MIR’s 30 Years: Handcrafted Journeys – Making MIR Movies (VIDEO)

MIR’s 30 Years: Handcrafted Journeys – Making MIR Movies (VIDEO)

(Douglas Grimes is co-founder and president of MIR Corporation.)

When I look back at the early days of starting MIR Corporation in the mid-1980s, I could never have imagined that I would still be doing what I love three decades later. Looking back, the work we’ve done – and do today – reminds me of making movies; there’s a myriad of behind-the-scenes details, planning, and logistics that go into MIR’s handcrafted journeys as well as overland expeditions that we carefully create with our clients.

Making MIR Movies With MIR’s headquarters in Seattle on the West Coast, we often see filmmakers setting up shop near our office, incorporating Seattle’s historic district into their film set locales. Their movie-making is similar to our MIR team helping clients make their own travel movies. Like filmmakers, our MIR clients pick the cast of characters (solo, family, friends, alumni, special-interest group), choose a theme (Trans-Siberian Railway history or WWII battles, for example), pick a place (such as Siberia or Poland), and 3-2-1-action! Off our clients go while the team at MIR handles the backstage legwork and on-location finessing before and during their journey of ensuring each scene (daily itinerary) goes smoothly, down to the tiniest detail.

These are a few of my favorite “MIR movies:”

Driving Siberia & Beyond: Epic MovieSiberia is one of our most challenging and rewarding “on-location shoots” for many of the complex custom journeys and overland expeditions we create with our MIR clients.

One such “MIR backstage movie” was a three-months-long overland expedition in a vintage 1928 Plymouth Roadster and a modern-day GMC, as four American motorists followed as closely as possible in the tire tracks of U.S. winner George Schuster in the record-breaking 1908 Great Race. At MIR, we faced monumental logistical challenges in their round-the-world journey, assisting them with travel in Japan, Siberia, China, back to Siberia, across Russia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland; each country had its own visa and border crossing issues.

This vintage 1928 Plymouth Roadster survived a round-the-world drive of 16,000 miles Photo credit: Luke Rizzuto

This vintage 1928 Plymouth Roadster survived a round-the-world drive of 16,000 miles
Photo credit: Luke Rizzuto

While others might have quit and gone home, MIR’s four pioneering travelers faced up to a “never-done-in-100-years” hurdle of clearing a specific commercial border crossing from Siberia into China in order to faithfully duplicate as closely as possible that 1908 Great Race route. It wasn’t easy, but thanks to MIR’s creative “out-of-the-box” solution (one of many!), they cleared the border and successfully traced that historic 1908 Great Race route. There were other hurdles as well that challenged us at MIR, from our travelers losing passports and visas to tracking down gas stations in the backwaters of Siberia. It was an action-packed “film,” indeed.

Adventurous "Longest Race" participants: Leo Janssens, Eileen Bjorkman, Leo Rizzuto, and John Quam <br>Photo credit: Eileen Bjorkman

Adventurous “Longest Race” participants: Leo Janssens, Eileen Bjorkman, Leo Rizzuto, and John Quam
Photo credit: Eileen Bjorkman

Chasing the Total Eclipse in Siberia: Epic MovieAnother Siberian stellar “movie” for MIR was bringing 350 intrepid travelers to Novosibirsk, Siberia’s largest city in the path of totality for the August 2008 solar eclipse. They came by plane and train to this Siberian urban center where – at the time – there were limited facilities and accommodations. I like to think of it as an “international cast,” as the MIR team worked with multiple foreign languages, complex visa requirements, multiple itineraries – not to mention the most important task of picking the ideal location from which to view the eclipse. We began planning for this Siberian solar eclipse more than three years in advance, with our tireless efforts paying off in a smooth production of this 2008 celestial undertaking.

Day turns into darkness during a total solar eclipse in Novosibirsk, Siberia on August 1, 2008 <br>Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Day turns into darkness during a total solar eclipse in Novosibirsk, Siberia on August 1, 2008
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Family Films: Heritage JourneysMIR creates a myriad of one-of-a-kind custom journeys to many of our 35 destinations, each with its own theme. I am especially touched by those who seek us out at MIR to help them find and preserve their family’s history “in the old country.” But often it is not easy. I remember one family that made a quiet, sobering journey back to their grandparents’ Polish homeland in search of their family’s roots. Like so many who come to us at MIR, they had no idea where to begin because they didn’t speak Polish; towns had changed names; and people who knew their grandparents or might have been helpful had moved – or as with so many Polish Jews – had died.

