach that Clint [had] was much more of an inspiration to me than the whip and the hat.”
Bernstein believes that it was indeed this spirit of American adventurism that ultimately brought him to “the whole self-reliance wilderness survival approach” in his life. “Growing up in New York, where people are more likely to have someone else do the heavy lifting,” he explains, “Clint was a great sort of ‘Let me do the heavy lifting’ role model. [He showed that] someone can actually set a path for themselves about individuality, authenticity and ruggedness — and succeed.”
Naturally, not everyone can take their explorations to the worldly level that Bernstein has. That doesn’t mean, though, that there’s not adventure to be had. “I think exploration is more than exotic locations,” he asserts. “I think exploration can be done anywhere. It’s more of a philosophy and a perspective and an approach to life.”
Case in point, he says, is himself. “I can go outside my door into Central Park and have a great adventure learning about the history of the park, learning about the history of New York City. There’s so many different adventures and discoveries to be made in our backyard, that I don’t think you have to go to Africa or the Amazon to be fulfilled.”