Find Your Travel Inspiration Through These Films

Travel Planning


Every year, as the summer months get closer, my wanderlust grows stronger. I find myself in need of some travel inspiration as I plan my next dream vacation. I spend an increasing number of hours on Pinterest looking up photographs of the countries and cities on my ever-growing list of places to visit. My favorite travel accounts on Instagram, like @nytimestravel and @ilvynjio, are constantly updated with photographs from places as different as Copenhagen and Wyoming. Even my Facebook newsfeed is filled with photographs of friends traveling around the world. But for me, the best way to envision the adventures, the possibilities and the stories that can come from travel is through film. Depending on what you hope to gain from your time traveling, there are different movies that in just two hours can inspire you to get up and go.

For the self-examiner:

Travel is a great means to learn more about who you are and to grow as a person. In some ways, travel allows you to press pause on reality. When life seems to be going wrong, travel can change not only your understanding of yourself but also your perspective on the situation. In the film The Way, Thomas Avery, played by Martin Sheen, goes to France after his son, Daniel, is killed during a storm while walking the Way of St. James, a Catholic pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. But while there, Avery decides to walk the pilgrimage out of grief and in remembrance of his son. In doing so, Avery and others find a greater meaning in their lives.

 For the nature lover:

For those who travel simply to immerse themselves in the world around them, Baraka may be the inspiration you need. The documentary, which has no narrative or voice-over, allows you to temporarily lose yourself in the natural, human and technological phenomena around the world, from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to tribal celebrations of the Masai in Kenya. Filmed in 24 countries on six continents over a 14-month period, the documentary features other sites like the Ryoan temple in Kyoto in addition to the precipice of an active volcano and chanting monks in the Dip Tse Chok Ling as well.

For the adventurer:

If you live for the thrill and you desire to live your life to fullest, Long Way Down may be the inspiration you need to plan the adventure of a lifetime. The 10-episode British TV documentary series follows Ewan McGregor, the Scottish actor of Moulin Rouge! and Star Wars fame, and his friend Charley Boorman as they undertake a motorcycle journey through 18 different countries. From May 12, 2007 to August 4, 2007, the pair rode south through Europe and Africa. Starting in John o’Groats in Scotland and ending in Cape Town, South Africa, McGregor and Boorman rode through England, France, Italy, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana. Long Way Down is a follow-up to Long Way Round, the 2004 documentary series in which McGregor and Boorman rode east from London to New York via Eurasia and North America.


Michelle Bao is a student journalist at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She is passionate about learning new languages, traveling and telling stories about people who are changing the world. Follow her @MichelleBao27.

Travel road map photo via Shutterstock

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The Culture-ist