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When McGill students and couple Mike Wagman, 22, and Laura Morris, 21, faced the daunting prospect of graduation last spring, they found themselves in something of a bind. Like countless other impending grads, they had only the vaguest idea of what the future held for them. So they did the one thing that seemed logical: they went on a road trip.
Along with Coby Shuman, Wagman's 21-year-old Concordia business student roommate, the trio applied for a grant from Road Trip Nation, a California organization whose Behind the Wheel program sponsors groups of university students to travel around the continent in an RV to interview leaders in almost every field imaginable. The point is to ask them for career and life advice. The end product is a documentary, book and blog. The entire odyssey will be converted into a 12-episode series to air on PBS. As the first Canadian team to take part, Wagman, Morris and Shuman will be sharing their experience with McGill students at next week's Canada Career Week, presented by the Career and Placement Service.
They started in North Carolina, and made stops in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Whistler and San Francisco before ending in Los Angeles. Along the way they spoke to famed architect Richard Meier, DC superlawyer Richard Bennett, former Colorado congresswoman Pat Schroeder and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, among others.
Meeting the Ottawa-born Carter was, says Morris, somewhat bizarre. "He had this reputation of being this really scary figure," she says. "But he was pretty cool. He had this absolutely pristine, meticulous and huge office, and all the women who worked there were immaculately dressed."
Carter's advice, however, was unusual, given the source. "He said our generation was too wealth- and fame-obsessed," says Morris.
But not everyone they met was among the high and mighty. After walking out of Bennett's Washington DC office — "Literally steps away from the White House," says Wagman — they stumbled upon a homeless pair who, it turned out, were politically active advocates for homeless people's rights. The trio decided to do an interview on the spot.
"We were trying to be as open as we could," says Wagman. "Basically, we'd interview anyone we saw who was interesting and let them tell their story."
The project is now in the editing stage. In the meantime, Toronto-born Shuman will complete his BComm next year, and hopes to get into the food, but not restaurant, business. Wagman is living in his native Toronto and will put his humanistic studies degree to good use at an as-yet-undetermined law school. Morris, also in Toronto, is working at a boutique strategy consulting firm. None of them has set plans — "I've given myself permission to say I don't completely know what I want to do yet," says Morris — but all have the confidence and momentum that comes with having had a life-changing experience.
The three will speak with Road Trip Nation co-founder Mike Marriner on Tuesday, November 1, at the Faculty Club Ballroom (3450 McTavish) from 4:30 to 7:30 pm. For their blog, see www.spaces.msn.com/members/roadsidereflections