"After 10 years and 20 seasons, it felt like a prudent and thoughtful thing to take a moment and breathe and think, 'what's next for me?'" says Probst, 47. "But I started to come back to the same conclusion, which was I am not finished with Survivor yet. It's the right way to go."
Helping him make the decision was a good working experience on the latest edition, Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, which premieres Feb. 11 (8 p.m. EST) on CBS. "I think Heroes vs. Villains is going to satisfy on every level," he says, "so what's inspiring about that is we are coming off Samoa with Russell and a season with 20 returning all-stars, so we have to do something special with 21 and 22. We have to be on our game and get very creative, so that is very exciting."
It also helped to have a reunion celebration for the 10 years the show has been on. "It really hit me when I walked in to the party a month ago and saw the logos for the 20 seasons on the wall," Probst says. "That was a really great kick in the pants for me to say, 'Don't be embarrassed to be proud of what the team has accomplished.' Twenty seasons is a lot of television. I am very much aware that I have one of the top 10 jobs on television. I get it."
Literally looking back also put a lot of things into perspective. "The first thing I look at when I look at old seasons is the hair," he admits, "and then I look at the clothes. That very first season, we bought the clothes in Malaysia and they didn't even fit! I also look at things like my posture. I was hunched over, kind of intimidated -- there are so many things to look at."
With two more seasons, there aren't many locations Probst hasn't seen, but he does have a passport in need of stamps. "I had to get a new passport two years ago," he says, "and that was an emotional moment, me and the passport, having to say goodbye to all those stamps from all over the world. It was all weathered, it folded, it had been in my pocket, it had been in backpacks, it had gotten wet, it had been on boats, and then I get from the government a brand new one and it's like, 'ah, really?' But I've started filling one up, though!"
Lucky for Probst, he does have other fun gigs when he's not on location for Survivor, including filling in for Regis Philbin on Live with Regis and Kelly. "For as little time as Kelly Ripa and I actually spend together, it's amazing to me how fun it is to work with her, so I really enjoy doing that," he says, although you won't see them trading tribal council quips any time soon. "Ripa would never come," Probst says. "She would laugh of the notion of coming on location. She would say, 'There is absolutely no way I'm going on a plane and finding you in a tent somewhere. No!'"
But could anyone fill his tread-worn shoes in the future? "I've been asked what I would think about someone else hosting Survivor," Probst says, "and the truth is it would be a little strange to see someone else run a tribal council. But if there ever came a time when, for whatever reason, I wasn't going to continue with Survivor and they were going to continue with someone else, I would teach that person whatever I have learned but I would also say to make it your own and find your voice." --Cynthia Wang
For more on Probst's decision, if this indeed will be his final year on Survivor and if the show should continue without him, go to Dalton Ross's column on EW.com.
Tell us: Would Survivor be Survivor without Jeff Probst?