In this case, MIR’s experts researched the family’s history in Poland, found local guides who intimately knew the towns, landmarks, and neighborhoods of their grandparents, and helped fill in some of the blanks of their family’s almost-lost history. Thanks to MIR’s logistical expertise, these travelers now have family photos, videos, and memories to pass on to the next generation. We have assisted so many who lost contact with their pasts, reconnecting with their relatives’ places of birth, and it is MIR’s honor to help make “family films” for the next generation.

Warsaw's Old Town was completely demolished on the right side; only facades remained on the left side Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Warsaw’s Old Town is a popular stop for MIR travelers on Polish family history journeys
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Custom Journeys: Healing Through Humor Movie One of MIR’s first custom journeys back in the mid-1980s was with a doctor who wanted to use his clowning skills and healing laughter as medicine to help Russian children who were sick and hurting. Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams did not speak Russian, and knew the reality of getting into Soviet medical facilities during the enduring Cold War was bleak. Yet, the dream of helping these children stuck in his mind, and in his heart.

Dr. Patch Adams' humanitarian travels have touched thousands of sick and orphaned children in Russia <br>Photo credit: Dr. Patch Adams

Dr. Patch Adams’ humanitarian travels have touched thousands of sick and orphaned children in Russia
Photo credit: Dr. Patch Adams

Dr. Adams turned to us at MIR, where we used our expertise and connections as well as logistical heavy lifting to make his humanitarian journey a reality. MIR cut through Soviet red tape, especially in arranging clown visits to Russian hospitals, orphanages and nursing homes. That first visit to the Soviet Union turned into many more; 30 years later Dr. Adams’ original ‘Healing Through Humor’ mission now spans the globe, inspiring others in such humanitarian travel. His humorous and compassionate approach to medicine caught the eye of Hollywood; Dr. Adams’ story became a feature film starring Robin Williams. 

Generation-Spanning Action-Adventure FilmAnother notable example of MIR’s planning and logistics was a multi-generational journey to the Balkans. Our MIR client, a grandfather, told us about a dream trip he wanted to do with his grandchildren: hiking, maybe even zip-lining, as well as seeing the highlights of Croatia, Bosnia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. He intentionally wanted to spend his grandchildren’s inheritance by traveling together while he was alive, making memories of their time together.

MIR’s passionate Balkan expert found the best places to go, including the most scenic, jaw-dropping sites for zip-lining and hiking. Their MIR travel action-adventure epic is one the grandchildren will certainly remember for decades, thanks to their grandfather’s generosity and adventurous love of travel.

A MIR traveler shares an H2O Balkan adventure with his grandchildren <br>Photo credit: Iris Adventures

A MIR traveler shares an H2O Balkan adventure with his grandchildren
Photo credit: Iris Adventures

Making More MIR MoviesThese “MIR movies” are all handcrafted, epic journeys and dream trips made real with MIR’s on-the-ground logistical expertise, and extraordinarily knowledgeable and dedicated local guides and staff. Those who work at MIR have an unbridled passion for our destinations, and an abiding love for the culture, history and especially the people who live there.

It is humbling and rewarding to know that our travelers consider MIR as a “dream trip maker,” “logistical wizard,” and “travel magician.” Our unfettered can-do spirit – steeped in hard work and perseverance – has guided us over three decades of travel, with the hope of opening all of our traveling eyes to this complex, challenging and wonderful world.

More on “MIR’s 30 Years”

Learn more about “MIR’s 30 Years” in the stories below, all embedded with videos. They include MIR’s beginnings and the mindset and mission of MIR’s president and co-founder, Douglas Grimes; MIR’s utterly unique travel offerings at the crossroads of Europe and Asia; and Siberia, one of MIR’s favorites specialties.

You can also view the video series of “MIR’s 30 Years” on MIR’s YouTube channel, MIRCorpTravel, specifically under the playlist, “MIR’s 30 Years.”

MIR’s Beginnings

MIR’s One-of-a-Kind Journeys

Siberia, A MIR Specialty

MIR, in a Nutshell

(Top photo: Martin Klimenta – Mountainous Georgia is studded with villages, rich in family heritage history.)

PUBLISHED: October 16, 2016

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