As the type of person who keeps their well-loved passport locked in their glove compartment at all times (I have warned my roommate that one day I will spontaneously continue driving North until I reach Canada), the documentary In Pursuit of Panama, about two recent college graduates from Oregon on a quest through Central America immediately piqued my interest. I back-packed for three months from Panama to northern Guatemala two years ago and the trailer’s images of dusty clothes, sandy beaches, sleepless nights and muddled conversations brought back memories quickly.
In Pursuit of Panama has all the classic road trip elements (long time friendships, hurried love affairs and scenic backdrops), but first-time filmmakers Ryan Swan and J. Garrett Martin strive to embrace the more philosophical aspects of their road trip as well. Early on in the film both interview their parents who speak frankly about their sons’ lack of direction, a concern that is mirrored by the filmmakers themselves. They talk openly with their audience in interviews and voiceovers about being 26 and feeling as though they are caught between childhood and adulthood.
They make a decision to put off real life for a few months longer and go abroad, like so many of their peers. Though this age group, my age group, is blessed with more international opportunities than any before, we are the first generation in many that will likely have “less” than our parents back at home; for some, the call of international exploration is too great to ignore.
Swan and Martin add to their adventure by refusing the typical back-packer hostels and hotels, instead opting for creative camping along roads and on beaches and relying heavily on the kindness of strangers. The two are honest about their apprehensions, and although their recklessness will worry mothers across America, the result is a rather amazing journey for the two.
This documentary will please veteran and virgin back-packers alike, although there definitely is a special connection felt by those who understand the struggles of hot weather, limited Spanish, and sleeping in a car. I jumped a little at the sight of The Bearded Monkey, my favorite hostel in Nicaragua, and recognized the confusing border between Costa Rica and Panama from personal experience. In Pursuit of Panama does an amazing job of conveying the emotional ups and downs, the connections felt and beauty seen by traveling. The feeling it leaves this writer with is absolute nostalgia. Watch In Pursuit of Panama for yourself. Does it leave you longing for the open road? Remembering past adventures in foreign lands? Let us know your thoughts on this latest addition to the IndieFlix library!