Sunday, February 15, 2009

Departures: The Greatest Travel Show

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.


  1. " I board my flight September 1st 2009, rather than worrying about new students, lesson plans, and inter-office politics." Oh, what a treat that is going to be for you when that day arrives!

    I look forward to see more details about your year off as to where you're going and as to how you plan it.

  2. It's an absolutely fantastic show. I found it when I was taking a break during Christmas. It has been my Tuesday night viewing for the last 6 weeks. Series finished for me last week. Bring on series 2!

    The travel bug really does get you. Many moons ago on my first day working in the travel industry my boss told me "That you will love this job and the day that you leave it is when you fall out of love with travel". Here am I nearly 20 years later still working in the industry with independent travelers.
    Moving back to NZ shortly. If you come my way I would love to show you round.

  3. I love this show!!!

    Hey you know what...when you're back from your world tour and back to teaching (there might be a slight danger that you don't, but i'll understand), if I were your student, I would consider myself lucky to have you as a teacher. Who wouldn't want a teacher with a world of experience (literally and figuratively) waiting to be shared? Especially if you are teaching English and Drama.

  4. you should also check out the doc *A Map for Saturday*.

  5. I think it's amazing that Departures has so inspired you. As a friend of Andre's I can tell you, besides his own experiences, he was very inspired by 'The Long Way Round' and actually met Charlie Boormen & Claudio von Planta (camera man) on his travels with Departures. So you never know. You could end up sharing a pint with Dre, Scott & Justin on your travels.

    Good luck!

  6. Ikks: That would, ultimately be fantastic. It's a big world out there. I heard they were taking this year off to edit for Season 3?

  7. I'm not in the loop on their show but I do know Andre isn't in Canada at the moment. If I were to guess, they might be taking their time this year to hit certain destinations at the right time in order to attend some events. Just a guess though.

  8. Such, such, such a good show. One of my favourites

  9. DEPARTURES. Truly amazing travel show. Great shots and outstanding framing. The Cameramen and the DOP captures details of every location. It can be compared to movies who gained an award for best picture. Uncomparable tandemn of Scott and Justin too. Thank you for sharing us your journey every week.

  10. you might have to change it from "the best travle show" to "the best show"

  11. I love love love departures.... My dream is to see the world... to risk and go beyond my fears... this show showed me that it is possible.... and gave me the motivation to let my fears go and just go... once in a life time and I will not let the window of opportunity close...

  12. Departures is AMAZING!!! My boyfriend and I absolutely love the show! We have never been able to take time off and travel for extended periods of time. The 2wks was the longest time off we could ever get off from work/school. When we both saw the show (as well as being inspired by "The Motorcycle Diaries" almost 6 yrs ago), we swore that after we finished our doctrates we would travel for the summer to South America. We finally did it and had an amazing adventure! We both think that Departures pushed us to follow that dream we had 6 yrs ago! We even went hang gliding and piranha fishing in Brazil... just like the guys! Thanks Andre, Scott, and Justin! :)

  13. I have watched about 7 episodes and found the 2 guys a bit whiny, always worrying about phone calls home to a girlfriend, and not really appreciating the food & culture of the country they were in. Typical North American spoiled kids.
    I spent 6 years working my way around the world with only the belongings in my small backpack in the 70s, with no phones, debit/credit card etc. Working in different countries to be able to afford to move on to the next country gives one a real perspective of the people and life.

  14. I also love departures. Right now i am 18 and studying but after all the education is done, i am going to save money to travel. Departure has inspired me so much. I mean all i do on the computer is go to travel sites and blogs like yours. I think you are very brave to follow your dream. And it shows like departures and people like you that inspire me to travel. My goal is to see the world one day to...all seven continents. hopefully i find a travel partner. Anybody interested around my age email

  15. Wow. I agree with everything you said in your post!!! I, like you am a teacher, I am in my third year of my career. My husband and I have travelled a lot and it is our passion over all else. We love the show Departures, and I completely agree with you that it is the best show on TV, hands down. I took a leave of absence last year from teaching to travel and although it did set me back a bit career wise, it was the best decision I ever made. We are thinking of going away again in a year and I will be so happy doing it do question. Travel makes you a better person, it makes you more accepting and understanding of the world and how we all fit together in it....

  16. I'm one of the avid viewers of this travel show. I can say that it is very well directed.

  17. All of us,' he said, 'have hopes of being poet, artist, discoverer, philospoher, scientist; of possessing the attributes of all these simultaneously. Few are permitted to achieve any of them in daily life. But in travel we attain them all. Then we have our day of glory, when all our dreams come true, when we can be anything we like, as long as we like, and, when we are tired of it, pull up stakes and move on. Travel -- the solitude of the mountains, the emptiness of the desert, the delicacy of the minaret; eternal change, limitless contrast, unending variety.' (Eric Lang)

  18. Best show ever seen, absolutely eye opener to different cultures and people. Really inspiring to take a chance and really say: "life with regrets is a good life".

  19. Great write up. You write really compellingly. I agree completely, it's a fantastic show. Some of the best non-fictional tv out there. I've never watched a show that so thoroughly captures the wonder, spirituality and pleasure that travel brings. It also doesn't hurt that I think Andre's cinematography is some of the most beautifully shot and composed that I've seen. I only wish I could watch it in HD!


All original text and photographs Copyright © 2009 one.year.trip / previously.bitten | Theme Design by previously.bitten | Entries and Comments.Powered by Blogger