The following blog post comes from Benjamin Prawer and Jesse Swedlund, who are behind the documentary, Ty’s List.
About three years ago, my friend Tyler Lorenzi died in a sailing accident on the Chesapeake Bay.
Ty’s death devastated me, but I took solace in knowing that he lived his 23 years on Earth to the fullest. He adventured constantly, exposed himself to new people and ideas, immersed himself in nature, and saw all the unique parts of the world that he could. After his death, his life philosophy came into sharp focus for me, inspiring me to change my own life.
Three days after Ty’s death, I opened my inbox to find an email from a friend. The email contained a list written by Ty of all his favorite things to do in his hometown of San Francisco. Some of the things on this list: Climbing Mt. Tamalpais at sunset, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, and finding the best burrito in the city.
Here, in front of me, was a piece of Ty that embodied his adventurous spirit. Without knowing what to expect (and relying on my background as a film major in college), I decided to make a documentary about Ty with this list at the center of it all.
To explore Ty’s dynamic way of life, I invited three of his friends from different chapters of his life to the Bay Area for one week with Ty’s list in hand. And so, Ty’s List began.
Traveling for Ty was not just an activity, it was a mentality, and, over the course of filming, each documentary subject embodied this mentality in his or her own way. Ty’s List showed us that there seems to be a spectrum of travel planning.
On one side of this spectrum, you have those who spend months planning a trip. Everything is pre-booked and every hour on the itinerary is accounted for. On the other side are those who book plane tickets spontaneously, with just vague ideas of how their stories might unfold.
Ty fit more on the spontaneous side of the spectrum. He wasn’t much of a planner. He was known for befriending the strangers he sat next to on airplanes—every fellow passenger had the potential to be his new travel buddy. He had the same approach to meeting new people in a new place. Every local had the potential to be his personal guide.
Yes, our San Francisco trip hinged on a list, but soon Ty’s love of trying new things—of not planning—became as much a part of the list as the items themselves. The adventures started to come to us. We sang on a street corner with a stranger and went sailing with someone we had just met. Our openness led us to new people, new perspectives, and renewed spirits. Through exploring the items on Ty’s list and examining the way Ty lived his life, we discovered that travelers truly can let trips author our stories, instead of the other way around.
One of the most incredible experiences we had happened at Coit Tower, where we went for the amazing views of the city. After reaching the top, we met two strangers, Laura and Rose. We soon came to realize that they were out-of-towners who had come to the city for a memorial service. Rose’s friend had recently died—much like we were, she, too, was grieving. When we found out that Laura and Rose were running low on cash and had yet to rent a hotel room, we did what we thought Ty would have done and invited them to stay with us. We had a great night with them—drinking wine and exchanging stories. We decided to put ourselves out there with Laura and Rose, and trust them. It paid off.
The next time you plan a trip, consider your story as yet unwritten. You never know what crazy, unplanned adventures you might get yourself into. As Ty wrote in one of his journals, “For what is life but a beautiful trip, to let your mind run wild, and just tick, tick, tick.”