Julia Roberts is leaving it all behind to find herself this weekend as she recreates the hedonistic exploits of travelogue writer Elizabeth Gilbert. Eat Pray Love may be “..a self- aggrandising, over-long piece of self-satisfied bullshit” (OTB’s Jez Sands does his best to beat about the bush) but it did make us realise that there have been some truly excellent movies based on around the world trips. Admittedly, some of these are a little too short to be described as ‘gap years’ and some must have been even more unpleasant that watching the film which triggered this feature, but there you are..
In the days before the internet, women of a certain age had to make do with a stale marriage of thirty years and maybe a trip down the bingo on payday. These were the innocent days of dating before “hairysexmadgreek.com” was invented. Even if you did find your Adonis in the lonely hearts section of Loot you couldn’t just ship them over. The EU freedom of movement was just a pipe-dream..
If you really wanted an exotic man and not fat Baz the bingo caller, you had to do the field work yourself. Liverpool airport wasn’t even called John Lennon Airport yet, it was named after another of the Wirral’s famous sons (yes you guessed it, Sinbad from Brookside). There was no Easy Jet – you had to hitch a lift with the Merseyside Flying School, they would fly low and when you spotted a potential mate you had to sky dive out. In Shirley Valentine, our working class subject lands on a Greek island and dubs her holiday hunk “Christopher Columbus”, partly because of his prowess as a sailor, but mostly because of his role in helping her to excavate her buried emotional identity.
GAP YEAR TOP TIP: Columbus was arrested for using barbaric acts of torture. So my only travel advice would be to beware of Greeks bearing gifts (even emotional ones)
I’m Scottish, handsome and carefree. No I’m not Rab C Nesbitt, I’m James McAvoy, and in The Last King Of Scotland I’m a student doctor and who wants to help Africans in Uganda. Unfortunately, James’s humanitarian project is run by the military dictator Idi Amin.
I know the World Cup in South Africa was a success but when travelling across this fabulous continent, a word of warning: be very careful not to bump into any tin-pot dictators. They will lure you in with gifts of precious stones (supermodels take note) and before you know it you are partaking in genocide. If you are fortunate enough not to meet any blood-thirsty tyrants and do manage to lend a hand to some unfortunate Africans in one way or another, you should beware of an incredibly infectious disease called Ihavehelpedpeopleinafricaitus. It’s more infectious than yellow fever, much more irritating and celebrities are particularly vulnerable to it. What’s more, it can last a lifetime and friends and family members will be afraid to approach you.
GYTT: When in Africa avoid Robert Mugabe, Charles Taylor and any Forest Whittaker look-a-likes. Be careful who you make friends with in the first week as they will stick with you for the whole of your journey, so choose wisely.
An obvious choice but it has to go in, I’m sorry. Leonardo Di Caprio has had enough of his life. He wants to see the world, all of it. Leo rejects the boisterous nature of the Koh Sahn Road and finds Nirvana on a desert island in Thailand. That’s only if you think Scandinavian men in loin cloths constitute paradise. Personally I would prefer to drink snake blood and watch remarkable ping pong aerobics while a Yank is sick on my flip flop, to having sex with a French beauty in nature’s paradise. But that’s just me, everyone is different.
Please remember that Leo spends most of the time going mad and ends up in psychosis where he plays in a video game in his head. In the end he leaves paradise and get’s the girl. I much prefer the ending in the book where the Swedish fisherman skin him alive and use him as a substitute for crab meat.
GYTT: They say in heaven love comes first, We’ll make heaven a place on earth…..They found paradise and put up a parking lot.
Jenny and Steve were looking for a ‘gap weekend’ rather than a 12 month trip, but any break is welcome if you have to step over a smack head, dodge some knife-wielding yobs and avoid a rabid dog just to escape your council flat. Steve said to Jenny “we won’t get this in the Lake District”…..wrong, they sell White Lightning in Ulverston as well. Cider and inbreds are a lethal combination the couple find out as the local hoodies terrorise them mercilessly.
