“Places might get boring, but they don’t hurt you.” Many of us love traveling. But how far will we go if we are challenged to live the moment to the fullest while we travel? Alex Burunova takes us on a travel writer’s trip to Barcelona where she dares her belief that love always has an expiration date.
Lonely Planet follows Julia (Nadine Nicole Heimann) on her trip to Barcelona where she meets Pau (Roger Batalla), a charming curly Catalan who challenges her fear to love. Julia is a travel writer for a tourist guidebook and she doesn’t like visiting the same place twice because life is too short as she says. Until she meets Pau. Pau on the other side believes that if life is too short then he’d like to spend it with people he loves as much as he can. So he challenges Julia to live her 3 months in Barcelona to the fullest, that is by spending it with him.
In the movie, we can see that Julia has some commitment issues. Before she flies to Barcelona, she’s on duty in London. Deleted photos, rejected phone calls, and shed tears indicate that she left London with disappointment. So Julia arrives in Barcelona with a mindset that she doesn’t want any attachment. Because no feelings mean no disappointment and it means no heartbreak.
The topic of traveling and meeting somebody while traveling is easier to relate to nowadays as it’s easier to travel now. We also live in an era where it is easier to meet new people, whether it’s fellow tourists or the locals. There are websites like Couchsurfing and apps that help you find people nearby or even dates, like Tinder. Technically opening more doors to romantic experiences. But how far will we go if we are given that chance?
Personally, as a female and a travel enthusiast, I can relate to Julia’s situation. At least to the feeling of attracted to someone I met on my trip. But I cannot deny that no matter how fearless I went, there have always been some what ifs.
We are aware that if we take a further step, there will be more efforts needed. We are also aware that most things don’t last and feelings change just like people do. This awareness often makes us feel uncertain and insecure about whether or not the person is worth the efforts. We then ended up building walls inside us against taking those chances. We don’t fear to love. We love to be in love. It’s a beautiful feeling. What we fear is the possibility that things will not turn out as we want it to be.
These issues inspired Alex Burunova to create Julia. Through Lonely Planet, Burunova tries to tell us that to find happiness we must put aside our fears and live our lives to the fullest. Heimann makes an excellent cast for Julia. Heimann successfully shows Julia’s vulnerability and allows us to feel her worries through her acting. Burunova perfectly captures the good chemistry between Heimann and Batalla, and portrays them into a 24-minutes romance (which feels like 10). Romantic scenes of Julia and Pau traveling around Barcelona, including dancing and kissing in front of the Barcelona Magic Fountain of Montjuïc (Font Màgica) with beautiful music by Nico Casal in the background, are enough to make us want to book a ticket to Barcelona and fall in love.
I (E) talked to Alex Burunova (A) about the movie. She shared the story behind Lonely Planet and her views on how we should overcome the issues that prevent us from living life to the fullest.
E: First question, where did the idea come from? Was it someone’s or maybe even your personal experience?
A: Partially. The idea came from one summer. I was traveling in Spain for four months and it was a weird time in my life where I was really unhappy. I didn’t make any film out of film school. Then, here I am in Spain, everybody’s just enjoying their lives. You know, Spanish people, they have the appetite for life. They’re singing, dancing, eating late, drinking wine, everybody’s drinking all the time and they’re enjoying their lives. I was thinking, “Wow these people really know how to live.” They’re enjoying each moment as it comes, and although it was a time when recession just started in Spain and people were affected by it, they didn’t let it get to them. They didn’t really let it touch them. So, there was this whole jovial atmosphere in the air.
Also, at the time I was starting to study Buddhism and I was thinking, “Wow these people really know how to live in the moment and not really worry about tomorrow or yesterday. Just in the moment.” So, I started thinking about a Buddhist theory, that if everything ends then the love will end, so why don’t people love in the moment. So, the story came from drinking in Spain basically and then we developed it with Ignacio Rodó into a love story.
E: So that’s also why you chose Barcelona?
A: Absolutely. There are probably three reasons that I can list. One is that it’s just the most beautiful romantic city and I fell in love with it. I just wanted to make anything in Barcelona because it’s just wonderful. It has this old traditional romantic part and it has all this new cool hip part. Two, because of the recession, shooting there was going to be really cheap. So I talked to Ignacio, he was a producer and director in Barcelona, and it was a quarter of the price that it would cost here. Three, obviously we wanted to make a film with Ignacio and he was in Barcelona so it had to happen there.
E: In the movie, we can see that Julia met a guy when she was in London and we can assume that there were some feelings involved. So, I was wondering, is it something that always happens to Julia every time she travels: go to one place, meet somebody, feel attached, leave, and then repeat?
A: Oh for sure, yes. The way we develop her character is that she goes from place to place. She says she never visits the same place twice. So if you think about it, she can’t possibly date a person for a long time because she never comes back to the same place. So she would have to date a different person every time.
E: What will happen to Julia next then?
A: It’s up to you. I want every audience member to interpret it their own way and it was important for me because I’m so tired of standard Hollywood endings. I wanted to leave this open-ended and depends on what you think should happen. That’s what happens.
