Call it wanderlust or stark raving bonkers, but two young men — a filmmaker and a chef — took a chance and embarked on a journey from Italy to Singapore that spanned eight months of their lives.
It wasn’t a simple backpacking trip for Cameron Starr and Guglielmo Sartor. The nomadic duo brought their respective skills to the table in their efforts to craft a multimedia project called The Pilgrim Cookbook.
It’s part cookbook, part journal, and part travel guide. Starr filmed the lives and stories of the people they met in the intercontinental quest, while Sartor cooked for them, collecting recipes at the same time. Already, their documentaries can be watched on their YouTube page, with each video profiling the bearings they both find themselves in.
After months of being on the road, their nomadic journey came to a (temporary) stop in May when they reached our shores. We managed to catch up with them before they went off to their next adventure — a trip back to Milan.
Here’s what transpired.
Hello, hello, introduce yourselves! Guglielmo and Cameron, what were you doing before all this?
Guglielmo Sartor: I was living the life of a cook. Exploring life from the most colourful angles. I’ve been sharpening my skills across Europe for the past few years, but settled back down in Italy to help open a restaurant and get this trip rolling.
Cameron Starr: I was a freelance filmmaker, looking for ways to travel and pursue my craft at the same time. I managed to wrap a few projects that were, frankly, out of my league, and banked the money for this trip. I knew I had to make it happen.
How did the idea for this trip come about? Why did the both of you feel strongly about it?
Mainly just talking shit over Skype, trying to break out of our lives and do something new. We had met on the road years ago. There was an immediate spark, a spark that grew into the fire that’s fueling this adventure. It’s hard to explain, but when you meet someone who shares your dreams, those dreams become more real. And so between us, this idea took life. We took our passions (cooking and storytelling), put them together and put them in motion. The trip itself, the experiences we gathered along the way, that’s what gave it shape.
Why choose Singapore as the end goal?
We knew they (Singaporeans) spoke English. We knew they had great food. But most importantly, we knew it was on the other side of the world. So really, it’s what we didn’t know that was the most appealing part.
How exactly did you get from Milan to Singapore?
We left Italy in September, and spent the better part of three months rambling around the Mediterranean. It was idyllic, island hopping and trekking along coast lines, seeing some of the most beautiful scenes of this entire voyage. Then we reached Istanbul and the crux of our adventure — how to reach the East.
After a month of careful planning, we took a train to Bulgaria at the last minute and continued to transfer from one line to another until we eventually found ourselves on the Trans Siberian Railway… in January. This is how we ended up on the other side of the world, collecting stories and recipes from China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand (which we will not speak of). We arrived in Singapore on May 7th. Almost eight months to the day after leaving Italy. And it seems the journey has just begun.
But If you’d like a more accurate trip log, please consult our map at GHaus.net.
Okay, I just did. What is it exactly?
GHaus was actually one of the first ideas that got this project moving. G-mo was really passionate about making this website to connect people through their passions, and map the entire process. So he spent a few years trying to develop the platform from Milan, but I mean, it’s a map — it needed to be explored. So we used this trip to beta test the platform and chart our own adventure.
You guys also have this project called The Pilgrim Cookbook…
It was meant to explore the relationship between the two most ancient forms of communication — food and storytelling. It’s also a way to engage all the senses and inspire readers to reconnect with the physical world, by cooking and travelling. We hope to have it published on paper next spring and enhance it with some cool digital elements.
Shoot us with some crazy stories from the road.
I think the soul of a place comes out in the most unexpected moments, like it’s reacting instinctually. So here are five random acts of kindness we’ve experienced.
We were having a rough time getting our work done, and there was a lot to be done, what with broken devices, stolen devices, and bad luck like that. But one night we met a stranger, who just surprised the hell out of us and said we could crash at his AirBnB apartment for the next two weeks, for free. We kept expecting the other foot to drop, but it never did. It was just awesome. I love Turkey.
Our visa was limited to one month, so we really had to figure out our game quick and get Chinese visas, or else we’d basically have to turn back. That’s how we ended up at the underground Chinese embassy on Christmas morning, desperate to get the paperwork on time. And guess what, they didn’t take cash, and there were 10 minutes left before they closed until the next year. So I basically got down on one knee and asked this old Chinese man if I could use his card. He didn’t speak English, but he figured it out, and he saved our whole trip.
Russia / China
When we arrived in Vladivostok one freezing morning, we were still trying to get the heck out of Russia before our visas expired. We had until midnight to find a way to get to China, and we had no clue. We met a women named Natasha, who must have sensed our dire situation and decided to help us. She must have been a mother, because she called off work and literally took us across the city to the one bus that would get us where we needed to go. She took a picture of each of us and sent us off with kisses and a smile.
We ended up on this little Island called Binh Hung. There, we found a beautiful beach covered in trash. So we decided to camp out and clean the place up. One day I was in the village, looking to borrow a shovel. That’s when I met this man named Viet, a chicken farmer. He gave us his tools, and not only that, he decided to also give us breakfast, lunch and dinner for three days. Wouldn’t take no for an answer! Didn’t speak any English, of course. But he showed us some of the greatest generosity we’ve ever experienced.
We were in Bangkok during the Songkran festival. But after a few days of non-stop water gun battles, we were beat and broke. Gmo and I were sitting on a back street, when this silver-haired man pulled up on his scooter. He looked like a combination of a pirate and a wizard. He struck up a conversation with us, bought us a couple beers and spilled some knowledge. He then made the decision that we were supposed to have a great time, so he took us to a dance hall we couldn’t afford, paid our entrance fee and told us to enjoy ourselves. And, well… we did. The floors were covered in water and we danced in it all night. We made new friends and the party went on for days and days.
Nice. Since you’ve reached Singapore, what have you guys been up to?
We’re working like fiends. But it’s good work. We’ve been given a residency at The Working Capitol as a platform to do fundraising for our next project. The Working Capitol seems to revolve around the principle of taking a vision and turning it into reality, and that’s exactly what we need. So we’re trying to use the space in new ways and stimulate the community with a series of videos and events that will track our journey.
The people here are simply wonderful. The diversity of knowledge, support and spirit is the most valuable thing we will take away from our experience here. To quantify this, we’ve opened an Indiegogo campaign and are accepting support to our next adventure.
Yeah, we saw your crowdfunding campaign to build an actual tuk tuk that’s also a food cart and a production studio.
It’s madness. But it makes total sense. Tuk Tuk + Kitchen = Food-Tuk.
So we’re going to drive this little Food-Tuk across the largest continent on earth. We want to explore parts of the world that are forgotten: Cultures, traditions, stories, recipes. We want to preserve these, and hopefully bring them back from the edge of oblivion.
Once you’re back in Milan, what’s next?
More. We’re going to wrap up this leg of our journey and publish what we’ve found along the way. It might come in the form of a book, or a movie, or a TV series, or all three. Meanwhile, we’re going to upgrade our vehicle for the next adventure, so we can go further than before, and bring more of you along with us.