I’ve had a long list of travel-inspired movies I’ve been wanting to watch for years now. And since travel itself is severely restricted, National Parks are closed, and I can’t even go to the beach for a bit of respite from Coronavirus Quarantine, I figured now is as good a time as any to watch them! Especially since I’ve seen Friends more times than I can count and have already binged all 6 seasons of Schitt’s Creek three times. So each night this past week, I’ve settled in to explore the world through the eyes of other people. Some stories are fictional, some are not. But in each of them, I saw a little bit of myself and why I travel. I also learned a surprisingly good deal from these movies about travel.
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So cozy up on the couch, fire up Amazon Prime (that’s where you can find all of the movies here for about $3.00), and transport from your couch into the world of travel.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty for the first time on a plane ride back from Ireland and was pleasantly surprised at how inspiring this movie is and I was made I’d waited so long to watch it. A man who develops photos for Life Magazine sets out on a journey to find a notoriously hard to pin down photographer. He follows clues that take him to Iceland, Yemen, and Afghanistan. A journey that, as travel tends to do, ultimately changes the course of his life and instills within him newfound confidence. So, so good!
Edie is the story of a woman who realized, almost too late, that she did not live the life she wanted. So after her husband dies she sets out to climb a mountain in the Scottish Highlands. Along the way she befriends a young local who helps get her ready for the trek, even though she ultimately starts the journey alone, her friend helps her get to the top. A beautiful story about how we can change our lives at any moment and that sometimes we do need to rely on the help of others.
Have you ever thought of taking an extended leave of absence from work and walking the Camino de Santiago? Then The Way is for you. Hell – even if you haven’t thought about it, this is still a great movie about the healing powers of travel. You’ll follow a grieving Dad’s walk along the Camino, connect with the friends he makes along the way, laugh at his blunders, and cry as you see this Father relax into the traveler’s life. By the end of the movie, you’ll be trying to figure out how you can get to Spain once these travel restrictions are released.
Amelie was recommended to me by my Couchsurfing hosts on my first night in Paris. After a long day exploring the streets of Paris, I settled in to watch this quirky yet interesting movie about a woman who goes about Montmartre trying to make the lives of those she meets happier. I’d never heard of this movie before, but it is very popular amongst Parisians and is definitely a must-watch before you head to Paris.
Even as an independent solo, and very single, solo traveler, I dreamt of a whirlwind romance on the road, but one that would last. And it happened. I fell head over heels for an English guy in Prague. We talked daily from the day we met until the day we broke up. So when I settled in to watch Before Sunrise, it was like walking down memory lane of how freeing it is to get to know someone without holding anything back. I know how my whirlwind romance ended, but I was hopeful that theirs was different. So I watched the two sequels, Before Sunset and Before Midnight.
Before Sunset is one of those rare times when the sequel is better than the original. The young pair you met in Before Sunrise meet again almost a decade later in Paris. They fall into their easy way of talking about anything and everything, but with more life experience under their belts, it’s more raw and relatable.
I didn’t want to watch Before Midnight because I was quite pleased with the way Before Sunset ended and liked the life I created in my head for Celine and James. But I was invested in their story so I pressed play. Before Midnight takes us to Greece with the couple and, spoiler, their family where they’re finishing up their summer vacation and figuring out what is next for them. While there is still some philosophizing going on, it’s not as grand or naive as the first two movies. I found this to be more about the reality of the real world, a real relationship and the problems that occur when those two collide.
I watched In Bruges on a whim with a guy I’d started dating. To be totally honest, it’s a bit of a weird movie. It’s described as a comedy, but I actually found it quite sad. But it’s set in a beautiful city of Belgium, Bruges. As someone who has only been to Brussels and didn’t connect with it, after seeing Colin Farrell’s weird and crazy adventure in Bruges, it’s firmly on my list for my next Western European city to visit!
Into the Wild
Into the Wild is a true(ish) story about a young man, fresh out of college with a good life laid at his feet, who instead, decides to leave it all behind. He donates his entire trust fund to charity and leaves Virginia without telling anyone, heading west. A serious mishap with his car, leaves him on foot, relying on the kindness of strangers to help him along the way. Ultimately to reach his final destination, Alaska. After watching this movie I felt both awe and annoyance at the story. It’s an amazing journey that he takes, but it seems that he makes decisions on a whim, which is how Alaska was his final stop. Watch and decide for yourself.
I’ve heard about Motorcycle Diaries from so many different types of people in the travel community that it’s been on my “must watch list” for years. I just never made the time to sit down and watch it because there was always something else to do. Now, thanks to Coronavirus quarantine, there’s nothing else drawing my attention away! Motorcycle Diaries is the true story of two friends who set out to ride a very unreliable motorcycle throughout South America. Once the pair are on foot, they start talking to people they meet in rural parts of the continent, which opens their eyes to the injustices of the world. This changes one of the men in such a dramatic way, that he makes it his life’s work to bring justice and unity to Latin American countries. That man becomes Che Guevarra.
How these Movies Fueled My Wanderlust
Out of all of these travel movies listed here, Motorcycle Diaries is one I could watch a few times every year. Because I think many of us, myself included, travel to see the way the world works outside of our own backyards. We hope to be moved to change ourselves by what we learn on the road. But, my reality is that while I’ve certainly been affected by what I’ve seen on my travels, I still came home and returned to the same routine, and began conforming again to society’s expectations. Which is why Motorcycle Diaries was so profound to me. This man saw an injustice and it changed him and the course of his life – whether you agree with who he became or not, there is just something to being strong in your convictions not to return to a system that no longer suits you.
There’s a little bit of that in each of the movies discussed here. Walter Mitty’s adventures give him newfound confidence to go after the life he truly wants in the “real world”, Edie finds her truest strength on top of a mountain and Tom is reinvigorated to experience life from his walk on the Camino. Amelie shows us that we can find happiness in the beauty of our own backyard and the way we interact with others. Our couple in the Before Sunrise trilogy discover on their travels that true love is hard to find and worth fighting to keep. Through McCandless, we learn that even though we at times travel to escape, eventually we realize the importance of relationships to our overall happiness.
So while most of the world right now is quarantined to their homes, travel is severely restricted, and we don’t know exactly when this will change, you can transport from your couch to another world. You can travel through these movies and be reminded of why we travel in the first place. For me, these movies have forced me to reflect on how and why I travel, and even how I use those experiences in my day to day life – like through this blog!
What are some of your favorite travel movies? Please let me know so I can watch them while I’ve got time!
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