Movies are like the first rains. They touch your consciousness and awaken a yearning to travel to places unexplored by senses other than your eyes. A movie is a window to some place where you could be, or you should be.
Some make you laugh, some make you weep and some make you question your existence. And some infect you with the travel bug, considered a dangerous entity to the mundane. A magic so potent, that you will be compelled to satiate it.
The travel bug is a demanding and uncomfortable creature. It ships you firmly out of your comfort zone. You could be chilling at home watching the very movies that inspire you, but something compels you to go step out and even forgo luxuries if you must.
In the end, it’s worth it to gain the memories of these slices of life where you immerse yourself in the essence of a place foreign to you.
I am often asked why I watch movies that resemble nothing in real life. That’s because movies are a very compelling medium. And I think they deserve this unreserved attention considering the effort and resourcefulness employed in recreating a fantasy world for us.
To this effect, I want to share this list of movies that inspire me to plan my next trip.
This movie follows the trail of Christopher McCandless on his soul-searching journey into the wild. Desperate to avoid the pitfalls of civilization, he leaves his family behind to make life meaningful. Destiny whisks him away to different places for adventures and meeting new people.
The locations and cinematography leave the viewer spellbound and with the irresistible urge to travel around the world and discovering new places. He finally sets up base at Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve for a while and lives in an abandoned bus, which he dubs ‘The Magic Bus’.
Ultimately, Chris McCandless perished in Alaska, unable to survive the deprivations that wild living entails, but his vision and journey will forever remain an inspiration for those of us yearning for a life beyond the attractions of materialistic living.
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), a negative assets manager of Life magazine, finds himself on a sudden trip when he realized the negative 25 is missing from the bunch of negatives sent by photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn).
In an effort to locate Sean, Walter follows the clues in the negatives that he did have. After a series of mishaps and misses that take him to stunning locations, like for Yemen and Greenland, he finds Sean O’Connell in the Himalayas in Afghanistan, although the actual filming happened in Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland.
One of the most memorable scenes is when Walter imagines Kristen Wiig singing Space Oddity to him in a little bar just before he jumps into the helicopter in Greenland.
Breathtaking and profound, Mitty’s journey is an unforgettable tale that keeps the viewers enticed till the very end.
Healing, love, self-discovery, loss and survival are the main themes in this movie based on the book by Cheryl Strayed. Armed just with her determination, Cheryl decides to go on a hiking trip to discover herself after her drug addiction and cheating destroyed her marriage with Paul.
Along the way, Cheryl pays the price of her inexperience but is lucky enough to meet people who help her get on track. From the hot sands of the Mojave Desert to the soft snows of Northern California, Cheryl stumbles along her path to a destination she does not know.
The people she meets help her take the steps to heal from the grief of her mother’s death. It’s an inspiring tale, especially for solo travellers who want to plunge into an adventure. The charm of places in solitary times, as well as the beauty of meeting kind strangers, is what makes this movie so special.
A 2011 American comedy film starring Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson, The Big Year was based on the nonfiction book The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession by journalist Mark Obmascik.
It followed three men on a quest for a Big Year – a competition among birders to see who can see and identify the greatest number of species of birds in North America in a calendar year.
The film uses more or less same premise and entertains us with its unusual setting and the unique comedic talents of each of these actors. You’re taken on a wild ride through some of the most stunning locations in North America.
Their personal journeys are equally poignant and memorable. Exciting and extremely funny at times, this is a movie that will make you want to pack your bags and take your binoculars along.
This is a story that touches your heart. Thespians, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, play a mechanic who wanted to be a historian and an introverted healthcare tycoon, slated to die of cancer.
They meet in a hospital room owned by Nicholson and decide to go on an adventure around the world to cross off items on their bucket list, as they discover life anew and deal with issues long buried.
Their camaraderie is fun to watch and, of course, the two protagonists are a treat to watch. You’ll be inspired for places to visit and experiences to be had.
