Thursday, April 2, 2009

BBC's Around The World in Eighty Days - Michael Palin

The next best thing to actually being on the road is to read about travel, or to watch a well-made travel video. Which is what we have been doing of late. It took us a number of days to watch all the episodes in the 3-DVD set of BBC’s ‘Around the world in 80 Days.’ Former Monty Python actor Michael Palin does both the traveling as well as the narrating. He’s got a great mix of earnestness and British humor and it makes for very engaging viewing.

Back in 1988, Michael Palin started from London and without ever boarding a plane, he traveled all the way around the world, racing against time to complete the journey in 80 days. In a very literal sense, his journey is the destination. And we get to go along.

One reason to watch this particular series is that in many ways, it is a time capsule. We get to see a slightly more innocent world, and it is great opportunity to observe what has changed and what hasn’t in the past 20 years.

For me, there was a particularly relevant segment of the journey. Michael takes a train from Bombay down to Madras. Back in 1988, my parents lived in Bombay and I was studying in Madras and so I’ve made that exact train trip quite a number of times. He traveled in November ’88 and just a month later, I know I made the same trip. Watching the footage of the train, the platform food- and magazine-vendors and the stations rolling by unleashed a flood of nostalgia.

This was a very popular show when it was first aired, and over 12M people ended up watching it in the UK. Most public libraries in the US should have a copy. Check it out.