Michael Palin: The Greatest British Traveler Of Our Age?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

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Everyone’s favorite ex-Monty Python member turned traveler turned three-year term as president of the Royal Geographical Society, Michael Palin, is back with a new travel series, Brazil With Michael Palin, which recently began airing on the BBC, and hopefully coming to a local station (or Netflix) soon. Palin, who long ago could have rested on his Python laurels and retired to the Costa Brava like so many of his compatriots, had decided long ago to forge a new career path, that of a traveler, and has improbably turned himself into, as one British newspaper called him, “the great British traveler of our age.”

In a recent interview with the UK Independent, Palin describes how his newest series in Brazil was a change from his normal format in that he focused solely on one country over four episodes, whereas in the past he focused on particular themes to dictate his travels (Around the World in 80 Days, Hemingway, New Europe). “I’ve never done a series in one country before. I’ve often thought that we travel too fast . . . I felt with Brazil there would be a chance to get to know the country because we were going back there four times, filming over a period of a year. Each time we went back, it was like going back to a different country because it was all so different.”

And lest you think someone who achieved fame and wealth so early in life had little to learn about the world come the age of 46 when he filmed his first travel series, think again. Travel, it seems, affects everyone in profound ways, fame or no fame.

It’s a bit like when you’ve bought a car and you suddenly see everyone on the road has the same car as you. You notice things related to where you’ve been. Lots of places in the world mean more to me now than they would if I hadn’t been there. I went to Pakistan just after 9/11 and you thought you’d probably be beaten up on the street — but not at all. They want to know about you, why you’re there; you’re not armed therefore not a threat. You can go to most countries and find that people are operating on the level of human contact — they have families, they have children, they want to get their food from the market, simple things that we all do — and that’s what keeps the world going.

For those of us not in the U.K., rest assured, his entire travel back catalog is available on Netflix.

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