Departures: the travel tv show that changed it all
A simple change of the channel on a lazy Sunday afternoon altered Mark's life forever. The inspiring travel and adventure tv show Departures, reignited Mark's passion for travel and led to the creation of this very blog, The Common Wanderer. Here's why.
Looking back on it now, it's hard to believe I could ever have become like this.
After a childhood filled with adventures all around the world, my passion for travel had once been deep and motivating. In many ways, I'd been born with travel in my blood; a first-generation Australian with family hailing from almost every corner of the globe. As a boy I'd spend hours sprawled on my bed reading The Adventures of Tintin because they involved exotic, far away destinations. I revelled in National Geographic, keen to learn more about the fascinating stories and photos from abroad. I even received a Lonely Planet guide for my 18th birthday, and gave myself the gift of six-months travelling solo around Europe for my 21st. I'd returned home a changed man; focused, motivated, and passionate, and travel had been the ultimate driver of this.
But somehow, as I moved into adulthood in the years that followed, things changed.
Building my career in Marketing and having the time of my life (read: partying all over Melbourne) was all I really cared about. The years had been rolling by, a rapid blur of meetings, social gatherings, and weekend hangovers, and before I knew it I was turning 27, and hadn't travelled once in over five years. What's more, it had been five years, and I didn't even care. I was stuck in a bubble, and travel had simply no longer seemed that important.
One day, lying on the couch after a weekend of partying, I stumbled across the Discovery Channel. There was nothing better to watch on TV so I lazily continued watching the program on the screen, which followed two young Canadian guys as they travelled around India. They spoke of travelling deeper - seeking real-life experiences on the road.
After an hour of watching two guys my age living their dream, I was hooked. The show, Departures, became my Sunday ritual; I watched every episode with interest, building and rebuilding my bucket list and slowly reigniting my passion.
Before I knew it, travel had once again become my dream, and my life changed forever.
Departures: the tv show that changed it all
SO, WHAT IS DEPARTURES ALL ABOUT?
The background is that Departures is an award-winning travel show following two high school friends, Scott Wilson and Justin Lukach, as they leave their jobs, pack up their lives and go to travel the world for a year. Both are at a point in their life where it's "now or never", so they decide to take a chance on now, and do something they've spoken about for years. Off they go, on a world adventure that's documented by their friend and cameraman Andre Dupuis.
Shot over three seasons, Scott, Justin and Andre visit "off the beaten track" destinations - those which see few tourists and in many ways are harder to travel through. They live by the motto "it's as much about the journey as it is the destination", and it sees them taking chances, following local recommendations, making new friends and being open.
They dig a little deeper to discover the similarities we all share, as well as the intricacies which define cultures around the globe. They explore the depths of Papua New Guinea with their local friend, discovering a country so rich in culture. The two of them attend a buddy's wedding in Jordan and discover they do weddings VERY differently. And they chronicle their visit to North Korea, showing a side to the country that goes well beyond the Supreme Leader. One journey they took, to witness sunrise from Adam's Peak in Sri Lanka, that was so visually beautiful that I instantly knew I had to visit and experience it for myself. With the incredible cinematography of Dupuis, you feel like you're right there with them on their journey.
But what's most appealing about the show is that it's just so normal - it shows the realities of travel - from missed flights to homesickness, fights and frustrations to celebrations and occasions. As a traveller, it's so relatable, and so often humorous.
It's also completely inspiring.
BECAUSE OF DEPARTURES, I FOLLOWED MY DREAMs
As I've said, I always loved travel. Before the age of 21, I'd visited over 25 countries. But more than that, in each of those 25 countries I'd opened my eyes to new experiences, ways of seeing, and been challenged in so many ways by the world and its people.
But the passion for exploration had left me, and it wasn't until Departures came along and lit the travel spark again that I realised how much I truly missed it.
So I travelled.
At every available opportunity, I left Australia for somewhere new - Vietnam, Cambodia, Turkey, Nepal, and central and southern Africa. It was glorious. I experienced so many incredible things - summiting Everest Base Camp and Mt. Kilimanjaro, eating Momos with a local in Kathmandu, solo backpacking through Africa, swimming the turquoise waters of Zanzibar, sailing through Ha Long Bay, standing on the edge of Victoria Falls, walking through the ruins of Ephesus... all inspired by Departures.
Through this period I met Mim, someone equally as passionate about travel as I, and we began to create our travel adventures together. Eventually, we discussed following our long-held dream of quitting our jobs and travelling the world for a year. After years of talking about it, we finally took the plunge, resigning from our dream jobs, selling our possessions, giving up our apartment, and saying goodbye to family and friends in Melbourne.
We also set up our very own story-telling project in the form of this very blog, The Common Wanderer, to document our travels and experiences. We wanted our blog to be different to everything else out there; to visit off the beaten track destinations, to focus on human connections, and to tell real-life stories and experiences from a life on the road.
The travels and stories you see on this site are inspired by ones told on Departures.
Since then we've spent 2.5 years on the road, seeing incredible places, meeting amazing people, and experienced amazing things. We even hiked Adam's Peak in Sri Lanka. All inspired, in some way, by Departures.
It's crazy that, looking back on my mid-twenties, I didn't realise what was missing from my life. Those years were fun, sure. But they didn't nourish me, and they definitely weren't feeding any kind of real long-term passion in me. It sounds ridiculous to say (especially for someone who watches very little TV today), but Departures DID change my life, and I'll be forever grateful to the boys for following their own passion for travel and storytelling, as without it, i wouldn't be living the life i've always wanted.
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Departures tv show lasted for three seasons, where they visited the following countries:
Season 1: Canada (coast to coast), Jordan, India (x2), Ascension Island, Japan (x2), Cook Islands, New Zealand (x2), Thailand, Cambodia, and Canada (pushing north).
Season 2: Morocco, Libya, Brazil (x2), Cuba, Mongolia (x2), Iceland, Zambia, Madagascar, Chile (x2), and Antarctica.
Season 3: Russia (x2), Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea (x2), Ecuador, Ethiopia (x2), Rwanda, Greenland, North Korea (x2), Indonesia (x2), and Australia.
Over that time, the show picked up and still has, a loyal following. Indeed, we've bumped into a few people along our journey that have been inspired by Departures too. It's rare that a TV show has the power to change people's lives, but Departures has done that for us and many others.
If you're looking to be inspired yourself, or you simply enjoy really great storytelling, Departures is now showing on Netflix. Cue lazy nights in saving for your next big trip watching the boys embark on an epic adventure or two.
You can buy the box set and binge watch, just like i did. Again and again and again.
Have you seen Departures tv show yourself? Or has something else inspired you to take the leap and travel more? Tell your story in the comments below!