“What’s next?” My friends and family asked when I returned from my original WorldRider journey several years ago.
I’d come to a fork in my road. I asked myself the same question, often.
People also asked, “Was your trip a life-changing experience?”
Sure, circumstances surrounding one’s life always change and evolve. Yet deep inside, I believe, we return from journeys not changed, but rather, we come back awakened, energized and feeling alive. Travel awakens our spirit and ignites our soul. Always inside and part of us is the essence of who we are, and those things that bring us joy and happiness, and where we hope to find purpose in our lives, are rooted early in life. The beauty of travel is its ability to bring back to life that which has been dormant.
For me, I choose not to dwell on problems or what’s wrong in our world. Sure, we can always improve and better ourselves and our relationship with others, but deep inside all of us is the essence of humanity. We are born with a curiosity to understand everything — especially each other—though as we age, we tend to lose, or forget that. It is our humanity that guides us–makes us good, compassionate. So when I travel, I look and see what’s right and beautiful. And you? Look for beauty, you’ll probably find it, too. It’s a choice we all can make.
Back in the USA, I soon realized that the lessons I learned, the deep connections I made with the people I met, and the incredible beauty of our planet and its humanity were too much for me to keep to myself. I felt compelled to share. By day I supported myself by consulting with clients on digital marketing and branding, at night I scribbled and scratched and dreamed of ways I could share my journey and lessons and make it relevant to anyone.
With plenty of experience in delivering presentations and speaking to groups, large and small, I slowly transitioned myself from a “marketing and branding guy” to a “professional speaker.” I was confident that “what’s next” was clear: To get in front of audiences and share these stories, the beauty and the world and its humanity. It took time, and, for the first time in my career, by applying a bit of my “marketing guy” experience to work for me, I built a reputation and business based on speaking and storytelling—-sharing.
While I love speaking as much as the audiences with whom I share stories, I realized that it could take thousands or more speeches to reach all I feel would benefit from hearing my stories. So I started work on my book “FORKS: A Quest for Culture, Cuisine, and Connection.” Ironically, it took me nearly as long to write FORKS as it did for me to travel around the world on my motorcycle. Yet, last summer I finally published the book that truly captured the essence of my journey in photos, stories, and recipes from each of the 35 countries I traveled.
I’ve happy and humbled by the attention FORKS has received from readers and the media. While I never expected such a positive reaction to my book, I have always been confident that the stories, messages and lessons from my travels are important and relevant and could resonate as well have impact on most anyone’s life — in our relationships in business, through our personal lives, and in our communities.
With FORKS and a national book tour complete, many more people are asking me that same old question: “What’s next, Allan?”
Over the past several years, I’ve thought hard about getting back on the road. Sure, I’ve made several trips since returning from the journey that inspired “FORKS”, but to places I’ve already traveled. But I’m inspired by both the new and the unknown.
I’ve also thought about producing a documentary based on “FORKS.” Several producers contacted me during my Kickstarter campaign, proposing to script, produce and otherwise collaborate. After “FORKS” hit the shelves last year, several production companies contacted me with the idea of developing a television travel series. They asked me, “are you ready to travel the world with a television crew?”
To be honest, I like to travel alone. This is how I’m able to connect with people; I like to move at my own pace, take time. Even in my photography, I often desire to “wait for the light.” So the idea of having a film crew follow me and potentially upset my rhythm or interfere with the experience is unsettling
Yet, I love the idea-—IF it could be done with a small and intimate crew, one that could move and act swiftly and be invisible as possible.
After several in-person meetings, phone and Skype calls, email messages, I quickly realized that most of these companies move slowly. I also learned that some of these companies take direction from and pander to the desires of the television networks. Understandably, someone needs to pay for the programming and if a show cannot find and retain an audience, then there’s no chance for success. However, as an adventurer, entrepreneur, and speaker, I’ve always stressed the importance of stepping outside the comfort zone, to take chances and accept risk. This is the only way to innovate and see possibilities.
There was no way I wanted to compromise my trip, book or philosophy and turn them into a mockery or some formulaic reality television show concocted to the spec of a television network.
To be sure, if I’m getting on my bike and traveling to the ends of an earth with a film crew shadowing me, the show must be of the highest quality—as I aimed to do with FORKS—and it must strive to pushes limits—even, with a dose of passion and persistence, strive to possibly redefine travel documentary television—taking FORKS to the next level and beyond.
To do this, the production company would have to be willing to take a chance, accept risk, and step outside the comfort zone. Remember? That’s the only way to realize the possibilities.
