Movie reviews aren’t something you normally see on Gadling, and for good reason: there are very few films, in my opinion, that truly capture the spirit of travel. Sure, we’ve got gems like The Beach, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but really — are these what travel is really about? I think not. Even adaptations of great travel books — take the classic Seven Years in Tibet starring Brad Pitt for instance — often result in a less-than-outstanding take on a true literary adventure.
A Map For Saturday is different. Writer and director Brook Silva-Braga left his job as an Emmy award-winning producer with HBO’s Inside the NFL to do what many of us dream of. He moved all of his belongings into his parents house and set out on a year long round-the-world trip. Part documentary, part video travelogue, A Map For Saturday is the single best cinematic response to “why we travel” that I’ve had the pleasure of watching. The documentary beautifully intertwines Brook’s own personal travel narrative with a collection of surprisingly articulate solo traveler’s first-person accounts of what made them trade their workaday western lifestyle for a life on the road. “Why not start a career?” he asks one traveler he meets along the way. “Because I’m young now.”
The story begins in New York City, where Brook approaches his HBO colleagues and tells them he’s “giving it all up” to pursue his dream of seeing the world. “You’re doing this alone?” one co-worker asks with a bemused look on his face.
Was he really ready to give up his awesome job, posh New York lifestyle, and family and friends for a solitary life on the road?
Landing in Sydney, Australia on day one, you wouldn’t be so sure. Stricken with homesickness, and a hesitation to open up to fellow hostel-living strangers, he finds himself rethinking his original intentions of spending a year abroad. “Maybe the first day was great — oh, I’m so alone!” explains Hitch, a Swiss traveler Brook meets in a Sydney hostel. “Maybe the second day… oh, I’m really alone now.”
Sticking it out, however, has its advantages. “In the span of a week this whole experience has gone from very foreign and kind of intimidating to not only comfortable and enjoyable but really kind of great,” Brook explains to the camera. Going it alone, you think you’re on this giant discovery by yourself, but then you realize — hey! — there are a lot of other people in the same shoes. Before you know it, the time you spent sulking in the shower is replaced with beer-fueled cookouts and sight-seeing field trips with fellow travelers. And if the stars align, you might even find yourself in love.
Like all good things, however, relationships in the life of someone who has dedicated themselves to circumnavigating the globe must come to an end. Each person is on their own trip, traveling down their own path, and there comes a time in which courses that once crossed must fork in different directions. Brook packs his things, and is off to Asia to see the rest of the world.
Trailer for A Map For Saturday
At it’s core, A Map For Saturday is an exploration of what drives us to travel the world, meet new people, and experience new adventures. In the world of budget backpacking, where clichés can be overwhelming, Brook is able to avoid falling into a creative black hole of “shagging backpackers and dubious self-discovery” by exploring why the clichés exist in the first place.
For the seasoned traveler, A Map For Saturday might provide a nostalgic look back at your own travel memories and remind you why you chose a life filled with exploration. It might remind you of those times when you stepped off of a plane and into the sights and smells of a new place with nothing to do or nowhere in particular to go.
For the newcomer who has yet to wet their tongue with the taste of world travel, this movie will set you down the path of booking your first round-the-world trip. Guaranteed.
A Map For Saturday can be purchased online at AMapForSaturday.com.
Gadling will also be interviewing Brook in June, and we’ll be giving away a few copies of the movie on DVD. If you have any questions you’d like to see answered by Brook, leave them in the comments.