Friday, November 19, 2010

Circumnavigators, pilgrims,

I just finished watching The Long Way Round, starring Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman, and reading The Size of the World by Jeff Greenwald.  Riveting stuff!  In the former, these two guys ride motorcycles from England to far eastern Russia, then Anchorage to NYC.  In the latter, this guy goes one better, and gets all the way around the world on buses, trains, boats; anything but airplanes.  I recommend them both!

The Long Way Round was pretty intense and also Hollywood.  Throughout Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and eastern Russia, the roads got increasingly worse, and here they are with two motorcycles.  Roads are scarce, there are bears, and there is not much else.  Two men and their bikes against the world!  Well, not just two men: also Claudio the cameraman.  Well, not just three men: like 15 men if you count all the support crew who helped them clear all the borders and trailed behind them.  Plus the probably dozens more who helped make the film happen.  Okay, fine.  I'm sure with every filmed thing like this, there's a hidden Hollywood behind it all; at least they were pretty honest about it.  For a show about a couple of movie stars going traveling, it was a lot less glossy than it could have been.

And, quibbling aside, it was pretty epic.  They found themselves in the middle of nowhere many times, and in pretty hopeless situations: broken bikes, injuries, bridges that don't exist.  They got angry, depressed, homesick, exultant, excited, the whole gamut.

(and there was one super awesome scene where the police are pulling people over and Ewan goes "these aren't the bikes you're looking for, move along." :D)

The Size of the World was also pretty intense, and not very Hollywood.  The same deal: everything went wrong, they got stuck in the Mauritanian Sahara for days on end, he had to take a last-minute shady little boat from Dubai to Karachi, he spent weeks schlepping through China, and then it was almost impossible to find a boat to take him across the Pacific.  I found it even more interesting, as he wrote about his mind's workings even more.  His internal debates about whether he should take the outside chance at a bus/boat combo, try to bribe his way into a visa, or just break his rules and fly.  His further debates about, well, if he flew, who'd be missing out?  Who cares?  What's this journey for, anyway, besides a whim?  His reactions to places he visited: some of the "this is primitive but wonderful", some of the "this is primitive and awful."  Exhaustion after months abroad.  Uncut, unvarnished, very believable.

I guess there's probably something in there about how he CHANGED, because it's a JOURNEY therefore CHANGE, as we learned in high school.  Yeah, he did.  How?  I couldn't put it into words.  Why did he even do this?  Why did Ewan and Charlie take their trip?  The less reason I know, the more intrigued I am, I guess because I can relate.  Why am I going (mostly, partially, etc) around the world?  Beats me.  No big insights here, just kind of wanted to toss these recommendations out there and also record how I'm feeling at this point in time.

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