One of the main reasons we go on adventures – especially big, long, solo adventures – is to find ourselves. Through challenge, adversity, we get to see what we’re really made of. Through loneliness, time, and distance from home and from the person who friends and family have come to expect us to be, we can find perspective and move a little bit closer toward our own truths.
No adventure travel film captures the second element of the story so well or so honestly. Janapar is really a story about Tom Allen the man (or the boy?), rather than his pretty epic adventure story of cycling round the world with his mates. Soon he was on his own, and as you might guess from the title and the blurb, his plans are quickly felled by a beautiful girl who Tom falls deeply in love with.
There is some really beautiful footage in the film, and some of the moments that Tom manages to capture are by turns powerful, emotional, and inspiring. Without doubt it was Tom’s amazing ability to pick up the camera at the most painful, most awkward, most difficult moments in his journey that have created such a wonderful film.
But it’s something far more important than camera work and and an understanding of storytelling that makes this such a great film. What makes it is that Tom is, or at least appears, completely honest, natural, and open when he’s talking to the camera. It’s a very brave thing to lay yourself bare in front of an audience like that, which is why most people’s attempts at talking to the camera and getting emotional and all that fall completely flat. So often there is something of a performance about it, which is probably some form of sub-conscious self-protection, and so we can never really get attached to the story teller or empathise fully with them.
Tom has also written a book, which I haven’t read, and he writes a great blog which you should go and check out. I love reading his blog posts. Like the film, they are down to earth and quiet, yet insightful, intelligent, and inspiring. I love that Tom is clearly writing from experience, and that he is able to be honest, but yet there are no flashes of ego. He is as happy mocking himself as he is questioning the things that he sees.
In Tom’s own words:
“A love of adventure is what drives my journeys, and a love of writing is what drives this blog. I’m all about sharing stories, ideas, news and knowledge on the subject of modern-day bicycle travel. So if you’re just dipping into the world of adventure cycling, you’re in the right place. My blog today, as well as continuing to recount tales of adventure, is largely about exploring the broad potential of bicycle travel as a tool for making personal, meaningful journeys, and sharing what I discover in the hope of making bicycle travel accessible to all who dream of it.”
To get a sense of the attitude to blogging that makes Tom stand out, you only need to see the detail he shares on topics that other bloggers would feel protective of as a sort of intellectual property. Take his post on the numbers behind crowd-funding a book.
Tom’s Bike Trip is a rare mix of excellent practical advice, great photography, humorous insight, and carefully constructed opinion. Despite the years that Tom has been going this still feels like a young blog, and I hope he keeps it up.
Check it out, bookmark it, buy his book and and his film in order to support him.
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