Leon Logothetis was doing fine, at least outwardly. He had a good job as a broker, a car and a nice flat in London, a loving family. What he didn’t have was inner peace or happiness; he led a shallow existence with no true emotional connection to anyone or anything. After an existential crisis sparked by watching the movie The Motorcycle Diaries, he decided something had to change—radically. He decided that travel, like Che Guevara in the movie, would be the key. “To keep from falling into my old habits of isolation, I would travel in such a way that I would be forced to connect with others,” he writes in the introductory chapter of his memoir Amazing Adventures of a Nobody. (p. xviii) So he concocted a plan—he would shed his car, cell phone, apartment, email, and most of his clothes, and travel from New York to the Hollywood sign in LA relying entirely on the kindness of strangers. He wouldn’t accept money, but only offers of rides and places to sleep.
I wouldn’t have thought this would work, but it did. He might have been helped by the fact that he had a film crew along, although they didn’t get involved and weren’t allowed to help—he just wanted this journey documented. They definitely stay in the background, but I can’t help but wonder if that helped people take him seriously.
And along the way, Leon has some amazing adventures. People offer him rides, put him up overnight, buy him train tickets, and dump him on the side of highways. He “earns” his night in a frat house in Virginia by streaking to the middle of campus and kissing a statue; he has one woman toss him her keys and tell him that if he can find a way to Chicago, he can stay at her place—she won’t be home till the following day. He stays, for free, in a scary dive in New Mexico with blood on the door and drunken brawls going on next door, and he crosses downtown Indianapolis in the dark on his own, on his way to a Marriott hotel where an elderly woman he met on a train is waiting for him with a bag full of homemade cookies. He attends a party where the hostess wanders the rooms scantily-dressed with a sword over her head, looking for virgins willing to be sacrificed. He meets some honest, God-fearing Americans mid-country, who offer him rides and spare bedrooms, who take him home for barbecues and impromptu parties. He also meets a lot of people on the fringes, like Karen/Cinnamon/Barbara, who constantly changes her name and checks hotel rooms to see if they’ve been bugged by the CIA. Along the way he receives news that his blood-pressure is dangerously high and he’s borderline diabetic. He passes out in Las Vegas, only to come to in an ambulance.
He makes it to the Hollywood sign and a new lease on life. Honeycombed through the book’s chapters are the lessons he’s learning; about connections, community, and a desire to give back from the overflow of all that he’s received. Along the way, his future becomes clear; he decides to stay in LA and work in the film industry and he succeeds. He’s now TV producer and writer, and 3 seasons of Amazing Adventures of a Nobody were aired on the National Geographic Channel. Perhaps a slightly different outcome to Che Guevara’s life-changing trip through South America, but intriguing none-the-less.
Elizabeth can relate to the fact that travel can change your life, although her reaction to “The Motorcycle Diaries” was much less book-worthy. Read more at her blog Planet Nomad.