Which Way To is a documentary series that follows the Eagar brothers, Chris, Jeff and Steve as they set out to challenge our beliefs about some of the most inhospitable, forgotten, and often misrepresented places in the world.
A couple of years ago, the brothers decided to go on the family (brotherly) adventure of a lifetime to Wagah on the northern border of India and Pakistan. This area is considered inhospitable and rife with cultural tensions according to widespread media reports, but what the Brothers discovered on their never-before-attempted 3000 + kilometer auto rickshaw journey, was that despite the oppressive heat, relentless noise, intense monsoon rains, and exhaustion, that what they found at Wagah border was the exact opposite scenario of media reports and altered the course of their lives forever.
What the brothers witnessed was not a community torn apart by racial tensions or hostility at the borders, but rather two seemingly disparate nations – secular India and Muslim Pakistan – working together in a show-stopping border ceremony attended by hundreds of thousands of people, where each Nation is represented in colourful, almost tongue- in- cheek pageantry.
Back home in their respective countries of Australia, England, and Japan, the brothers came to the same conclusion – to give up their day jobs (lucrative careers in the financial sector) and instead decided to travel together to some of the most ‘misrepresented’ places on earth and see for themselves what the real situation was.
Since then, the brothers have traveled to more than 100 different countries collectively, often remote and unknown areas ranging from the familiar East Coast of Canada to Nicaragua, Iran, Pakistan, Nepal, Sahara Desert, the Sundarban Jungle, and many other fabulous locations covering six of the seven continents on earth. This original and entertaining series challenges everything you thought about travel. Many different countries, many different obstacles, and one constant: to show with unflinching determination the real story.
Season One of Which Way To… aired on OLN in Canada, and National Geographic International Channel in 200 countries around the world (excluding USA and UK) and was met with critical acclaim, including a nomination for Best Information/Lifestyle Documentary Award at the 2009 Gemini Awards. Season Two will follow the Eagars on their unique adventures in Nicaragua, England, Morocco, Nunavut, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Newfoundland.
What’s Goin On caught up with Chris, Steve and Jeff, who grew up in Cape Breton, and asked them about the series, traveling the world and starring in their very own television series.
WGO: How did this adventure start? How did the series come about?
Chris: For me, the seed was planted 30+ years ago when we were toddlers playing together as brothers. Then, after graduating from CBU in the mid 1990’s we each separately hit the road and started our global adventures. In 1997 we teamed up for our first major road trip across the entire continent of North America. From there the adventures just kept getting bigger and crazier up to the point that sharing them with the world just made sense.
Steve: It’s funny, as many people don’t know, but this adventure with Which Way to really started about 12 years ago. The boys and I have been traveling together for 12 years, and we decided it would be nice to be able to share our experiences of travel with other people. It took 5 years to get our first show televised, which was shot in India, but it was well worth the time and effort.
Jeff: The series started as a risky and bold extension to our 10-year sojourn around the world. After traveling together and living in different countries together for 10 years we decided to take our travels to a new level and try to make a TV documentary recording one of our trips. We knew that our traveling style was more hardcore and raw than most and figured the idea of three brothers was unique so we spent all our savings on TV equipment, flights to India and enough money to get us through a year of living on the road filming. We didn’t imagine that trip would turn into a three year struggle to produce our first TV documentary, and two full seasons.
WGO: What has the response to Season One been like?
Chris: The response to Season One has been a unanimously positive one. Many people expected a low quality home movie, but when they see our shows they are immediately impressed. OLN doesn’t give out ratings, but they did tell us that in December 2008 our series rated on par with the top shows on their network. Getting nominated for a Gemini was another great honour and a good indicator that people are enjoying Which Way To.
Steve: It’s always scary putting yourself out there for people to judge and criticize your actions, but we have been very lucky in the fact that Season One was well received. People who watched the show were very encouraging which was such a wonderful feeling. We had great feedback, which was fantastic as we produced the shows so that we could share our adventures with others. So it was nice to know those who watched the shows felt a part of the adventure and enjoyed it.
