Watching A Map For Saturday

My Thursday morning started just as any other Thursday morning does for me. I was excited that it was nearly the end of the week, yet completely unmotivated to get up and get moving. Typical.

By the time I had found enough energy and arrived at work, I was told that I could use first period as office hours because my students would be in their homeroom classes working on a project they’d be presenting in the afternoon.

WOOHOO! *insert cheesy, celebratory bell kick* Boy, was I excited! This meant I had one extra planning/grading period, and that the end of my week just got better! Extra time = extra productivity (or so I thought… *spoilers*).

I almost never have time to check my email first thing in the morning, but this time, I did. In my inbox I had a new email about a post from Nomadic Matt. *cue lack of productivity* Apparently it’s the 10th anniversary of a travel documentary I had never seen but needed to. After reading his post, I decided to download it. But first, I needed to get my grading done for the day. If only I had done that right away instead of diving into a sea of travel blogs.

Fast forward to the end of the school day, I actually had some downtime to begin watching A Map for Saturday. I found myself getting weirdly emotional during this. I wasn’t crying or anything, but it was just so relatable! The documentary does a phenomenal job of capturing the feelings of a traveler. It is more centered around long-term backpacking, but as someone who has lived abroad for two years and travelled on holidays, it still hit home.

The basis of this documentary is that a young guy, Brook, who has a well-paying job in New York, decides to quit his job and travel the world for 11 months, something that was far less common 10 years ago. He films a lot of what he experiences on his round the world trip, with the focus being on the people he meets.

It adequately describes the feelings one goes through before, during, and after a lengthy international trip. And because of this, I’m feeling mighty contemplative tonight about what to do with the upcoming year of my life.

Several things really stuck out to me while watching A Map for Saturday:

People’s Perception of Americans

I’ve experienced this myself while traveling. It certainly changes a bit with each president, but it’s not uncommon for someone to have a certain reaction when you say you’re from the U.S. The current face of the country does make a difference in some ways, but in other ways it doesn’t at all. Americans stereotypically have this arrogant sense of pride. I feel like we are known for thinking we are the best, and that is half the reason people refuse to travel and leave the States. If I had a dollar for every time someone back home has asked me, “But why would you want to leave the US?” It’s one of the most annoying questions to get.
A friend of mine that I met on a trip last summer is Canadian, and people often just assume he’s American. He told me that as soon as he says he’s from Canada, he immediately notices a difference in the way others treat him overseas. In this documentary, people admitted they pretend to be Canadian so they won’t have to admit they are actually American! Maybe if I find myself getting into awkward political conversations this summer, I’ll follow their lead and say I’m from Canada. (Haha)

You’re Never too Old to Stay in Hostels

One of the travelers featured in this film was a 73 year old man. He is officially my idol. I found him to be so inspirational. He has seen more of the world than most people ever will and he refused to let his age or health issues keep him from exploring. I can only hope that when I’m 73 that I’m still getting around as well as he was in this, and that I’m half as cool as him still travelling the world.

10 Years Later and It’s Like Nothing Has Changed

At least where I’m from in the U.S., the mentality towards long-term international travel is just as it was 10 years ago when Brook created this. People don’t like it. They’re afraid of it. They don’t understand it. Honestly, it’s easy to feel like you’re being judged for your decisions. A lot of people in America still don’t travel internationally, and if they do it’s for luxury or work. You won’t typically see people leaving the States to go stay in a hostel and immerse themselves into a new culture. People like luxury hotels, cruises, and tours. Americans seem to prefer what’s more accurately referred to as a vacation, a word that has nearly been deleted from my lexicon over the past two years. I don’t value vacation the way I do travel, but that’s not something I have in common with most people I know in the States.

I, too, Am Afraid to Go Home

Of course I miss my family, especially my niece and nephews. But honestly, I’m more afraid to go home than I was to begin my journey overseas. I’m afraid of how much of a challenge it might be to leave the country again. I’m afraid I’ll be pulled into a normal full-time career and not be able to get the time off I desire. I’m afraid I’ll forget what it’s like to just go into something so unfamiliar with some nerves, but mostly confidence because I’ve learned it’s really not so hard to just get up and go somewhere you’ve never been. I’m afraid I won’t feel like I’m growing as much as a person because you learn so much about yourself and the world when you travel. The life I live now is so different than my life back home. And quite frankly, I don’t want to go back to a normal life. These feelings are present in the documentary and helped reassure me that I’m not alone.

Watching this documentary genuinely made me happy. It’s such an honest reflection of what it’s like to be traveling. There are so many highs and lows, hellos and goodbyes, perfections and imperfections; in the end, you never return the same person you were before. Yet home, home still seems to be the same. People have grown a little older, maybe gotten engaged or married, had a baby, or started a new job, but things still feel the same. It’s a really odd thing to experience. A Map for Saturday captures this feeling quite well.

If you’ve never seen this before, I definitely recommend getting it. And if you’re curious to know what Brook is up to now 10 years later, check out Nomadic Matt’s interview with him.

Have you seen it before? Did you just download it so you could check it out? Comment below and let me know what you think!


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