By Matt Hampton | June 14, 2024

If you could take a one-way trip to anywhere, where would you go? 

Over the past 12 years, Steven Shalowitz, AB ’86, has posed this question to more than 300 people — guests ranging from legendary talk-show host Dick Cavett to former CIA Director General David Petraeus, from iconic actress Ann-Margret to New York City Mayor Eric Adams — on his podcast, The One Way Ticket Show.  

The show’s titular question (with the rules that destinations may be in the past, present, future, real, imaginary, or even a state of mind — as long as there’s no coming back) serves as a jumping-off point for wide-ranging conversations about guests’ work, lives, and ambitions.   

Steven Shalowitz interviewing General David Petraeus
Shalowitz, bottom, interviews retired General David Petraeus in August 2022.
Steven Shalowitz interviewing Ann Margret
Shalowitz interviews actress Ann-Margret.

Shalowitz’s path to creating The One Way Ticket Show has been anything but a direct flight.  

Long fascinated with China, he majored in Chinese language and literature at Washington University and attended graduate school at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies followed by a Rotary Foundation Scholarship at National University of Singapore. Afterward, he worked at the advertising agency Young & Rubicam, which took him to Hong Kong, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Vietnam, and Singapore. He lived in Asia for 16 years total. 

While working in Singapore, he received an opportunity to revisit his passion for radio, which had lingered since high school. Through a connection with the program director at Singapore’s English-language adult-contemporary station, he became the host of a jazz show and then the station’s popular Latin music program. In this context, the idea for The One Way Ticket Show sprouted. 

“In the course of doing my radio show, I interviewed a lot of high-profile people, and I always wondered where all these celebrities would go if I gave them a one-way ticket, no coming back,” Shalowitz says. “And I said, ‘I’m going to hold on to this idea, until one day, I will move to the U.S., and I’ll do a whole show around it.’” 

In 2012, he did exactly that after moving to New York.  

Guests’ one-way ticket destinations give each conversation a unique angle and serve as a hook that differentiates Shalowitz’s podcast from other interview shows. 

“The one-way ticket question provides insight into people’s personalities that you wouldn’t get anywhere else,” he says. “Their answers can go in any number of directions, which makes for a lively and engaging conversation.” 

The One Way Ticket Show’s editor is Jay Rothman, AB ’03, whom Shalowitz met by complete coincidence. Shalowitz was on vacation in Beirut and attended a billboard contest that a friend was judging. While there, he befriended a Lebanese New Yorker, who introduced him to Rothman as a potential podcast editor. During a job interview over lunch, the conversation turned to Rothman’s musical background. 

“I asked, ‘What instruments do you play?’ and he said one of them was the sitar,” Shalowitz recalls. “And I questioned, ‘Where’d you learn to play the sitar?’ He said, ‘In St. Louis.’ And that’s how I found out he went to WashU. I don’t know if I ever would have met him had I not been in Beirut and met my friend’s friend. It was a total chance meeting.” 

Serendipitous encounters are also a pattern when it comes to Shalowitz’s guests. Several interviewees, including long-time CBS journalist Charles Osgood and CNN’s Richard Quest, came on the show after Shalowitz met them while trekking through Manhattan. He met Cavett not through a publicist or an agent, but while waiting in line at Barnes & Noble. 

The talk-show host walked up to Shalowitz and said, “Excuse me, are you waiting in line?” to which he replied, “Yes. Excuse me, are you Dick Cavett?” 

Besides The One Way Ticket Show, whose awards include a gold Davey from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts, Shalowitz has also hosted IsraelCast for Jewish National Fund USA for the past seven years. Outside of podcasting, he is an exhibited photographer and loves traveling to unconventional destinations from North Korea to Burundi.  

He’s also involved with the WashU alumni community. In Singapore, he conducted interviews for prospective students, and he has served on the Alumni Board of Governors and on the William Greenleaf Eliot Society committee in New York. 

Shalowitz in Pyongyang, North Korea, August 2012
Shalowitz in Pyongyang, North Korea, August 2012

“Being involved is not just serving on a committee or a board,” he says. “I think all alums should carry the university with them daily, staying informed about the tremendous work that’s going on at the university and sharing that news on a regular basis. Here in New York City, I see a ton of alumni and students wearing WashU shirts or caps and get a kick out of stopping them on the street and chatting with them about their time at the university.” 

Alumni have also numbered among Shalowitz’s long list of interviewees, including Helaine Fendelman, AB ’64, host of PBS antiques show Treasures in Your Attic; actor and Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Pun Bandhu, AB ’96; and award-winning photojournalist Ben Lowy, BFA ’02.  

Hosting The One Way Ticket Show every two weeks allows Shalowitz to meet many people he admires, which he finds to be an enriching journey.  

“It’s been 12 years of conversations with highly intelligent high achievers,” he says. “It’s a tremendous learning experience speaking to my guests. Everyone brings something different to the party. You can’t help but become enriched by those conversations.”