Jeff: We are pleased to say that people really loved Season One. They like the simple, organic style of our travel and the way we portray the true local culture of a place. Plus, the trips are mad and people love watching other people take risks and do crazy shit! Lots of street recognition in Toronto which fuels us to continue pushing our bodies to the limit. We appreciate the emails so keep them coming.
WGO: What happened on the ferry in the Philippines (in Season One, the ferry the boys were traveling on capsized and left them floating in shark-infested waters for a night before finally being rescued) and have you encountered many such situations (life threatening / security endangering rather than uncomfortable / inconvenient) on your travels? How does that affect the production of the show?
Chris: To be honest, it is extremely difficult to describe our boat accident in the Philippines; to be so close to death, clinging to an overturned boat for 13hrs through the night, then swim for 4 hrs to save yourself is a pretty crazy event to put into words. In addition, there are so many micro moments/events that happened during the ordeal … let’s just say that it will make a great movie.
When you travel like we do as much as we do it is impossible not to encounter dangerous situations. Fortunately we’ve only stared death in the face once, although we have knocked on its door quite a few times with corruption, bandits, sickness (malaria, dengue fever, carbon monoxide poisoning, MRSA, etc), and other tricky situations.
When on the road filming we try to take a more conservative approach and not take risks. We are responsible for our crew, rental gear, and deadlines so that definitely changes things.
Steve: The lads and I have been in a few threatening situations in our travels, but nothing compared to the boat accident in the Philippines. I have never been in a situation where I thought to myself, this could be it. It taught us a lot, and in some respects I am glad it happened as it really allows you to look deep inside yourself to discovery your true character when in a life and death situation. But in saying that, I would never want to be put in such a situation again, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Jeff: Because we travel without a support group or safety team there is a real risk of danger and death in our shows. The Philippines boat accident was the perfect example of how raw and authentic our trips are. When traveling in poor countries with terrible safety records and dangerous infrastructure, you always run the risk of a disaster happening; fortunately we were rescued by a fisherman and survived that frightening experience. Actually, it was my 36 birthday that night as we floated in the sea so it was especially difficult thinking you might die like that. A few other life threatening moments were when we got caught in a blizzard in the Arctic, nearly over-turned another ferry boat in a river in Bangladesh, had our bus nearly slide off the side of a mountain into a deep ravine in the Himalayas when traversing a landslide on the mountain road, and nearly drank ourselves to death on our pub crawl in England in Season Two!
WGO: What can we expect in Season Two?
Chris: I think the episodes in Season Two are a bit more polished than Season One. The adventures are equally exotic, but we have spent more time/money on post-production to produce an even higher quality end product.
Steve: I think Season Two is much better then Season One. Like anything, you learn as you go along, and season one was a big learning curve for us. In Season Two we drew upon our experiences of Season One, working on our strengths and weakness to produce a better series.
Jeff: Season Two is another collection of wild adventures that we are very excited about. Doing a two week trek into the forbidden Kingdom of Mustang on the Tibet border to visit the King was a rare and special trip, burying Eagar Bros. treasure way out in the Sahara desert, as well as a hard core 200 mile ski-doo trip through the inhospitable Arctic with the Canadian Inuit was unforgettable. Also, finishing off Season Two in NFLD was special for us because we are such true Maritimers. But, there are many little moments that will surprise viewers like our brotherly brawl in England, goat head stew in Morocco and surfing big waves in Nicaragua.
WGO: What impact is this adventure having on your lives?
Chris: Sometimes it’s a juggling act to keep our wives/partners/families in balance, but on the other hand it is just one big learning experience: culturally, professionally, geographically, and personally.
Steve: These adventures impact our lives in so many different ways. Like anything in life it’s a double edged sword. We are given the wonderful opportunity to learn so much about other cultures, people and places which is absolutely amazing and I think humbling, but at the same time you are away from your partners and homes for long periods of time which can be extremely difficult.
