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He is reminded of just how popular the show is (it still averages 13.5 million viewers) on road trips across America.
His latest adventure took him across Arizona to the Grand Canyon, Lake Havasu and Sedona.
"I was pretty sure the center of the universe was me," says Probst, 46, sitting on a patio atop the Mark Burnett Productions headquarters. ET/PT), Probst says being exposed over the last 16 editions to tribal warriors and village children, some of whom "live in shacks made of elephant dung," has opened his eyes.
"You start really seeing how huge the world is and that you're just one guy from Wichita — no more, no less important than anybody else.
His three-year relationship with Survivor: Vanuatu (2004) contestant Julie Berry ended several months ago. "You have to make it work." On-set psychologist Liza Siegel, who meets with each contestant after his or her elimination, also has provided comfort.
Asked whether he and Berry remain friends, Probst shrugs. "I've been on the show when I've had relationship issues," he says.
"You don't want anything to affect your work, but sometimes that's hard.
So after a (contestant) challenge, I can ask Liza, 'Can we sit down for an hour?
' " After 2006's Survivor: Panama — Exile Island, Probst announced plans to leave the show.
He had reached what he called "a point where I thought 'Maybe I've done all I can do on the show.' And I wanted to be home because I thought maybe it was taking a toll on my personal life." But with therapy and introspection, he says, he developed a new appreciation for the work.
I think I'm a much better person because of Survivor." This year, his efforts may add an Emmy to his collection of Survivor artifacts now that the Television Academy is adding a reality-hosting category.
His success already has awarded him lasting friendships with past Survivor contestants Colby Donaldson (2001's Australian Outback), Andrew Savage (2003's Pearl Islands) and Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich (who met on the 2004 All Stars edition and were married in 2005). And wouldn't change a thing about it." While on location in remote parts of the globe, communication with loved ones becomes a challenge.