E: I think Julia story has happened to many other people. Do you have any advice especially for women who are currently going through Julia’s situation? Because you know, if Julia decided to go on with Pau then it would take a lot more compromises and maybe even more commitment.
A: You have to live it up. You have to do it at least once. I think deep emotional connections are so rare that wherever it happens and however it happens, you have to pursue it. You have to see it through and see what happens. Don’t over analyze it. Don’t think about tomorrow. Like, “Oh how is it going to be when I have to go home?” Don’t worry about it. Things will work out the way they’re supposed to. You can’t get caught up in your fears because they will prevent you from living your life to the fullest. You just have to surrender to the moment when it comes to love as well. Follow your heart, really.
E: Now, about yourself. If you’re given limited time to live, do you think you’d be more of a Julia who wants to see as much as you can or would you be more of a Pau who’ll spend it with people you love as much as you can?
A: Definitely more of a Julia right now, for sure.
E: Why is that? I thought you would be more of a Pau.
A: The character, I based it on myself because you write what you know usually. If any director tells you the character is not based on them, they’re lying. Even any of Woody Allen’s characters. Any character, there’s like a part of them that is the writer or the director or whoever developed the story. I have this really serious wanderlust; I can’t sit in one city for more than two months. It drives me crazy. I can’t explain it, it’s like a disease. It feels like something really bad is going to happen if I don’t get on a plane immediately. It’s like an inverse phobia. So before I went to Spain, I had this feeling like if I don’t leave, if I don’t go to Spain, something terrible is going to happen. It’s weird it keeps me going from place to place. So yeah, I try to live my life to the fullest and try to see and do as much as I can and then one day I’ll graduate and be like Pau and spend more time with people that I love. But right now it’s hard.
E: So you see it as a stage of life?
A: I do definitely. I think at some point I’ll get sick of traveling and I’ll want to settle down and be in one spot.
E: Do you think there’s an expiration date for love?
A: For sure. Like I know and I accept that I’m gonna die. I don’t know when, but it’s gonna happen. So if I’m gonna die, my lover’s gonna die as well. So even if I get one of those romances that “till death do us apart,” it still has an expiration date. So once we accept the expiration date, we’re more likely to appreciate that person more and take them for who they are and try not to change them.
E: I think what happens to many people is that we have trust issues, we fear to love, well basically we fear to have another disappointment, what do you think of this?
A: I think now it’s an epidemic. Because, the divorce rate, at least in America, is like 50%. The highest it’s ever been. So people are growing up seeing that marriage doesn’t work, love doesn’t work, and so everyone has commitment issues these days. And you know, the commitment issues, they come out of fears. Fear of getting disappointed, fear of being in love, whatever it is. And fear is what prevents us to live to the fullest and enjoy things. To me, fear is a number one enemy of happiness. If you can put those fears behind, we can actually find happiness, and this has been the message of the film. So Julia has commitment issues, obviously, and it’s a film about overcoming these issues really. In a very settle, non-intellectual way.
E: What would you tell people to overcome their fears?
A: Oh it’s a tough one. For me, it is making this movie. But for other people, hopefully, people will meet someone who gets them so excited that they’ll forget to be scared for a second. Other than that, my advice is to write a book, or write a screen or make a short film about commitment issues then you’ll understand.
E: Yeah, I actually just got an advice from a friend that I should write about my problems because by writing it will be easier for you to see the other side of the problem.
A: He’s absolutely right. Every film I do, I’m like working through some kind of an issue. Because when you create a character, you can base it on yourself, you can base it on your experience and your story, and then you separate it, and then it’s Julia or another person. Then you have to dramatize it, and then you have to add more flare and colors and more circumstances so the audience can see this person’s problems better. That’s when it’s no longer you. So you can see how would a person with commitment issues act. Okay, they would go to different cities, they’d delete the photos, and they’d not pick up the phone, and then you think, “Oh I kinda do that.” You work through your issues, and through creating this new character you can object to see what the problem is and how to fix it. So I think, every film I’ve planned right now deals with something.
E: Last question, what will be your next project?
Right now I’m prepping a feature film that will be set in India. It’s about a film director who goes to India, almost ruins her cousin’s wedding, gets kidnapped, and meets the Dalai Lama. All within 24 hours, it’s a comedy.
Traveling is a great way to discover, and through traveling, we learn to go beyond our boundaries and fears. Traveling isn’t all about visiting new places. Because traveling is part of discovery, and discovery doesn’t consist of seeking new places but in seeing with new eyes. Julia says places might get boring but they don’t hurt you. True. But often times, it’s the people who make the places exciting, even the boring ones.
In the end, whatever your decision is, may it reflects your hopes and not your fears.
Alex Burunova is a director, writer, and producer. She directs fashion videos and commercials. Lonely Planet is her first short film and recently it’s selected as one of the three Best Films of the Month by Short of the Week. Her latest short, Pale Blue just won an award for the Best Showcase Short Film at the SoHo International Film Festival.
Author/Editor: Elsa Hestriana Co-Editor: Ryan Forrest Photo Credit: Kirill Ignatieff