May 15, 2012

Travel Movies That Changed My Life

For my day job I work as a photo editor for an online retail store. While I sit at my desk and work for eight hours a day I have a constant rush of anxiety that courses through my veins. I am at a constant battle within my psyche to be at peace with myself and this world. I feel as though I have so much to see and so much to do in such a short amount of time on this earth and I found myself asking the question: What type of legacy do I want to leave behind?

I recently have taken an interest in the public health sector in order to hopefully solve the problems of our declining health across the country and the world. It wasn't until last night that I sat in bed tossing and turning that I started to think about that legacy and how I would accomplish such a big task in my lifetime. Now I do not expect to conquer the medical field or develop a cure-all drug however, I do expect to die one day, hopefully with no regrets, knowing that I made the world a better place than when I began this journey. 

What is it about the human race that makes us so special? Why do we work day to day, and consume so much stress only to find ourselves meeting the same end? How is it that we can all band together to change our world and make it a better place and what issues do we take a stance on? Poverty, immigration, education, war, peace, anarchy, health care etc which of these takes priority over the other and how do we decide which side we should take? Were humans really meant to live a life within a society that is so divided or are we meant to live the life of abundance in which we all can respect one another's personal decisions and find a balance to this chaos? 

As for me I have found a bit of peace in a few movies that have inspired me to rethink my life and reorganize my priorities. And when I think of peace and how I plan to change the world given so many options and so many parties to which I can belong to there is only one person who comes to mind: Gandhi. The most resonating quote I can think of when given the task of changing the world is when Gandhi said "You must be the change you want to see in the world." With so many theories on what happens when we die there is one certainty which is that we will die one day and to our available knowledge we have but one life, one chance to make a difference in this world hoping that we will find meaning to why we tried so hard in the first place.

With that being said here is a list of my top travel movies that will forever change my perspective of the world and hopefully find some meaning to you as well.

1. OUR TIME - 2009
This is a documentary that follows four college grads who set out on a cross country journey through all the lower 48 states to find out what people think about the undefined generation of todays youth. What I find so interesting about this movie is the diversity of the people they interact with and the role that each person plays in our world. While this may not directly inspire you to pack up and travel right away it will help give you a broader understanding of what American youth culture is like and what it means to be alive in this country. This film is a reality check for us all and will send you on an emotional roller-coaster and while you may not agree with the lifestyles or points of view of every person in the film, you will come out more enlightened about why they came to that place in their lives.

2. 180* South - 2010
Based on found footage by Yvon Couinard's 1968 van trip to Patagonia, South America, this travel documentary follows a group of adventure enthusiasts as they attempt to remake this journey. This is a must watch for everyone regardless of your interest in travel as it shows what global consumerism has done and is doing to effect the health of our planet and its people. The footage will make you rethink your possession's, over consumption and all at once encourage you to see the world through a new lens. The people they meet along the way offer a beautiful insight into South American culture and how they have been effected by overpopulation and surplus goods being dumped into industrialist societies. 

3. Into the Wild - 2007
“The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” - Christopher McCandless. 
What good is a list of best travel movies without mentioning one of the all time greats? Into the Wild is a true story about a young Christopher McCandless who decides to up and leave his life of conformity and sets out on an adventure to the Alaskan wilderness meeting a variety of people along the way. While there has been a lot of controversy about the decisions made by McCandless you have to respect the man for his dedication and ambition to explore the world. This movie will bring about so many emotions and really draw you into the spirit of adventure as you find yourself questioning what it means to actually be a part of this planet if not to experience the beauty in its landscapes. 

4. Life in a Day - 2011
For me travel is more than just the arrival at a new destination its understanding the people and environment in all aspects. Life in a Day may not be a typical film on most travelers lists but for me its a perfect example of what this world has to offer in variety and unique perspectives. This documentary is filmed directly through the lens of the audience and uploaded via youtube. With unique experiences from all around the world you gain a better understanding of culture, politics, religion, adventure, traditions and most importantly the people of this planet. This film really goes to show that there is so much more going on in the world outside of your own reality and should remind the viewer to never take a moment for granted.

