Oh my, do we Canadians think the world of ourselves.
Enter the country’s largest chain of bookstores, and you’ll see it printed plain on the walls: “The World Needs More Canada.”
We do go on. We brag about our peacekeeping efforts, while, lately, we’ve done precious little. Most of the world’s white helmets are worn by Third World soldiers. Our army still licks its wounds from Afghanistan, where we served in a righteous cause, but turned our backs too soon. We shamelessly neglect our warriors, and count the dead from their suicides.
We loudly proclaim our readiness to welcome refugees from anywhere, but we don’t border Mexico, do we? We testify to our multi-culturalism, but when Quebec, our favoured child, passes a rabidly xenophobic bill to restrict religious freedom, we stay mum. Best not to antagonize the golden child.
We talk about our “free health care,” but if you’ve tried parking around a hospital lately, or ordering an ambulance, you know it’s anything but.
Yes, all true stories. But I, despite my snarkiness, remain a patriot. I can look for, and find, reasons to be proud of being Canadian. Hockey is always there, though now run by evil New Yorkers. Give us the chance in any one of two Olympics, and we’ll still own you.
Our people are still proud, funny, and generous. We supply you Americans with many of your comedians and troubadours.
We still, largely, remember how to keep things civil. You folks down south could learn a few things. None of our Prime Ministers have ever been assassinated. And the last time somebody tried, the Mounties shot the living shit out of him.
And they didn’t even apologize. Fuck you, eh?
But today, I sing the praises not of a national institution, but of three dudes with cameras. Today, I’ll tell you why the world needs more Departures. Have you seen this show? It’s the story of Scott, Justin, and Andre, three Ontario kids who spent three years going around the world in the late 2000s, bringing a uniquely Canadian take to our shrinking planet.
Why is it so great? Personally, I know I can’t stop watching it, ten years after the last episode was filmed. And I’m not the only one. Watch it. Go ahead, they’ve got a YouTube channel, with all the episodes available for free. They’ve also got the superlative Descending, a dive-themed travel show with Scott and his Kiwi buddy Ellis.
What stands out? For me, the superb camera work of Andre, supported by exceptional music and editing. You’d think this guy was out there with a crew of hundreds, but it was really just one Franco-Ontarian with a hangover.
But what’s more interesting is how you see three young men, in their late 20s, product of a safe country, evolve as their perspective on their world widens.
Scott is the serious, organized traveler, a well-read man of culture. But, influenced by his joker friend Justin, he learns to loosen up, and towards the end of his three years will gladly drive an SUV through the Australian Outback with a rubber bondage mask on. That’s personal growth, dude.
Justin starts off his travels as the guy you went to high school with, who just acts as he graduated last month. He’s not well-traveled, or well-educated. On his trip to Japan, even harmless sushi puts him off. But a crucial decision to put his friends over a shaky relationship back home, followed by his rallying of the team after they hear the siren song of money luring them back home, shows there is more to this guy. By Season Three, he’s become Justin the Adult, steering clear of volcanoes the others gleefully tramp into. Justin grows up.
Andre spends almost the entire first season off camera. But at the end of Season One, we see him dealing with personal tragedy, and after that, it’s impossible to look at him as “cameraman” anymore.
They learn to dive, under water, and out of a plane. Fall in, and out, of love. Get irradiated in Chernobyl. Freeze, and fry. Get altitude sickness, the shits, and some things unexplained. Get their asses kicked in boxing rings, puke in the streets, and strive to find meaning. Through it all, they remain relentlessly Canadian. Looking for the other guy’s perspective, even as they seek to elucidate their own.
But the end of the 2000s brought an end to their adventures. A new generation of travelers would find their own meaning. Selfies and affirmation of the personal journey would replace the understanding of the other.
Video killed the Radio Star.
Pardon me, you Millennials could use some more Departures. In my opinion, these three Gen-Y kids had the formula for figuring out the world all locked up.
Open your minds, but don’t flinch from the necessary judgements. The boys have fun in Thailand, but that doesn’t mean they’re comfortable with its sex tourism. Eat the food, and thereby, know the people. Hell, even Justin eats crickets and tarantulas. Leave your unnecessary judgements, the ones that don’t fit the scene, at home. In Greenland, you eat seal meat, because there’s no fucking plants. Have fun. Fall in love. Walk away. Begin again.
Departures showed me how to travel the world. I explored, I fell in love, and I settled down. But that arrow is always pointing out there somewhere. And I’ll be ready to follow it somewhere else, someday.
Justin, Scott, and Andre, your people need you. It’s time for Season Four. The world needs less judgement, and more travel.