ROADTRIP NATION: A Guide to Discovering Your Path In Life landed in our mailbox last week. Usually we're not big fans of motivational, Chicken Soup for the Young Person's Soul fodder--and the subtitle definitely made us gag. However. RTN is something special. It is a self-help text, but it's more about the how and why and here's how you can do it, too, your own way, than it is about getting across some kind of cheesy catch-phrase.
After college, authors Mike Marriner, Nathan Gebhard, and two of their friends planned an atypical cross-country trip. They drove around in a shitty RV they painted day-glo green, interviewing people they felt had successfully defined their own life paths. These ranged from a Maine Lobsterman to a director of Saturday Night Live to Madonna's chief stylist. They scored meetings, captured everything on film, and took it all down in writing. Once they returned home to Cali, Mike and Nathan were still in debt and no more interested in jumping into a career they hated, despite what they call "the noise," ie, self-inflicted and external pressure to do something that pays the bills but doesn't make you happy. And personal happiness isn't quite overrated. Not yet anyway.
So the two of them finagaled a deal here and a connection there so that they could turn their experiences into a book, a documentary, a TV series, and a grassroots movement that's already visited 100 American college campuses. More info about all of that here.
The PBS documentary premieres on Oct 1 at 11 pm on WGBH-44 (check your listings here), and RTN will be in Boston Sept 25-30 to screen the doc and explain how students can plan their own RTN adventure. Dates and places:
Sept 26: Northeastern UniversitySept 27: Boston CollegeSept 28: Emerson College
The whole movement is something of a multi-media onslaught, though the book itself, which is mainly comprised of the profiles and interviews, has some real gems. We really liked the profile of Ben Younger, screenwriter and director of the film Boiler Room. He started out as a rising star political campaign manager who intended to go to law school) Younger decided he wanted to work on films, so he quit his job to become a grip. He had no experience:
"I had quit on a Friday and was supposed to start the film on a Monday, but the film--the only job I had lined up--got canceled. The head grip knew I had quit my job and felt so bad that he brought me on a music video shoot in South Harlem. He, of course, assumed I actually knew something about being a grip, but I really knew nothing. Being on the set was like walking into an operating room and someone hands you a scalpel and says, 'Here, finish the appendectomy.' I barely got through the day, but I loved it. He didn't hire me again, although he became a friend. From there I bullshitted my way onto a feature film called Walking and Talking, with Anne Heche and Catherine Keener. That's another thing. I don't want to say go out and lie, but if you have to say whether you're qualified to do something, just say yes. My motto is say yes to everything..."
And cause we're fugging obsessed with Ira Glass, producer and host of This American Life:
"My parents only told me that it was okay not to go to medical school when I was in my mid-thirties. By then, I already had a national radio show. Throughout my entire twenties, my parents thought every choice I was making was horrible. My dad would try to listen to All Things Considered and just hated it."
We're psyched for the PBS series, a 12-part half-hour show based on the idea of the original docu. With any luck it'll be a sort of traveling version of American High. Read more excerpts from the book here and here. Also, NPR's Day to Day has a cool interview with up about the Road Trippers here.