Talking to Jason Dundas is like playing catch with a particularly enthusiastic kelpie, albeit a very good-looking one who has the world as his top paddock.
Dundas has many good reasons to be positive. He has come out of a one-year reign as Cleo Bachelor of the Year wiser about the fairer sex. And his day job as a presenter on Nine Network travel show Getaway involves flying to attractive tourist destinations that many people would have to save for years to visit.
The lad from Sydney's outer western suburbs was last week relaxing with friends in New York after having hunted out the picks of the Big Apple. He also recently completed a similar project in London, giving him the opportunity for a second, social trip to Manhattan.
"Getaway makes the reality of travelling to be with a mate in New York possible, you just do it all the time," he said.
"When I finished up in London, I caught a flight for $400 over to New York, sat for three days and chilled out with a mate and had lunch and then flew back to London.
"It is the one thing that Australia is missing — we are so isolated. In saying that, it is also a great thing because we have our own country, we have our own lives and we live in this beautiful free nation."
Dundas has been a presenter of Getaway for almost three years, having joined the Nine flagship travel program in January 2007 from cable music channel MTV. The former University of Western Sydney student had his television break seven years ago after winning a competition for budding video journalists run by the music channel.
After his move from cable TV, it did not take long for the cool-hunters of the Australian magazine industry to set their sights on the lad from Penrith with the washboard stomach and boy-next-door smile.
He was the Cleo Bachelor of the Year for 2008 and an inductee into Who magazine's hottest 100 and NW magazine's hottest bodies of 2008.
Dundas talks with enthusiasm about his elevation to the top rung of party invitations, including a Calvin Klein party on Sydney's Cockatoo Island where 200 guests were met by models dressed only in body paint.When asked whether being bachelor of the year changed his life at all, the 26-year-old dropped his puppy-dog enthusiasm and became unusually cryptic.
"It made me realise that girls do not like playboys. The nice girls don't like playboys."
Asked whether life went bad for him as a Cleo-sanctioned playboy, he said: "No, it just went a bit different path for a while. Like when you get labelled as a playboy, you attract a different breed of female."
And did he capitalise on that attraction?
"Mate, I am human but it wears thin very quickly with the reputation you gain as Cleo Bachelor of the Year. A year is enough."
One Sydney gossip column reported recently that his latest flame was different to the blonde bombshells. They cited Sydney student Rey-Hanna Vakili, the former head prefect at Pymble Ladies College who is expected to study law at Yale.
Dundas said he did not want to talk about his new romance. "I want to keep my private life private."
By contrast, he was keen to talk about his recent travel adventures, right down to the exact details of a website where you can go to find a cheap beer in England. In London, he joined a group roller skating around the UK capital ("awesome and cool"); discovered that he could get theatre tickets cheap at a booth in Leicester Square and had paid about three times too much for his own tickets (neither awesome nor cool); learnt that a healthy lunch could be quickly bought for £6 ($12.50) at the "awesome" Pret A Manger chain; and, you guessed it, the Portobello Market was awesome.
But none of this enthusiasm seems faked.
Dundas describes himself as a "bit of an ADD, hyperactive kid" who thrived on the variety that Getaway offered, being able to work in one place, then shoot off to the next on the other side of the world. It is a far cry from the life lived by a late-blooming adolescent who worked on the front counter at his local McDonald's, where he was regularly told to be quiet.
He said he thought every day about where he had come from and his progression from the relative obscurity of cable television to a high-rating network program.
"The thing that got me through is that I am pretty grounded," he said.
"It was a very gradual progression into television. But I feel like I have earned my way up and gone from job to job. "It is like working at McDonald's as a 15-year-old kid. You learn customer relations, you learn the basic techniques before going to the next level."NEALE PRIOR