As the reality of India hits Scott Wilson and Justin Lukach during the first season of Departures, they pause and offer television viewers rare insight: travel is in fact exhausting and often times fails to feel like a fun experience. The utter chaos of metropolitan India—coupled with confronting poverty head on and failing to make good on a couple of plans—left both men very aware of the difference in vacations and travel. I couldn’t agree more.
Refreshing and honest in ways most travel documentaries only disappoint, Departures follows two unlikely high school friends from Canada around the world on a year-long journey of exploration. Andre Dupuis, a cameraman who met Scott at film school, follows along in a mostly silent role to capture Scott and Justin’s exploits. As two twenty-something guys who left jobs and girlfriends at home, most of the documentary footage involves physical adventures, enjoying the nightlife, and just goofing off in ways most people in their age group—myself included—can relate to and understand.
The show’s appeal starts with the endearing personality clash between the two travelers. Scott is articulate, reserved, and highly organized as the one capable of making plans and getting from Point A to Point B. Justin? He’s a mess. The guy roams around in a perpetual search for alcohol and questions Scott on the meaning of flora and fauna. The dynamic creates hilarious scenes and entertains regardless of the locale or situation. More importantly, the show never seems to sugarcoat a moment or shy away from asking real questions about travel. Viewers follow along as an early morning trip to see Mount Everest ends in a layer of fog and disappointment. The realities of travel—both good and bad—are on full display and capture the ebb and flow of anyone really wanting to push the envelope and experience things outside of a cookie cutter vacation.
My only gripe is the fact Episode 1 doesn’t fully explain how the guys are able to make the travel a reality. Instances like flying on a military jet to Ascension Island strike me as pricey and jet setting to over 30 countries in year—even if they seem relatively budget conscious on the ground—is difficult for anyone without real cash reserves. The opening scenes makes it seem as if both guys decided to quit their lives and travel on their own accord. Confirming the trip was entirely funded by their own savings or with help along the way from sponsors would have been a nice touch.
Viewers are nevertheless treated to exotic locales and better understand what it really feels like to travel along the way. Scott’s insights are especially exceptional and his ability to put a trip into perspective at the end of each episode is rare in the age of travel documentaries focused on fluff pieces and promotion. The series originally aired on OLN from 2008-2010 and the first two seasons are now available on Netflix. Enjoy!
Departures Review: Season 1 Trailer