Jeff: The brothers and I have been traveling for so long together and doing such crazy adventures for so many years that this just seems normal for us; it’s our world. But, we never lose sight of how lucky we are and how privileged we are to be doing this. Traveling together is special and we can share these memories forever.
WGO: Which Way To “…set out to challenge our beliefs about some of the most inhospitable, forgotten, and often misrepresented places in the world.” How do you choose your locations? Who is the researcher? How is the final decision made?
Chris: We choose our locations based on places we’d like to go and what would make a great adventure. Since we own the production company producing the series, we wear many hats: hosts, researchers, assistant cameraman/sound, field director, etc. The final decision comes down to the funding network, but usually they are pretty excited about our ideas and fully supportive.
Steve: As Chris mentioned, the research all comes down to us. We choose the locations and work out the logistics for filming in the places we choose. And like all travel it has to be within a budget of course. For us we found out rather quickly that you have to be a jack-of-all-trades. The traveling is the easy bit, it’s the planning that is so time consuming and difficult. We soon discovered that each shoot had to be planned much like a military operation in order to be successful.
Jeff: The boys and I like to go to countries that people might normally avoid going to because of false images the media has created or because of lack of knowledge about a place. We like to try to show misrepresented people and cultures in a positive light and to travel to forgotten places within popular countries, such as Shikoku Island in Japan. We also like to travel to hard core locations like the Arctic and the Himalayas which people avoid because of the danger and physical effort require to go there.
The brothers and I choose and plan every adventure. All the trips are places we’d like to go to and adventures we’ve always wanted to do. Drinking beer while looking over a world map is one of the coolest parts of the job.
WGO: Which Way To… has aired on OLN Network in Canada, and National Geographic International Channel in 200 countries around the world (excluding USA and UK). Who brokers the international deals? How have personal lives changed as a result of this world-wide exposure? Any great opportunities result from it? Why have US/UK deals been elusive to this point?
Chris: So far we have been fortunate enough to avoid distribution agents and got by representing ourselves. We did get burned once with a producer we hired in our first season, but we’ve since gotten rid of her and found an even better replacement.
Personally, the world exposure hasn’t affected my daily life. I’m happy to live anonymously here in Australia. However when the 3 of us live in Toronto while working on the production, it is pretty common for us to get stopped by strangers when walking down the street. It is also nice getting supportive and inspirational fan mail, which is a pretty common occurrence.
A US/UK deal has been so elusive because it is something that we haven’t really focused on. Our primary goal is to produce top quality television. If we take care of this then distribution will take care of itself.
Steve: Our lives haven’t changed at all as a result of this world wide exposure. We are recognized occasionally, but it certainly isn’t like anyone is chasing us down the street. I think the biggest perk of the job is getting encouraging emails from people saying they enjoyed the show. It certainly isn’t a goal for us to become recognized, we simply wanted to be given the chance to share our adventures with others.
Jeff: Thus far, we have been our own distributors and brokers. We made the initial deal with OLN and followed it up by negotiating a deal with National Geographic. The biggest change from signing the deal with National Geographic was money! We spent three years of our own time and savings before signing on the dotted line with OLN, and then the National Geographic deal really rewarded us for all our patience, hard work and belief.
WGO: Growing up in Cape Breton as an influence: What influence has the laid back Cape Breton attitude that values the simple pleasures of life had on your approach to this adventure?
Chris: Growing up in a place like Cape Breton has had a profound influence on where we are now and this is something that we are extremely proud of. When you are surrounded by qualities such as determination, honesty, and sincerity during your development, it is bound to seep into your psyche.
Steve: I think the biggest influence Cape Breton has had on us is the importance of family and friends. The people on the Cape are very family-oriented and are always quick to help out and lend a hand. You are brought up surrounded by kindness, it’s a way of life on the Island and that goes a long way and opens a lot of doors when you travel.