Were you absolutely charmed by the stunning locations of the movie adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey? Hobbiton, New Zealand gives life to Tolkien’s splendid visions.
The hobbits are a merry and simple folk that live in homes burrowed into hills. The countryside is an amazingly idyllic paradise.
Interestingly, Hobbiton was once a marshland that was manually transformed into a field. Now it gives life to fertile imaginations. This trip over a land of 5.5 hectares, lasting for the duration of two hours, must be booked in advance.
The Lord of the Rings mesmerizes with its beauty and grace. Among all the wonderful lands described in Middle Earth, it is Lothlorien that has my heart. This beautiful gorgeous beech forest was shot in Glenorchy, New Zealand on the road to Paradise.
A lovely lake and river add to the charm of the greenery and lovely beech forests. In fact, when you’re at Glenorchy, the grass is always greener on your side!
In the movies, Lothlorien is the realm of Elf royalty Galadriel and Celeborn. The Fellowship of the Ring was given refuge in this little pocket of paradise till they were ready to return to the real world to fight the dark forces.
It’s also the place where Aragorn met Arwen, an elven princess, and eventually pledged his love for her. Lothlorien is a happy place with unsurpassed beauty and the heart yearns to feel as Aragorn and company did.
Fan or not, Glenorchy definitely transports you to a beautiful, mystical realm and must not be missed. Travelling there would be music for your soul.
This article would be incomplete without the charismatic presence of our favourite Time Traveler and genius incarnate, Doctor Steven Strange. The movie, Doctor Strange, has some of the best visuals I have seen.
The old-world, magical feel of the fictional Kamartaj is well translated to the big screen with gorgeous locations in Nepal. The Pashupatinath and Swayambunath temples are featured in the film lending their ancient personality to the vibe of the movie. Some streets from Kathmandu were even replicated in Longcross.
There is beauty and art involved in replication of such a place and it would be intriguing to view both in person. All of the locations in Doctor Strange so enchanted me that I was smitten. Methinks Doctor Strange is lucky to be able to visit places just by jumping through a window.
It’s been years since Harry Potter captivated us so and put a permanent charm on us. No matter how involved we are in our day-to-day lives, a part of us still remains at Hogwarts, groaning in potions class, hexing people in between classes and getting lost because of the moving staircases.
It’s a way of life now. The craze is unbelievable and this sun does not seem to be setting any time soon. It was inevitable that places which cater to this culture would pop up.
The most fascinating of them all is the LARP, the College of Wizardry in Czocha, Poland, based on Harry Potter and is the closest thing you’ll get to being a witch or a wizard. LARP stands for Live Action Role Playing.
LARP is a wonderful thing that lets you step into the shoes of your favourite character and live out their fantasy lives. Apart from LARP, it’s a dream to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Studios in Los Angeles.
Just imagine entering the Great Hall with the floating candles, or going up to the top of the Astronomy Tower or even visiting Hogsmeade. It’s hard not to pack my bags already!
This list would not be complete without some of my favourite Bollywood movies. Dil Chahta Hai (What The Heart Wants) is a coming of age movie about three friends who think they are inseparable.
Fate has different plans for them, however, and ends up taking them down different roads where they are nudged to find meaning for themselves and discover what is important.
The solid camaraderie between the friends is infectious and their obvious zest for life and adventure instil the same spirit in you. It’s a cute, contemporary love story that is beautifully set in scenic locations in Goa and Australia and it’s a trip you will definitely want to take with your friends.
Queen is an inspirational story about a jilted bride, ably played by Kangana Ranaut, who decides to go on her honeymoon alone. Initially shy and terrified, her indomitable spirit gets a chance to bloom and we see her living it up with new found friends.
Queen was an unusual movie, especially in a conservative country like India, and refreshingly different in that it doesn’t glorify marriage as the be all and end all of a woman’s existence.
