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New Silk Road Documentary

I took a role on a big documentary about the New Silk Road.

Train tracks at Khorgos Gateway
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It’s now official enough to start talking about a little: I’m now assisting with a big, seven part documentary series about the New Silk Road. It’s called The Best of All Worlds, and is being made by Malcolm Clarke, Yi Han, and Lorenz Knauer — big documentary film makers who have won numerous awards . . . like Oscars.

I was very familiar with the films that Yi Han in particular had worked on. As far as documentaries about China go, they are modern classics: The Last Train Home, China Heavyweight… Malcolm Clarke doesn’t need my introduction, and Lorez, well, he spends his time hanging out with Jane Goodall.

So I knew who they were when they first reached out to me 10 or so months ago — which is interesting because the only thing that I’d published about my New Silk Road project at that point was a blog post that simply stated that I was doing it. Apparently, one of their researchers found it and got in touch. I took that as a very good sign that their research team works with a very fine toothed comb.

It started out as a research partnership. We’d both be traveling the same routes researching the same thing for the next couple of years, so why not work together? I’d share my notes and contacts with them for their film and they’d share their notes and contacts with me for my book.

Then it grew from there. We talked a little. We talked some more. We met up in Montreal a few months ago. We went back and forth on my role. I was invited in to be a researcher. I asked if I could be included in the film. They said maybe.

Partially, I wanted to be in the film because it would be a good promotion for my book, partially because it sounded like fun, and partially because I’ve always told my wife that I was going to be featured in a documentary someday and she never believed me.

My official role is Senior Research Consultant. Basically, I do anything I can to help and hopefully there will be an opportunity or two to learn a few things along the way.

“You’re poor, that’s why you can do what you do,” Malcolm said to me at one point during our meeting in Montreal. “If we were to send someone out to do research like you’re doing it would cost a ridiculous amount of money. That’s why we need people like you.”

I don’t feel as if I’m being taken advantage of when I hear people say this. I’ve heard this often, and I know this is my wild card.

I can travel cheaper and stay longer than anybody. I don’t require an expense account. I don’t clip receipts and push for reimbursements. I fund myself because I have the means to make travel profitable. I can go anywhere, stay for as long as I want, live cheap, collect experiences, observations, information, and at the end of the day I usually have more money than when I started. Travel has transitioned from an expense to an investment. Each day on the road I’m acquiring something that I can resell at a higher price. This is my business, it’s my competitive advantage, it’s what I can offer that others can’t — it’s my way of being useful.

Filed under: New Silk Road Travel Notes, Travel Diary, Vagabond Journey Updates

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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