While I continued my conversations with several productions companies and they continued looking for a gimmick, or on my mother’s birthday I received a message—a mention—via Twitter.
The Twitter message crossed the border of Canada into California and caught my eye.
Over the next few days I learned that Panayioti (Pan), the sender of the message, worked as a director and producer for a Canadian production company, QE Productions. Over the next few weeks and a several long telephone conversations I learned that he and QE Productions’ executive producer, Randolph Paul Kelman, were looking to create a unique travel series. They had a concept and idea, but they were lacking a host, or character, who could help them realize their vision for a new travel documentary television show.
For me, it didn’t take long to agree to explore the possibilities with Pan and QE Productions. It was clear that we both wanted to create something great: a program that would allow me to immerse and connect with people and their cultures without the overhead of an in-your-face film crew; a program that would be shot cinematically, yet still have the rawness of an adventure into the unknown; a program that would allow us to beyond borders and deeper into exotic locales beyond the usual tourist zones; a program that would change the way we look at travel on the television or computer screen.
Key to the new program will be my motorcycle, Doc, of course. The motorcycle is character in our new show. It allows me to travel where and when I want. Plus, the motorcycle is the perfect metaphor for how we should all travel: to be open and to let yourself experience a place using all your senses: see, hear, feel, touch, and small. For me, the motorcycle opens the world, me and the audience to the possibilities and the connections I will make. Also, true to my original journey, I will most always be with camera in hand, capturing the world through my lens, while Pan and the production crew will capture the entire interaction and experience through its lens.
To make this show work, I knew I’d have to connect with the crew. So, we’ve spent many days together as they traveled from Canada and stayed with me at my home in California. We’ve cooked together, spent hours laughing and strategizing. Our conversations continued as walked the beach; brainstorming and sharing ideas. We talked enough about technology, music and photography and production gear that would make any geek jealous or put most others to sleep.
We unrolled maps of China over my dining table while Dar, my ever present feline friend, walked across the map spanning the 22 provinces and 7 provincial-ties, or regions. We pored over guide books, Chinese language websites and the occasional blog post of recent travelers through China, searching for unique places far off the beaten track that might interest viewers and give me a chance to connect and tell revealing stories of the people and their culture.
We mapped several routes, considering contingencies as the Chinese government must approve and know where we will be traveling. In a short few days we were like buddies preparing for a new adventure. This one where we together aim to create a new travel show that will disrupt the genre, inspire viewers, and let audiences ride along and connect with the people and culture along the way.
For the pilot episode, I will spend the more than a month with these guys—most about half my age. As I travel I will be alone and riding at my whim, as always. They will try not to get in my way, yet when it comes to the incredible landscapes, fascinating faces, and curious culture of China, together we will cast our lenses, creatively capturing the the colors, textures, and sounds of the environment–the experience—so we can share it with our future audience-—and you!
In short, it’s serendipitous that Pan (producer, co-director), Izaiah (co-director and director of photography), Jamie (sound designer and recordist), Paul (executive producer), and I have connected. This is one of those cases where I know “it was meant to be.” We all get it. Our goals and vision for this show are in perfect alignment, harmony. I can feel it. We are going to create something great.
The premise of the show is simple, positive, and intriguing. Plus, it picks up, in many ways, where my book FORKS left off: After significant changes in my life at home, I take off on my motorcycle to explore the world. I aim to learn more about the world and its humanity. Always curious and I am eager to connect with people and understand what brings them joy, what makes them happy, and where do they find purpose in their lives. I earn their trust and capture their essence and culture through the lens of my camera. From the most remote settlements to the busiest cites, I connect with people, often over food or by helping or participating in those things that give them purpose or bring them joy: fishing, farming, arts, entertainment, sports, public service and so much more. It’s making these connections with people and their humanity that bring me joy, and, in many ways, by giving them a global stage from where they can share their story, I happen upon my own purpose.
Each one-hour episode takes place in a different country. I will explore that country from border to border, in just thirty days and with limited resources–perhaps just $1,000 for the month. We start with the pilot in China and hope to take the show to Iran, Pakistan, Vietnam, Bolivia, Greece, Macedonia and beyond.
As I bang out these words, my motorcycle, Doc, is on a boat heading to China. Next month we’ll all meet in China and begin the adventure. I’ll be blogging here as I travel, as well as posting updates on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, when possible.
I am overwhelmed with excitement, and of course, the possibilities!
What do you think about this new show? What would you like to see?