Departures. Travel show? Reality show? It’s a little bit of both, if we’re being honest. The show Departures, which airs Sunday Nights on OLN, is quite possibly the best travel show ever filmed. From my own point of view, it’s not only the best travel show, but also the best television show on the air right now.
It’s refreshing to have an entire hour of television, during which you not once feel guilty for resting your feet, while fully reclined, simply absorbing information being put towards you. For one hour every week, I find myself able to lay back and watch the lives of Justin Lukach, and Scott Wilson – along with their camera man Andre Dupuis – as they traverse the globe.
As the end credits roll, and we are giving a brief glimpse into where next week will take us, there is no pang of regret; there are no feelings of, “oh I should have been doing this,” or, “I should have been doing that.” Instead, all that remains is a great sense of satisfaction and inspiration.
I have made mention of this show, previously. In fact, I have credited this show with the journey for which I am currently preparing. A number of months back, a friend told me to, “sit down, shut up, and just watch.” I did. After the shows opening, I was hooked. When I heard Scott Wilson declare, “That travel bug gets in you, and it’s got you. One whole year goes by in a blink,” coupled with the rising percussion of the shows theme, I knew that there would be no escape.
Every Sunday at ten o’clock My friend and I would turn to OLN and watch the tales unfold. We would visit Jordan, and India; I would return to Japan; we would even travel to the remote location of Ascension Island.
But this safe, and far removed, experience was not enough. At one moment - I don’t remember who spoke first - we turned and said, “we need to do this.”
It was that instant the idea of my trip was born. Scott Wilson, and Justin Lukach were not the only two Canadians who could put their lives on hold and leave everything they knew behind.
During the initial planning phase, my friend and I would make rough budgets, and come up with a reasonable traveling plan. Eighteen Thousand dollars was our budget, and it would get us everywhere we needed to go.
I knew that setting everything on hold for twelve months would not be easy; never did I think it would be. Watching Departures, one also begins to understand just what a commitment uprooting can be. Justin Lukach loses his girlfriend, who remained in Hawaii; Scott Wilson had to make some daunting financial decisions. But ultimately, the two of them both chose travel.
In the commentary track for the Ascension Island episode (where Justin’s girlfriend e-mails him to tell them their relationship has come to an end) Lukach claims that he hates the line where he states “travel has to come first.” He claims that his relationship meant more to him than the trip ever could have. Nevertheless, he continues on for the rest of the year, and opts to continue for another. One wonders how much this statement is based on “the grass is always greener” principle. Regardless of what he claims, his actions spoke loudest. And hopefully, the choice for him was the right one.
Taking a year off from work, not only spending considerable money, but also having no income, as well as losing your position within the work place, is never an easy one. For me, it may set me back two years as I try to regain a full year teaching position. Logically, I tell myself that staying at work, and then taking the time off to travel once I’m established is the way to go. But as with Justin Lukach, my actions will speak loudest of all as I board my flight September 1st 2009, rather than worrying about new students, lesson plans, and inter-office politics.
For some, though, life is not so easy to pause. The reason for this? Perspective. Some may actually view a year traveling as a halted life: for myself it is the epitome of living. Everything that comes after this year, will be tempered with my experiences, and my personal growth. But for some, their lives are best where they’ve always been.
My motto? There’s always a reason not to do something; find your reason to do it. I would make any sacrifice, cut any corners, and find any way to take this year - stepping foot in as many regions of the planet as I can. But, unfortunately, my friend could not. Be it finances, friendships, comfort, or other reasons – he had to back out. Sorrowed, and upset, his life could not lead parallel to my own at this time. If we could just put things on hold for one more year? But I knew that if I did not leave now – I never would. There’s always the, “we’ll do it next year,” which becomes a looping cycle forever prolonged. I told him if he decided to embarked on his own great journey, I would join him. But that was in the future. This trip was now my own.
No longer would I have the Scott to my Justin, or the Justin to my Scott, depending on how one looks at things. No. I would be alone. But that was alright. I would not have to constrain myself to an ideal budget, and I would not have to check and double check every location with someone else. I was free to travel how I liked, by myself. And while I recognized that I would be missing out on a lot by not having someone along, I as well knew that I would be making gains along the way.
Any problems I encountered would be mine to get out of. They would be mine to solve. This is as strengthening as it is terrifying.
When Justin and Scott find themselves with broken cars, the continents over, they have each other for support. When lost in strange cities at night, they can turn to one another. I will be alone. And I will be forced to grow, and surprise myself. Gains, as well as losses.
As soon as it became available, my almost-travel partner as well as myself both purchased our own copies of Departures on DVD, and have since re-watched the episodes a number of times. We have also listened to the commentary tracks as well. In most cases, these tracks would be left, forever unheard, but as the show itself makes you care about the characters (ultimately real people) there is a strong desire to hear what they say. You want to listen to their own personal reflection after returning from their trip – just as you would, when your close friends pulls out photo albums from their summer’s expeditions.
Season one took the trio across Canada, Jordan, India, Ascension Island, Japan, New Zealand, Thailand, and Cambodia.
Stops that I had been dreading on my own future paths took on new life. I was now eager to visit India, and see the Cremation Ghats down by the River Ganges. I now understood that, without doubt, I needed to see Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Thailand was opened up before my eyes, and I now had a reason to travel to the great extreme of New Zealand.
Jordan also stands out in my mind. And it is with regret that I will not be able to travel there on my one year journey. For now, the middle east will remain un-experienced.
With the start of Departures Season Two, we have seen Spain, Morocco, Libya, Brazil, Cuba.
Once more, I am drawn to a place viewed first on this show. When Andre Dupuis, Scott Wilson, and Justin Lukach play hide-and-seek in an abandoned Libyan city, I can not help but feel overcome by the power and magic of the place.
As the season continues, we will be taken to Mongolia, Iceland, Zambia, Madagascar, Chile, Easter Island, Antarctica.
Without a doubt, I will no longer hesitate to pay the colossal fees to visit Easter Island. And Antarctica has been very seriously considered as my March 2010 destination.
It seems only fitting that Departures, who’s season one inspired this trip in the first place, should continue to hold great sway and power over my own travels through their second season.
If you’ve not yet done so, by all means please watch an episode or two of Departures. I can think of few things in my life that have been so inspiring.
As a final word, in closing, Justin Lukach, Scott Wilson, and Andre Dupuis: Thank you.