Michael Palin’s most recent collection of journal entries was published this past autumn. Travelling to Work: Diaries 1988-98, covers the ten-year period where Michael Palin began to make a name for himself as a world traveller. Up to this point, Mr. Palin was known mostly as a founding member of Britain’s influential and ground-breaking comedy troupe, Monty Python. In particular, he was familiar to many as the “straight man” in the famous “Dead Parrot Sketch” duelling with John Cleese. Why don’t we take a moment and enjoy a bit of the silliness again?
Life changed in 1989 when the BBC hired Palin for Around the World in 80 Days. The idea of this seven part series was that Michael Palin would try to recreate (as closely as possible) the route the fictional Phineas Fogg took to circumnavigate the globe in Jules Verne’s 1873 classic novel, and to see if it was actually possible to do the journey in 80 days. The show was a critical and popular hit for the BBC as well as Michael Palin, and it had everything I was into – adventure stories, a healthy dose of “route talk”, and a fair bit of absurdist humour. Palin was an affable host and a knowledgeable traveller. In many ways, it was proto-“reality TV”, predating “Survivor” by 10 years and “The Amazing Race” by 15. I remember tuning in every Sunday night with my family (when I was in high school) to see if he could actually get it done. I can still hum the theme song in my head. I don’t think I should spoil it for you, should I?
The success of Around the World in 80 Days opened the door for more travel adventures for Mr. Palin.
Pole to Pole (1991) saw Palin travel from the North Pole to the South Pole, down the section of the earth that has the greatest amount of semi-continuous land (Scandinavia, Europe/Asia and Africa).
Full Circle (1997) where Palin and crew travelled around the Pacific Rim, covering 50,000 miles over 10 months.
Michael Palin’s Hemingway Adventure (1999) in which Michael Palin tries to reconcile the myth and reality of one of America’s greatest writers in the centenary of his birth.
Sahara (2002) in which Palin visits 10 countries and territories that border on the Sahara desert.
Himalaya (2004) which covered a small amout of ground (only 3000 miles) but involved a lot of vertical climbing into the mountains, including a visit to the Everest Base Camp at 17,500 feet.
“New Europe” (2007) where Palin and company visit 20 countries that have emerged since the fall of communism and the subsequent breakup of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia in the 1990’s.
Brazil (2012) is the most recent of the Michael Palin travelogues. Brazil was one of the few countries that Palin hadn’t visited before, and this four part documentary looks at the people and places.
In addition to borrowing the linked items from WPL, you can also visit Michael Palin’s website to get more information about this remarkable man and his many adventures: http://palinstravels.co.uk/.