4 Things Travel Movies Taught Me
You watch comedy movies to laugh, romantic films to feel less bitter about love, thrillers to forget a dull day, but you watch travel movies to go on a metaphorical journey alongside the main character; you want to escape too.
Well I do anyway...
I feel like I have actually left the sofa and ditched the dorito's when I watch the character go on an amazing and life-changing journey, albeit without getting as cold, hot, hungry or depressed as some dishevelled travellers do.
But these kind of films don't just make you think about how cool it would be to take the same adventures, they can also awaken a deep part in all of us, and inspire our true wayfaring whimsy.
The first movie which got me in that deep place, was Into The Wild.
What a beaut of a film.
Based on the true story from a novel of the same title, it follows young American man, Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch) who having just graduated University in the early 1990's, leaves home for the open road, abandoning his parents hopes for his career, and sets off on his own quest of self-discovery. Chris assumes the name 'Alexander Supertramp', discarding his old identity, all his money, and his faithful old car, very early on in his journey.
Chris had a natural inquisitiveness, empathy and a very intelligent mind which took him beyond wanting to follow his peers and their yuppy fortune-seeking lifestyles.
Such a life was devoid of meaning to him, and so he sought to get to grip with the raw truth and beauty of life, which for some is found only through travel and being in touch with nature.
I feel the same way much of the time. Even if you travel for a month not long-term the influence it can have on the rest of your life can be quite profound.
This movie taught me, among many other things (including that embarking alone into the Alaskan wilderness is ill-advised) that joy can be found alone but is only really fully actualized when experienced with others.
I tend to be an bit too independent, sometimes scared of other people, and kind of introverted. I find alone-time highly restorative and peaceful and I think travel can be a personal thing where you will change and develop within yourself.
But Chris's story has made me realize how important experiencing the travelling life with other people is. In fact sharing the journey is integral to truly building inner happiness and fulfilment.
There is so much wisdom and kindness out there, in people of all ages and backgrounds, who can teach you how to live and love, much better than you could of figured out on your own.
As you see in the film, this was the main thing Chris himself learnt too.
Another movie that is equally memorable for its stunning visuals and the lone-man traveller-trope, is of course, The Beach.
Here comes another wide-eyed twenty-something American guy, in the form of Richard (Leo Dicaprio) but this time he's in the more tropical location of Thailand.
Handed a map to a mysterious island, he sets off to find it; and yes he finds a heavenly island with an amazing beach, but he also finds trouble, in the form of a cultish female-leader, some unfortunate deaths, and ends up being banished from the secretive group who call the island home. Subsequently he goes a bit crazy whilst fending for himself in the forest.
But it ends well for Richard, even if it seems very hairy in parts.
Whilst the story represents the idea of respecting nature and trying not to take paradise and make it our own, the main lesson I take from it, is to follow your spirit of adventure and stray off the beaten-track, but do this to enjoy the moment to moment of discovery and the experience of seeking out a view, or a secret beach; feeding your curiosity and walking paths un-walked is where the adventure is.
Taran always says the joy is in the journey to somewhere not the actual destination.
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The next is a documentary, As It Happens: Pacific Crest Trail. We found this via YouTube, and it follows two young guys who met hiking the Appalachian trail, and decide to take on the 2650 mile walk from Mexico to Canada together.
This film certainly removes any notions of the romanticism of a solo trip of self-discovery in a way the other movie's couldn't; there's nothing easy or pleasant about walking hours upon hours upon days, through blistering heat, then searing cold.
But nonetheless it is inspiring to watch these two friends embark on this crazy ride together, see the people they meet along the way, all from different walks of life, taking on the trail for varied reasons.
The film confirms that yes you have to be fully prepared, mentally and physically, for anything like walking the pacific crest trail if you want to survive, but you can never be totally ready for what the experience will do to you.
The sense of accomplishment the hikers feel at the end, is abundant, but the importance wasn't on reaching the end, it was about finding the strength to survive and thrive one moment to the next.
Such a feat of achievement like this will see you lose weight, gain blisters and a deep suntan, alongside timeless memories of the stunning vista's and great characters who make the journey special and life-changing.
I might not be hiking any major trails anytime soon but I will take the friends solid attitude of perseverance and determination with me, to help through any struggles I might find on the road.
The final film which has inspired us is another documentary, 180 Degrees South. It follows wanderer, surfer and mountain-climber Jeff Johnson, as he travels to Patagonia in South America, a barren and beautiful land.
This is very much a story about being in love with nature and that need to feel close to it, the ethos which guides the old and young men we get to meet through the film.
Jeff himself was inspired to go to Patagonia by Yvon Chouinard and his climbing party who traversed many a mountain in the 1960's, and they are the figures which give this travel documentary a different edge.
At its core it is about conservation and having an ecological conscience.
No individual is naive to the effect our rapidly progressing society has on nature, how our increasing demand for big lives in the big city leads to the destruction and contamination of all the things which make this earth worth exploring.
Its a sad indictment if not a shocking one, when you see industry encroaching on nature in such a unstoppable and determined manner, and you see remote communities who rely on the land completely, fighting to protect it.
But despite their admirable efforts it still gets destroyed, all for the survival of those who live in mainstream developed consumer society, sacrificing the land and the people on it for money.
This film spoke to me personally, from the little hut looking out to mountains on Patagonia, a beautiful place to call home, to the idea that we rely on nature to live yet seem to think we can take and take without preserving and regenerating it as we go.
The lesson I took from this film wasn't a new one. I know, and so do many, that passively consuming and ignoring the plight of nature, turning a cheek to its deafening cries for help, makes this world not worth living on. When nature is drilled, depleted and forever changed, it is forever gone.
We think that is the most important lesson of all travel movie's, and it should be the prerogative of all travellers and bloggers alike; traverse the land, love it, do what you can to support it, and help keep the world in all its diverse landscapes, alive.
Thanks for reading!
Hannah and Taran here. We hail from Southern England, where we met online and are now realizing our mutual passion for travel here at NomaderHowFar. We discuss Nomadic Living, Simplifying your Life and Long-term Travel, to empower, motivate and inspire our readers. Get to know us here!