This movie makes me want to travel because of that same spirit. Solo travel, especially for women, is a daunting task, no matter how much it is romanticized, and her courage makes one want to venture out and grab every chance to enjoy life instead of waiting around for that perfect mate.
Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, the 2010 movie is an American biographical romantic comedy-drama film starring Julia Roberts. Though panned critically, it was a financial success.
An unhappy, lost, newly-divorced woman, Gilbert steps out of her comfort zone, to embark on a journey that changes her life and takes her on a voyage of self-discovery. During her travels in Italy, Bali and India, she discovers the true pleasure of nourishment, the power of prayer, and the inner peace and balance of true love.
Although she may be someone with first-world problems, Liz Gilbert’s protagonist struck a chord in many young women who proceeded to go on their own Eat, Pray, Love journeys to travel the world and find themselves in the process.
The Beach is a 2000 English-language drama film based on the novel of the same. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton and Robert Carlyle and was filmed at the gorgeous Maya Beach, on the Thai island of Koh Phi Phi Leh.
It tells the story of a young American man seeking adventure in Bangkok, who comes across a map that leads to an isolated and hidden beach and lagoon. When Richard and a couple of friends he picks up along the way finally reach the Beach, they discover a hippie commune on the island, living in supposed bliss.
But everything is not as it seems and soon more sinister aspects of island life come to light. In real life, too, the popularity of Maya Beach, after it was made famous by The Beach movie, led to environmental damage caused by tourists.
It was finally closed to allow to allow the island’s battered coral reefs and sea life to recover from the effects of mass tourism. More than three-quarters of Thailand’s coral reefs had been damaged by rising sea temperatures and unchecked tourism.
Starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson, A Walk in the Woods is a 2015 American biographical comedy-drama film based on Bill Bryson’s memoir of the same name. Redford plays the author, Bryson, who, in his 60s decides to hike the Appalachian Trail and is joined by Stephen Katz (played by Nick Nolte).
The movie is an entertaining, and often hilarious, account of their trip, along which they encounter much younger hikers, get into some sticky situations related to bears and jealous husbands, and learn to accept their limitations.
Starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Rodrigo de la Serna, this road movie chronicles the motorcycle road trip that 23-year-old Ernesto “Che” Guevara and his friend, Alberto Granado, went on in their youth.
With a highly romantic sense of adventure, the two friends leave their familiar surroundings in Buenos Aires on ‘The Mighty One’ — a rickety 1939 Norton 500. Although the bike breaks down in the course of the eight-month journey, they press onward, hitching rides along the way.
The film recounts their 1952 expedition, initially by motorcycle, across South America, where they witness, firsthand, the injustices that the destitute faced across the land.
As well as being a road movie, the film is a coming-of-age film, where Guevara finds himself transformed by his observations on the life of the impoverished indigenous peasantry.
This sowed in him, the seed of radicalization, and he went on to become internationally known as the iconic Marxist guerrilla commander and revolutionary, Che Guevara.
For the traveller, the movie brings the message, “Let the world change you, and you can change the world.”
Based on the generation-defining novel by Jack Kerouac, On the Road is an adventure drama film based on the years Kerouac spent travelling the United States in the late 1940s with his friend Neal Cassady and several other Beat Generation figures, including William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg.
It stars Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen, Garrett Hedlund and Kirsten Dunst, among others. In the movie, young writer Sal Paradise has his life shaken by the arrival of free-spirited Dean Moriarty and his girl, Marylou.
The two men spend intense nights of drinking, dreaming of another world, and forming a friendship that will take them on a trip across America. As they travel across the country, they encounter a mix of people who each impact their journey indelibly.
The movie is a visual treat thanks to Eric Gautier’s cinematography that made great use of superb and diverse locations like Quebec, Alberta, New Orleans, Montreal, San Francisco, Argentina and Chile.
Of course, there are many more movies which open up to many more worlds to choose your next excursion too. Are these movies in your list of favourites? We’d love to know about the movies that inspire you to travel. Do share them in the comments below.