“Fear Regret. Live Today.” One Documentary Filmmaker’s Message to All College Students


Reese quit his job to travel the world and visited all seven continents. (PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL REESE)


“When you look in the mirror every day, do you see the person you always wanted to be or do you see someone else?” These are just some of the haunting and reflective words with which filmmaker and avid explorer of the world Michael Reese leaves his viewers in his film “I Fear Regret: A Personal Transformation.”

Before setting out on an 18.5-month journey across all seven continents, Reese led a quiet and ordinary life. He was following the same typical pattern that many of us believe our society dictates us to follow –graduate from college, get a job, settle down and form a family with a significant other, and work until retirement. The problem with this “normative” series of events is that it leaves barely any room for happiness, which just doesn’t seem to factor into the equation until after you’ve spent a good two-thirds of your life going through the motions. “This has never made a lot of sense to me because you can’t dictate the way that someone develops psychologically,” Reese said. “They have to do it on their own because everybody’s different.”

Reese didn’t want to go through the motions. The path he saw himself going down was not one that he wanted to pursue. He had crippling debt that he spent 10 years working at a cubicle job and sometimes even working second jobs in the evenings or weekends to pay off. Finally, he was able to pay off his student loans. Then Reese had the chance to create a more meaningful life for himself, and he decided to do so by traveling around the world.

“As I looked at the amount of pictures and videos I was accumulating, I realized that when I’m old and grey I don’t want to have to look over a hundred or two hundred thousand pictures and videos,” Reese admitted jokingly. “I wanted to find a way to condense it somehow.” The result, a 57-minute documentary, narrated by Reese, presents us with these beautiful pictures and video clips of the explorer’s voyage toward self-discovery. Interspersed with text every so often to provide information pertinent to a certain country being presented, we’re able to feel as if we too were on the trip with him, taking in all of the amazing scenery and anecdotes.

Traveling, however, is more than just photographs. Reese points out that the purpose of travel is to meet people and learn about their history and culture. The lessons one can learn abroad are invaluable, such as not to come to conclusions too quickly.

For example, images in the media that depict South America as being poorly developed are refuted once presented with the extensive transportation system present in the Colombian city of Medellín, which has two airports, a metro, a cable car and outdoor escalators. “Bus systems in South America are pretty efficient and well run, arguably better than most of what you’d see in the U.S.” Reese argued.

He also points out in his film that the cost of living in some South American cities is lower than that in North America. Compare the 25 cents it costs to ride on Cuenca transit to the $2.75 fare charged by the MTA for a single subway ride.

Other lessons inspired by the film include to focus on things that are larger than yourself, never pass up an opportunity to gain wisdom, no matter what the source, not to be afraid to tackle difficult or controversial issues, money not equating to happiness and to never take for granted the time you are given on this planet. “Don’t do the knee-jerk reflex that society tells you to,” Reese cautioned.

“Take the time to explore a little and take the less travelled road.” The filmmaker urges college students to do study abroad while they’re in college, and possibly even not to go into the working world right after college by taking a year off to travel or enroll in the army.

“Whatever you feel is necessary, whatever feels right,” he stated. “Don’t be pressured into doing something because that’s what society tells you to do. You gotta go with your gut.”

As far as traveling advice goes, Reese believes that a schedule isn’t necessarily required. “You just want to let it all kind of flow,” he stated. He also reminds us not be quick to pick a favorite.
    “Each place you go to has something special and unique about it, so if you ever get a chance to travel don’t compare, just enjoy each one for what it is,” Reese remarked. And if you’re worried about a language barrier, fear not. Even if you travel to an area where English isn’t spoken, you can still communicate through body language or hand signals. Worst comes to worst, you can just take out a paper and pen and draw something. Just make sure to talk to people.

“You have to have no fear at all. That’s the best way to go about it,” Reese reasoned.

Today, Reese is focusing on the one thing that he’s always had a tremendous passion for – film. The filmmaker loves being both on camera and behind it, and has just finished the first draft of his first feature film, which will be going around to film festivals. “I’m gonna set up all the pins, hope I bowl a strike, and continue playing the game,” he stated confidently.

Reese’s documentary “I Fear Regret: A Personal Transformation” is available for rent on his website, fearregret-livetoday.com, for $1.49, allowing access for 30 days and expiring 72 hours after you begin viewing it. Upon purchase of the rental, Reese will even e-mail you the Excel spreadsheet that he used to plan his trip around the world so that you, too, can get a start at planning yours.

Do you fear regret? If so, don’t just sit there. Get up and do something about it.