Steve is murdered and a young Asian boy is burnt alive, Broken Britain captured on 8mm. Jenny eventually escapes from Thatcher’s children (or Blair’s babes) and arrives in the local village. Unfortunately for her they are the families of said hoodlums and are none-too-happy with the way things have been going. Cue horrific ending.
GYTT: Run away from anyone aged from 9-21, unless you’re Harry Brown.
Long before West Country loving Princes Harry and William were a twinkle in …someone’s eye, and Mrs Cameron hadn’t popped out little Endellion, Cornwall was a wild and dangerous place. As the famous poet John Betjeman once wrote “Cornwall is a place of savage beauty and even more savage locals”. Ok maybe it was that yokel comedian Jethro who said it, but the fact remains. I’m half Cornish and I know what meat goes in them pasties. It’s always that bit chewier than you think it should be, isn’t it?
In Straw Dogs the local builders are rapists and homicidal maniacs who terrorise an American couple who have relocated to the South West of England for a quiet life. No one in the village can be trusted. Even if the local police are not in on it there is no where to lock them up as Bodmin Gaol closed in 1927 (unless your family originates from North Cornwall you might find that historical fact pointless, but I am, so deal with it).
GYTT: Stick to cheese and onion pasties, and if you need any work doing on your second home bring in a construction firm from Bristol.
A similar theme to Straw Dogs but required in this list nonetheless as I think I need to reiterate that if you don’t watch out, locals anywhere will try to sexually assault and kill you. Four plucky Atlanta businessmen go for a team bonding session and decide on the picturesque Cahulawassee River in the remote Georgia wilderness. Unfortunately the inbred locals don’t take to kindly to the “city boys”, apart from an impromptu jamming session with a local banjo playing blind kid, the locals make their stay as uncomfortable as possible. The locals have their wicked way with one of the city boys and chase the rest across the wilderness.
GYTT: Only speak to people from the British Isles – bar Cornwall, (mainland Europe at a push), stick to Irish bars and never ever speak to the locals. When considering your next team away day play a round of virtual golf.
Are e-mail and the internet making you feel obsolete and unwanted? Well in space no one can hear you stream. Mrs Hal had been worried about her husband for a long time. He had been overlooked for promotion year after year. When Kit got that job in TV it was the final straw. So she did what she thought was best for her husband, she packed his Amiga 500, Amstrad and Spectrum 128k (ask your dad) and told him to make a career change. There were no jobs in film because Jones from Police Academy can make every electronic noise with his mouth. What Mrs Hal didn’t realise was that sending a psychologically unbalanced Mr Hal into space was going to cause so many problems.
GYTT: I guess my traveller’s advice would be don’t approach any apes that have been living near monolithic structures and check the mental health records of any artificially intelligent being you might take on board.
If you can’t manage space, what about time? It’s easy if you know how, a phone box or a clothes drawer is all you need. Then you are free to meet some of the most famous people in history. Bill and Ted needed to pass their history assignments and the Time Bandits needed new places to steal from. Both used time travel to help them out and you can too..
These days a Gap year is more than just getting drunk, sleeping with attractive members of the opposite sex and avoiding Germans. These days you need CV fodder. What better way to impress prospective employers who ask how you would build team spirit, than springing out Malcolm X, Jesus and Kenny Everett and make them play twister? Failing that bring in the grim reaper and threaten him with instant hell and damnation if he doesn’t give you the marketing assistant position at CostCo. If that doesn’t work then just go on the rob with some really small people.
GYTT: Don’t bring back Pol Pot, Vlad the Impaler or Nicolas Sarkozy (when he dies). All midgets can travel through space and time.
Got no money? Scared of flying? Fancy Tom Hardy? No problem, you can do your gap year from your cot. Byron Bay is much better in your dreams than reality and it doesn’t matter if your passport goes walkabout. If you get bored with the place it’s just an intravenous injection and ta da …..new paradise and Tom Hardy is still there. He hasn’t given you the slip and run off with three Swedish sex pots in Koh Samui. Helping Leonardo Di Caprio rob people’s thoughts and being called ‘the architect’ is much more interesting than the final year of your degree, as Ellen Page finds out in Inception..
GYTT: It’s all about work experience people..