There are few things that inspire travel like a well produced video. If you’re remotely thinking about going to a destination, a quick search in YouTube will bring up more homemade vacation movies than you know what to do with, which can be hit or miss to say the least. Fortunately for us, television networks have dedicated many resources into making fun, interesting, and unique shows for our viewing pleasure and inspiration. From travel basics to nature documentaries to the downright bizarre, no stone is left unturned. Here are 10 shows that may just help to inspire your next vacation.
“Departures” is an adventure travel show that aired for three seasons on OLN, a Canadian network. It began when three friends were talking about travel shows, and they decided that they could make a better one. Each episode follows Scott Wilson and Justin Lukach as they leave the familiarities of home behind, and set out into the great wide open. It is known for some of the most breathtaking cinematography, and a very real approach to travel. It is as much about the personal journey of the hosts as it is about the journey to the destination, and has won three Gemini Awards. One look at the landscapes presented here and you will be ready for your next backpacking vacation.
Stephen Fry in America
Stephen Fry does many things. According to his Wikipedia page, he is an actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, and comedian. He is also one of England’s most well known television personalities, and in 2008 he aired his version of a travel show simply called “Stephen Fry in America.” The premise is fun and simple. Stephen begins his journey in Maine, and in his traditional London cab, he drives through each of the lower 48 states, before flying to Alaska and Hawaii. Some states get more recognition than others, but the things he chooses to feature are often not what you would expect from a travel show. His honest and endearing personality combined with his tongue in cheek humour make this show one of the most real portrayals of the USA. It’s on Netflix as of right now, so add it to your queue today. Also, be sure to check out his nature documentary, “Last Chance to See.”
Michael Palin is better known for his work on Monty Python, and while you could argue that the classic British comedy troupe does inspire travel, it’s “Palin’s Travels” that gets out attention in this post. He has written 8 books on travel, and the television shows can be somewhat divided into two types. The earlier ones generally feel more focused on the actual journey, and later series have the feel of more traditional travel documentaries. Palin has a unique everyman style that is hard to resist. As the show progresses, the viewer begins to realize that the people he is interacting with are not viewing him as a celebrity, but as a regular tourist. It’s just one of the interesting dynamics that make this show work so well.
Rick Steves’ Europe
It would be hard to argue that there is a more thorough documentation of Europe than the one presented by Rick Steves. His show, “Rick Steves’ Europe” has aired nearly 100 episodes since 2000 and is still going strong. This show features informative narration on a wide array of subjects such as interesting stories, popular tourist destinations, food, hotels, driving, local history and lesser known attractions. It’s remarkable how much the small crew manages to accomplish for each episode. Much like Stephen Fry, Rick Steves has a very keen sense of humor which continues to keep viewers entertained. You can watch the show on PBS, but be warned, you may be booking your next vacation to Europe before you’re through with it.
Long Way Round/Down
This series follows Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman as they ride motorcycles all over the world. The first series, “Long Way Round”, focuses on their journey west to east, as they travel from London to New York through Europe and Asia. “Long Way Down” came out later, and chronicles their journey north to south, as the pair heads from Scotland to South Africa. Far from a joyride, both of the series’ are filled with many kinds of harsh realities of the road, which include getting held up at borders, having handguns pulled on them, breakdowns, pickpockets, and accidents. Despite all that, it is often regarded as one of the most enjoyable travel shows ever made, and may just inspire you to rent a motorcycle on your next vacation.
An Idiot Abroad
This show is less about travel, and more about the world of Karl Pilkington. The cohort of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant reluctantly agreed to do a travel show in 2010 which has so far run for two seasons. Karl Pilkington is an odd fellow to say the least. On the famous Ricky Gervais Podcasts, he has said some pretty outrageous things and made some ridiculous claims. He comes off as bitter, cynical, and fed up with the world. He doesn’t appear to trust most people, and has little to no understanding of the most basic social, scientific, and political concepts. The episodes focus on his reaction to things that are culturally significant, and that most people would be humbled by. He is usually not. This is a man who compared the great pyramids to the Planet of the Apes– “barren.” It’s good for a laugh.
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
“No Reservations” is one of the smartest and clever travel shows ever put together. It’s funny when it needs to be, but can also document dark topics and subjects with surprising accuracy when called for. One of the things “No Reservations” does is present a unique look at how food is something that brings all people together, no matter their background. It can be downright crude and shocking sometimes, but that’s one of the things that keeps it fresh. Because of its popularity, Bourdain clearly has a lot of creative control, and this is a good thing. Anthony Bourdain has a new show on the Travel Channel called “The Layover”, which premiered on November 21st.
Known for an authentic look at real culture, Globe Trekker is a show that has filmed over 130 episodes. The show is hosted by a total of 26 people, which tends to give it a unique feel depending on who is hosting that episode. It is a travel show in every sense of the word, acting as a tour guide while showing the viewer the area. A massive amount of work is put into each episode, and it shows. It’s well thought out, well edited, and ranks high on the vacation inspiration scale.
Comedian turned travel show host, Samantha Brown has been on the Travel Channel for over 10 years. Her career as a host began when she auditioned for the role, and managed to charm and impress the talent scouts. 10 years later, she has been to hundreds of locations and turned audiences on to all kinds of interesting elements of travel. Her down to earth approach makes the show accessible for many kinds of viewers, while she continues to make people jealous as the self proclaimed “girl with the best job in the world.”
Almost made it through this list without an outdoor show. What makes this show so spectacular is the simple yet daunting concept. Les Stroud, an expert survivalist, is dropped off in the wilderness for roughly a week. Usually he has only the most basic items with him, a multi-tool, and his harmonica. He makes his way through some of the harshest and most dangerous settings on earth, while showing the viewer how to survive. As if that wasn’t hardcore enough, he films it all himself, a truly masterful task when you see him descending cliffs and mountains with no crew. If you’re into outdoor adventure, this is the show that will make you want to hit the trail.