5. The Way - 2010
"You don't choose a life, you live one"- Quote from the movie.
When his son decides to leave grad school and travel throughout Europe on a pilgrimage his bond with his father is put to the test. When his father (Martin Sheen) receives a call that his son has died during his first day of the pilgrimage he decides to travel to France to claim the remains of his sons ashes. In order to respect his son's lifestyle he decides to finish the pilgrimage for him, meeting people, swapping stories and facing many difficulties of a traveler along the way. While most pilgrimage's are meant to be spiritual or religious in a sense this film gives more insight into the emotional aspect of risking it all to see the world and meet new people. Be prepared to want to drop everything, pick up a backpack, sell all your belongings and start walking the globe.

6. 127 Hours - 2010
Utah is my home and while I have resented the political side of the state I have much admiration for the landscape. 127 Hours is a true story about Aron Ralston who sets out to Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah to explore its vast caverns and rock formations and eventually gets his arm stuck in a boulder where he spend the next 127 hours trapped. This is not a movie to get you scared of travel but instead show that no matter what the situation you can still overcome your obstacles and continue your adventure. Even after the events in Canyonlands Aron Ralston went on to climb Mt. Everest and all of 53 of Colorado's fourteeneer's.

7. The Art of Travel - 2008
A high school grad is about to marry the girl of his dreams and move onto college until finding out that his relationship is a sham. He then decides to take his honeymoon solo and head out to Nicaragua where he meets a team of trail-makers set out to conquer the Darien Gap. This is a great film that gives an insight into the life of a traveler as they face culture shock, language barriers, robbery and life in the wilderness. While the cast is low budget and the scripting lacks in certain areas, I still find this movie to be inspiring in a sense as it gives truth to the fact that not all adventures are to be feared and sometimes the risk often leads to a great reward.

8. The Beach - 2000
While the early career of Leonardo DiCaprio was never much interest of mine, The Beach is one of my favorite movies of all time. This is a movie about a man in his mid twenties who travels to Thailand in order to broaden his perspective of the world and find himself. While there he meets a strange man who tells him about this small community hidden away from the world with an amazing beach. He decides to travel to the beach where he finds more about himself than he bargained for. This movie is truly paradise and shows than even in the times when things get their worst you can always have the memories of time well spent. It can go to show how hard it can be for an explorer to adapt back into the city life after so much time living a life of simple pleasures.

9. Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations - 2005-present
Okay I know what you are thinking, what the hell is a T.V. show doing on a list of travel movies!? Isn't that cheating? Yes, it is cheating but oh well moving forward. The reason I put this on the list is because this entire series can be a complete eye opener for any traveler. I am by no means open minded when it comes to food and I have always struggled when it comes to trying new foods however, after watching this series I was given a rude awakening to the world around me. Anthony always advocates for what he calls "peasant food" meaning the food of the streets not typically eaten by the aristocrats of society. His travels have inspired me to be much more accepting of the places and people I visit. As he always says "Never insult your host" and I never intend to after watching nearly every episode of this show. Unfortunately, there is no trailer for the show but here is a clip from one of the most emotional moments of the entire series.

10. Revolutionary Road - 2008
If you haven't had enough of Leo & Kate from their dramatic Titanic voyage then this should be a movie to watch. Revolutionary Road is about a couple who have dreams of seeing the world and living in Paris together. When they get married and have children they begin to find themselves trapped through bills, careers and responsibilities to their children. While not much travel is involved in this film this goes to show that our lives are what we make of them. Sometimes achieving your goal of living across the world can be a difficult task to accomplish. This is a subtle reminder to everyone that life is not meant to be scheduled through a 9-5 career and should be lived in the capacity that makes you happiest. Having children, a career and bills should never be an excuse to stop you from seeing the world. How can we claim to be a part of this great planet if we never fully experience what it means to be happy and alive? Show your children the world and prove to them that life does not end at marriage and family.

Well here is the list so far of all the movies that have inspired me to be a better part of this world. I hope you all will find the time and push yourselves to make an effort to explore the unknown no matter how different that experience may be. Bridge the gaps of your own culture with that of another and see what   great opportunities await you out your front door. While watching movies and reading blogs are a good start to understanding the world, your personal experience will make much more of an impact on your global education. Everyone out there will share in a very unique experience and I hope that one day we will be able to share in one together. If you have any stories or favorite movies that you loved please feel free to share them in the comments below. I will be glad to add onto this list as we discuss our journeys throughout the world.

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