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'Roadtrip' film makes own path

Roadtrip Nation's Mike Marriner is seen here in "The Open Road," a documentary that works as a companion "Roadtrip Nation," the book.
By Lisa Schumaier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 20, 2003
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Marriner documents non-conformists

Mike Marriner is surfing the waves of life. Born and raised in Laguna Beach, this Pepperdine grad knew there was more out there than was being offered. So, he founded a movement called "Roadtrip Nation" and embarked across the country to interview tons of people in all professions. Years after that summer, he still remains true to the project's grassroots. He is picky about sponsorship. He is putting other students on the road. He gave me a hug. Friday, after talking with him on campus, it felt like he had met more than 200 amazing, successful and happy people. There is a reverence to him. This is the kid everyone wants to play with, but he also has an important message, and he is getting that message out one tank of gas after another.

Wildcat: Did you feel like you had to answer to people more than you wanted, since you were funded on the first trip?

Marriner: The most important thing for us was that the message was pure. We didn't compromise any of the words in the book. Yes, we definitely compromised the design (of the book) but at the end of the day, that was the most superficial thing. To have any impact in the world, I think you have to work with the system. You need to know how to make the system work for your mission. Our mission is to help young people get exposed to what's out there so they don't have to conform. If you don't know that you can be a stylist for Madonna or start your own juice company or be a lobsterman off the coast of Maine and be completely happy, then you're going to go to law school, because you simply don't know what else to do. Our focus is simple. If you try to do too much, you don't really do anything.

Wildcat:Did you interview anyone who was not happy with their job?

Marriner: Yes, and it's almost more powerful because you don't want to end up like that. Even though this guy has more money than I will ever have in my life and doesn't have any school loans, he is so hollow behind his eyes. In our interviews, we ask them to look back on their life; it is very retrospective. As they walk through it, they realize they've sold out and it's like, you see their whole life fall apart right in front of them.

Wildcat: Are you closer to finding your path?

Marriner: Yeah, actually. I don't think you have to find it, as in, know what you want to do with your life when you're 22 years old. I don't know if you ever really do. It is more a matter of having a really good internal compass that makes you stay true to yourself. So, I found my compass, and I've become really passionate about writing.

Wildcat:What does the R.V. begin to smell like after awhile?

Marriner: (without thinking) My socks.

Wildcat:Do people try to label "Roadtrip Nation" as a sort of Road Rules?

Marriner: We always say we're the anti-Road Rules. There is a reason we are not on MTV. There is a reason why the students we select have to apply in groups of three.

Wildcat:You interviewed some pretty big names in the book. Would you ever consider interviewing housemaids, for example?

Marriner: Totally. If there was one thing we could have done differently it would have been to pick a balance of Lobstermen vs. Michael Dells. We did 85 interviews and only 30 are in the book. Because when you see his name, you only think it's about corporate CEOs. But even Michael Dell has the same sort of story. His parents were trying to get him to go to Med School and he said, "Fuck it; I like computers" and drops out of college. That is the template thing. You have noise from society telling you who to be and what to do with your life and then the ability of those people to block it and listen to yourself.

Wildcat:Was there some backlash about all the sponsorship you received?

Marriner: As long as you can use the resources to get the stuff out wider, the point is impact. You need to keep your eye on the ball. The focus needs to be impacting our generation. It's really hard because corporate America is not a friendly place. They will try to rape your project. There's no Coca-Cola taste-testing station outside. We are still to traveling the country offering this to our generation. It's still pure.

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