TV Shows That Will Inspire You to Travel
For some of us, it doesn’t take much to inspire our sense of wanderlust. Give us a good plate of tacos or pad thai and we’ll quickly start dreaming of all the cuisines we could eat if we just got on a plane tomorrow. For others, it takes a bit more convincing. They need to be shown how many exciting prospects the world has to offer before they start packing a suitcase.
For those of us who need a bit of convincing, these are some great TV shows to watch that will make you dream of your next destination. Whether you approach the world first through food, comedy, or design, there’s something there for everyone.
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
One of the ways that a lot of people experience new cultures for the first time is through their food. That’s why a lot of travel shows are focused less on the experience of traveling and more on the food that’s served in these new locations.
Anthony Bourdain’s hit show No Reservations follows the popular chef and TV host as he visits a different city for each episode, samples the local cuisine, and learns about their culinary traditions. It even won an Emmy for Outstanding Informational Programming in 2007 for a special episode called “Anthony Bourdain in Beirut”, which aired between seasons two and three.
Although the show is off the air, there’s a nine-season backlog for you to dig through if you’re just starting.
House Hunters International
If you travel to a new place and your first impulse is to start picking out houses where you would live, you should definitely check out the show House Hunters International. It’s a spinoff of the House Hunters TV show, which shows couples searching for their new home among three comparable options.
For this spinoff, the couple is usually moving somewhere outside of North America. The show is definitely staged as potential buyers have already purchased one of the houses. Still, it’s interesting to see their decision-making process in action. The audience also gets the chance to see what everyday life is like in these new cities, instead of just being shown the most touristy locations.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
Another awesome travel show hosted by Anthony Bourdain is Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, which premiered in 2013. While No Reservations explored food culture in the world’s major cities, Parts Unknown follows Bourdain as he treks down the road less traveled to places like Myanmar, Congo, and Russia.
Instead of tracking down local favorites, Bourdain indulges in foods and experiences that are more underground. There’s a lot of emphasis on local history. Plus, viewers get to watch Bourdain try some really interesting dishes, like a pig’s ear sandwich in Mississippi and Korean spam stew.
Rick Steves’ Europe
This PBS show has been on the air for 20 years with the 11th season coming October of 2020.
Rick Steves is an American travel writer whose books have been the authoritative guide to Europe for the last few decades. He started producing Rick Steves’ Europe in 2000. Since then, Steves has hosted over 110 episodes and traveled to cities all over Europe. Many of the episodes focus on larger cities like Berlin, Dublin, and Amsterdam, while others chronicle lesser-known locations like Tangiers, the Loire Valley of France, and Leipzig.
If you’re thinking of planning a European getaway, definitely take Steves’ advice and watch a few episodes of the show before you go.
Samantha Brown’s Great Weekends
This show is the perfect little tidbit for someone whose idea of traveling doesn’t involve a long transatlantic plane journey. Samantha Brown’s Great Weekends follows host Samantha Brown as she visits different weekend destinations across North America, with some stops in Europe. It aired on the Travel Channel for two seasons, spanning 2008 to 2013.
Some of Brown’s domestic weekend journeys included Palm Springs, Napa, and Santa Fe. She also paid a visit to Florence, Italy, the Greek Islands, and Paris, France.
Although this show is not technically travel-themed, it definitely inspires wanderlust.
Each season, the producers of Survivor scout out a gorgeous deserted island. Then, they drop off a group of American strangers with the instructions that they have to progressively vote out their fellow competitors until there’s only one person left standing. On the days when they’re not competing for a game advantage or immunity, they’re left to lounge on sandy beaches and hunt for food in sparkling blue waters.
Some of the locations that Survivor has used in the past are the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, a game reserve in Kenya, and the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji.
Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father
The premise of this hilarious show is what would happen if a young stand-up comic was to take his elderly father on his “gap year” adventures.
In Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father, Jack and his dad Michael trek their way through South Asia, a route that many young people choose to follow on their “gap year” between high school and college. As you might expect, Michael Whitehall is less than impressed with the hostels and full-moon beach parties that his son drags them to. As such, he spends much of the show with his arms crossed underneath the shadow of his straw hat.
Netflix premiered the fourth season on September 22, 2020. This season will see the pair explore Australia.
Planet Earth is the revolutionary BBC television show that premiered in 2006. At that time, it was the most expensive nature documentary ever commissioned.
Narrated by the silken-voiced David Attenborough, Planet Earth brought viewers to the high sands of the deserts and the deepest depths of the ocean — all in high definition. This show brought all of the most beautiful scenery in the world right into our living rooms and inspired us all to seek beauty outside of our native habitat.
The sequel, Planet Earth II, was released in 2016. It was the first TV series ever produced in ultra-high definition.
The TV show Travel Man focused on host Richard Ayoade’s experiences traveling around the world to unique locations for 48 hours. Accompanied by a plethora of celebrity guests like Paul Rudd and Chris O’Dowd, Ayoade explores the ways that travelers can maximize their time in these cities by exploring as much as possible in the limited amount of time.
There have been 10 seasons of Travel Man so far. The show mostly focuses on European cities but occasionally branching out to more unusual destinations like Dubai or Madeira.
Another incredible BBC-produced series is Human Planet, a documentary series in the style of Planet Earth. However, it focuses on the human beings that populate our planet, and the traditions and cultures that make each region unique. The show put a special emphasis on how humans adapt to and interact with our environments. For instance, it showcases auk hunters in Siorapaluk, the Bayaka honeycomb hunters in the Congo, and the traditional stick-fighters of the Ethiopian Suri people.
This series showcases many unique traditions, but emphasizes the ways that we’re all similar and motivated by the same goals.
Another incredible documentary focused on food around the world is Chef’s Table, a Netflix series that premiered in 2015. Each episode explores a different chef and follows them in both their personal and professional lives to see how they bring their unique history into their kitchen. While many featured chefs are world-renowned and Michelin-starred, others are simple cooks living out their passion and feeding people while they do it.
Created by David Gelb, this series has six seasons. Plus, it has gone onto inspired two spinoffs, Chef’s Table: France and Chef’s Table: BBQ.
The Amazing Race
One of the most wanderlust-inspiring shows out there is The Amazing Race. This reality TV show follows 11 teams as they race around the globe, fighting to be the first team to cross the finish line. Various tasks, obstacles, and challenges lie in wait along the way and the first team to cross the final finish line wins the grand prize, which often includes a large cash prize and a car.
The original American version has spun off into several different international versions, including The Amazing Race Canada and The Amazing Race Philippines.