Jeff: I think the heart of our television series is people. The world is a beautiful place, of course, but it’s the people that really stick with you when the trip is over. Cape Breton taught us how to be humble, happy fellas and has allowed us to communicate in a simple, friendly way with anyone anywhere whether it’s a Berber in the Atlas Moutains of Morocco or a Zen monk in the forest of southern Japan.
WGO: Is Cape Breton one of these “misrepresented” places – we are portrayed in the media as either a top tourist destination or a polluted, bankrupt and increasingly drug ridden and dysfunctional backwoods. Do most places you choose exist to some extent in a similar yin and yang duality?
Chris: Few places in the world are sheltered from the perils of society. These types of problems exist globally but unfortunately Cape Breton does often get a negative rep. One of the main focuses of our series is to be honest in what we portray to our viewers.
Steve: Definitely, one of the biggest reasons we wanted to share our adventures with others was to dispel such misrepresentation of places. We have often felt that some places and people aren’t shown in the right light, and we try to use the shows to dispel these thoughts. I think the thing I have learned from travel is that no matter what country we are in, or what culture or religion people are, they all want the same thing, and that is to be happy.
Jeff: We all have our struggles and problems, and every place has its blemishes. The media does a great job in focusing on the negative in the world, it’s what sells best. So the brothers and I like to focus on the positive side of the planet, it’s more fun. People are generally all the same everywhere, and just want to get as much happiness and enjoyment out of life as they can. If you go looking for beauty it’s easy to find. It’s everywhere.
WGO: How have travels abroad and travels within Canada changed your perspective of this country?
Chris: My experiences and travels have strengthened my belief that countries like Canada are among the best in the world. The standard of education, health care, and general living are second to none. Spending long periods of time in places like India makes me appreciate the simplicities in life such as fresh running water, a bed, a fridge full of food, etc.
Steve: The more we travel the more we appreciate home. Canada is an amazing country and so diversified. I have been to over 60 countries and one of the most unique experiences I have had was up North with the Inuit people. It was like a different country all together; I absolutely loved the people and their culture. That’s what I love about Canada, you can experience many different cultures without even leaving your home soil. I really feel you don’t have to travel around the world to gain worldly knowledge. Oftentimes you can find it in your own back yard if you are open to new experiences.
Jeff: The brothers and I have a special holiday we made up in India 11 years ago. It’s called Bang 7 and we celebrate it every year on June 7th (eagarbros.com/Bang 7). We created it because we saw so much struggle and poverty on our travels and realized how fortunate we were to be born in Canada. Bang 7 is about never getting too caught up in the race that you forget just how lucky we are.
WGO: Are Canadians as lucky as we think or have we traded something in exchange for our security and comforts? Is it possible to overly romanticize the lives those in “underdeveloped ” countries lead?
Chris: I think people should be happy to live in Canada. Sure it has negative aspects, but on average the standard of living is so high that one shouldn’t complain. If you don’t believe this then go spend some time in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ethiopia, or a majority of the other countries around the globe and you’ll soon realize how lucky you are.
Steve: Yes, I truly believe Canadians are very fortunate. It is a clean, peaceful country with so many benefits. I think we often take things for granted living in Canada. When you have the opportunity to visit “underdeveloped” countries you really appreciate all we have been provided with in Canada. But I am certainly not associating that with material things. Many people in the countries we have visited have had nothing but are truly happy.
Jeff: If you’ve ever been to a slum in Bangladesh, a poor village in Honduras or a communist town in Myanmar then you will truly understand the struggle it is to survive in those places. Sure, there is beauty in all those places and they have families and laughter, but it is hard to enjoy life when you are hungry, scared or oppressed.
For more information on Which Way To… or to buy merchandise, including the complete Season One dvd, visit http://www.whichwayto.tv/ or http://www.oln.ca/details.php?id=47. And be the first one to comment on this article to win a free copy of the Season One dvd.