Couple Shares Road Trip Experiences at GSE

Six years after embarking on a year-long roadtrip across America, Shane M. and Amy E. Bugbee set out on another—this time, to Harvard.

Partially funded by strangers on crowdsourced fundraising website www.gofundme.com, the married couple drove from Oregon to Cambridge in April to participate in several events at the Graduate School of Education this week.

Speaking before a small audience in Larsen Hall Tuesday evening, the Bugbees recounted how their first low-budget roadtrip across America helped turn their cynicism into optimism.

They said they decided to leave Ely, Minn. in 2007, after receiving death threats and anonymous letters falsely claiming they were satanists. Packing only $180, a dog, a turtle, a laptop, and a camera in their car, the disillusioned Bugbees embarked on their journey.

While on the road, the couple filmed a series of video interviews mostly with strangers they met in their travels. In those interviews, the Bugbees asked their subjects questions about politics, art, religion, and revolution, and also queried their subjects about what they believed to be the best and worst things about America. In keeping with his cynical outlook at that time, Shane said he had originally intended to only use footage about the worst elements of American life. But by the end of the journey, he decided to use both.

“[After leaving Ely] we saw people and humanity as horrible, and when we went on our trip we found out that people are very decent,” Shane said.

That footage was ultimately turned into a full-length movie and e-book entitled “The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America,” which The Bugbees said capture Shane’s journey to rediscovering the kindness of humanity.

One night, the Bugbees recalled, strangers at a gas station in a crime-ridden area worked together to point a disoriented Shane in the right direction.

In their talk Tuesday, the Bugbees also showed clips of footage from their film that ranged from the shocking to the profound. In one clip, a man says to the camera, “No one’s got the balls to set off a dirty bomb in the Mall of America, so what do you do? You kidnap people, cut their heads off, videotape it, and put it up on YouTube. That’s the new form of protest.”

In another, an interviewee draws an analogy between athletics and art to suggest that every person can be an artist.

Just as all people can be athletes in the right sport for them, he says, “anyone can be an artist provided they find the right art form.”

The Bugbees were invited to the School of Education by the newly formed Cultural Studies Club.

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