$2.00 has never made me happier. Seriously. And I have to thank Blockbuster video in Lake George NY for it. Their going out of business was the only reason I saw this lucky find at all, much less paid $2.00 for it (sorry Blockbuster). I’ve watched it repeatedly, like over and over, never losing interest. So far this film is the one which has most inspired me to consider long term travel as a viable option.
When main character Connor’s wedding plans take an unexpected turn, he’s got the mother of all reasons to jump on the next plane and go, wherever it’s going, and search for change. Mentally unable to go to Honeymoon destination Cancun, he jumps on the next flight nowhere nearby…landing himself in Managua, Nicaragua.
Connor’s first two nights in Managua are like a hysterical introduction of a bad day in travel. On top of not speaking Spanish, he takes the cab ride from hell, gets lost in the ghetto with his rolley suitcase, discovers the joys of plumbing in third world countries, all of his cash is taken from his room, and is finally robbed of his watch and shirt at knife-point. All of these horrors leave him considering coming home; something most consider at the beginning of their long-term trip, while still adjusting to new cultures and lifestyles. While I find this part of the movie highly entertaining, I do not entertain the thought of any of these things happening to me. They are, however, a great example of the dangers of travel; especially solo travel.
Towards the end of the summer, which he’s spent trekking around Central America, Connor’s upgraded to a backpack and learned a bit of Spanish. He ends up in Panama at a bar reading about someone being held captive in the jungle for a year after trying to cross the Darién, when lo and behold he’s invited to do just that by another traveler.
And then the question…school, or travel? For those of us that have a passion for adventure, we know the pull of it; its strength is overwhelming, putting butterflies in your stomach just anticipating the unexpected of a new place or experience.
Obviously he goes; if he didn’t there wouldn’t be a movie. Throughout the film we watch Connor grow and change as he travels and learns. In the summer before going to the Darién, he learns of the many cultural differences in Central America. There is a discussion later of these differences in norms; about how they define things in South America by using negatives (it’s a good flight if you didn’t crash), how a ringing phone sounds like its busy, how cows have to be removed from runway before a plane can take off, etc. Once in the jungle, Connor learns what true endurance and survival are, a life experience not many people get. He doesn’t regret not going to college and says he learned more in his time abroad than he did throughout high school. Not a surprise to any world explorer, we all know that school can’t teach what experience and interaction can.
By the end of the jungle excursion the entire group begins to question what they’ll do next. A change from this life of survival which has become normal to them is something hard to imagine not doing. I feel the same way every time I take a trip of even 3 weeks long…who wants to go back to the grind after 3 weeks, much less a year or more away?
The first two months of his journeys Connor becomes adjusted to language, culture, and travel practices throughout Central America. Over the course of the next year he gains strength, labor, and survival experience hiking the Darién, as well as getting to meet a few jungle tribes (something every traveler yearns for). The film ends with the must see sights of Peru (embodying those things that every traveler seeks; wondrous ancient architectural sites, colorful markets, the horrors of trying new foods, etc) and the passion for continuing the quest; the art of travel being to continually divert one’s plans…
…and who doesn’t want to do that?
“Mastering the art of travel is not accomplished w practice or talent…it is a way of life. Unknown to the majority, it is almost impossible to convey to your friends back home over the course of a single conversation. It’s more like a feeling. It’s the excitement I experience the night before a trip, the high that comes with booking a one way train ticket to a place I’ve never heard of. It’s the little things that so often go unnoticed….Then I wonder why me then I remember all the things I’ve seen and done, the friends I’ve made, the countries I’ve called home, and all the bugs I’ve eaten by accident.”
I really wanted a clip of this quote, being that it really highlights how all of us travel addicts feel, but was only able to find trailers to the film, so I’ve added the second version here (just for fun):
While it’s a movie, not a documentary, it really does encompass all of the feelings and stresses, as well as the wonders and learning opportunities, that one goes through during long term travel. I think the film does a great job in preparing potential round-the-worlders for the ups and downs of such an endeavor. While I don’t aspire to cross the Darién Gap, a few day hike could be right up my alley, and the film still inspires me to do that – as part of a much longer continuous journey that is.
It’s not on netflix, but can be watched for free online: