118_tracksI want so badly to see this movie, Tracks. I don’t even remember how I came across it; maybe I was watching previews of new movies online or something. But it doesn’t seem to be playing anywhere nearby. I’ve just finished reading this wonderful interview with Robyn Davidson, the woman whose journey is depicted in Tracks (and who wrote the book of the same title).

The worst part about incognito windows is the whole point of them: you can’t look up what pages you’ve been on! Just spent forever trying to find this other interview I read earlier of photographer Rick Smolan about the experience (he was sent by National Geographic to document the journey). Some parts I liked:

We had a thought-provoking conversation on my third visit. Robyn hadn’t seen anyone for several weeks and as we sat by the campfire she suddenly demanded: “When are you going to get here?” I remember wondering if she was losing her mind and said: “Robyn, I’m sitting here right across from you.” She stared at me and said: “No, you’re not. You are worrying about the film from your Taiwan assignment and where you are going to drop your car in two weeks when you leave me, and whether your photo is going to be on the cover of Time next week. You show up out here and then you are everywhere else but here. If you’re going to come, then be here with me and not lost in your head the whole time!”

And this:

Throughout the trip I kept encouraging Robyn to keep a journal so that she could one day write a book about it. Her response was predictable: “Why do you have to turn everything into a product that can be packaged and marketed and sold? Why can’t you just experience something for its own sake and not be constantly thinking of how you are going tell your friends all about it?”

Three years after she finished her journey Robyn called to tell me she had written a book about the trip. I was stunned and asked if she wanted a copy of my journals. She politely declined but sent me a draft to read.

I remember two things about my initial reading of Tracks. The first was being stunned at what a powerful writer Robyn was; how I was hypnotized by the story, sucked completely into her world. The second was that while most of
 us have memories like sedimentary layers, with the most recent memories on top and fresh while older memories are faded and compressed, Robyn had an extraordinary ability to remember every day of the trip as if it were happening in real time.

Without any journal or notes she had conjured up and brought to life the tiniest details, sounds, smells, emotions, verbatim conversations, reflective observations, even the patterns small insects had made in the sand. I called her at her home in London and asked how on earth she had been able to recreate the trip with such verisimilitude. She chided me: ‘Because I was there. While you were snapping away and thinking about f-stops and underexposing half a stop to increase the saturation of your film and scribbling away in your journals, I was letting myself experience every moment.’

She was right. While I was always filtering the experience, she allowed herself to actually experience every moment of the trip, the pain and the wonder.

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