I am not a 'new nomad'. Despite loving to travel as much as I do, I don't really get to explore the globe as much as I'd truly like. Not even close. So I try to make do with the trips that I have, which I am EVER so grateful for, travel locally when I can, and keep myself otherwise occupied. Check out my blog post on what to do when you have itchy feet but can't travel to see what I'm talking about.
Last night I made a list of movies that I'd like to watch to keep me inspired and hopeful for future travel. The list of movies I've yet to fall in love with include Michael Cera's film "Crystal Fairy and the Magic Cactus", which is set in Chile and looks more than a little crazy, "Una Noche" which has been recommended to me by several people and is set in Cuba, and "Into the Wild" which I have been meaning to watch for years but have never seemed to get around to doing so. There are a few more on the list, but I'll save them for another post and another day.
I was also thinking about how much I appreciate it when fellow travel nuts recommend really good wanderlust-inspiring films. Since these people love to globe-hop as much as I do, I take their opinions very highly when it comes to movie suggestions.
So I'd like to give back a little with my own series on travel-inducing films to help cure your case of itchy feet. Some of them are quite popular movies and you will recognize them right away, but some of them are more obscure and random. Some you might not even consider a 'travel movie' at all, but I hope to help you reconsider and give them another shot!
The Bucket List
This movie has to be the first one mentioned in my first post ever on travel movies. This movie inspired my blog theme (along with a short story that I used when I taught Grade 8 about a man who milked snakes and memorized all of Beethoven's work).
This movie, featuring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, is about two older men who meet in a hospital room while facing health challenges. With thoughts of their impending mortality setting in, they decide to cross off as many life goals as they can before they 'kick the bucket'. Luckily, Nicholson's character is stinking rich, so this is made quite possible for them. Travel destinations in this movie include Mount Everest, France, the Great Wall of China, and so much more.
I love this movie. The message is heartfelt, there is a lot of humour, the acting is great, and the travel destinations make me want to run to the airport, passport in hand. Top marks for this one!
The Painted Veil
This elegant movie is set mainly in a remote village in China, although it begins in England for a short amount of time. While the scenes in England are all fine and dandy, it is the Chinese landscape, dreamy, wild, and eerily beautiful, that makes you want to pack your suitcase.
The movie centers around an English couple: Walter, a middle-class doctor set on changing the world, and Kitty, an upper-class women who basically married Walter to escape her parents. Kitty doesn't have much regard for her new husband, and ends up being unfaithful to him. When Walter discovers her indiscretion, he angrily accepts a position as a village doctor in a distant village in rural China that is suffering from cholera. Kitty is forced to accompany him, otherwise Walter threatens to divorce her. From there, I will let you discover the rest.
I chose to include this movie because of the alluring style in which 1920s rural China is shown. The majestic karst peaks shrouded in mist, the bamboo rafts floating through the water, and the parasols painted with floral patterns and Chinese symbols - the movie looks like a dream, but a dream I'd love to visit!
Before I even knew the joys of travel, back in my junior high days, the movie "Only You" was already giving me wanderlust. Cheesy, romantic, a little melodramatic, but oh so fun, "Only You" is about a young woman named Faith (played by Marisa Tomei) who believes in fate, destiny, and Ouija boards. She is told at a very young age, by an all-knowing Ouija board, that her true love's name is Damon Bradley. Flash-forward about 15 years, and she is getting married, but not to a man named Damon Bradley. That is, until a phone call a week before her wedding from a man with that name flips her life upside down.
Faith hastily tracks this mystery man to Italy, where she and her bestie search high and low throughout the beautiful country in search of him. Venice, Rome and the breathtaking Italian countryside feature predominantly in this picture. If you want a glimpse into the beauty that is Italy, watch this movie.
Under the Tuscan Sun
I am absolutely sure this movie is on every person's 'travel movie' list, but I couldn't resist because it is also one of my favourite movies of all time. "Under the Tuscan Sun" begins in the U.S.A. with writer Francis, who very quickly in the film goes through a nasty divorce. Her best friends send her to Italy on a "Gay and Away" Italian tour to try and cheer her up. (Francis is not gay, her best friends are, but a free trip to Italy is a free trip to Italy.)
While on the tour, she sees an Italian villa for sale, and literally runs from the bus to check it out. She ends up buying the house and making Italy her permanent home. The rest of the film is about Francis learning to live in a foreign country, as a newly single woman, trying to just sort herself out. I love the cinematography, the beautiful landscape, and the glimpses into the culture of the village Francis finds herself in.
This movie is based on a book, which apparently is a pretty awesome cookbook, too. After watching the food Francis learns to prepare in the movie, I think I should try the cookbook for myself.
Letters to Juliet
Last movie about Italy for this post, I swear! I only mention this one because my neighbour and I watched it the other night for our movie night choice. The film itself really is quite horrible, in my personal opinion. I am not a big fan of the drippy, chick-flick stuff (despite my choices on this list so far, ha!) and this one is drippier than most. The end scene makes me shudder, it is really so cliche and ridiculous. BUT...
It is in fair Verona where we set our scene, and the accompanying Italian countryside. Vineyards, old farmhouses, rolling hills - you get the picture. The movie, physically, is gorgeous. The underlying plot isn't that bad either. Aspiring writer Sophie goes to Verona with her husband-to-be for a pre-honeymoon, which turns into a solid business trip for her chef boyfriend. Ignored and dismayed, Sophie finds herself at the home of Shakespeare's Juliet, where people write love letters to the fictional heroine and stick them to the wall beneath her balcony. Sophie notices someone collecting the letters and follows them, where she learns that a group of women, hired by the city of Verona, respond to the letters personally.
Sophie joins the ladies, because she apparently has nothing else to do in Verona, and ends up writing back to a letter that had been lost for 50 years inside a crack in the wall. The writer of the original letter, Claire, shows up in Verona almost instantly (the timeline for this movie still befuddles me), and along with Sophie and Claire's grandson, begins to track down her lost love.
I won't go on. The adventure takes them to many beautiful places, and that's what I liked best about the film. Watch this one with a grain of salt; use it for travel inspiration and not intellectual fodder.
A Far Off Place
Moving on to Africa. This movie is Reese Witherspoon's first movie ever, and I watched it while babysitting back in grade 7 or 8. If you've never heard of it, or watched it before, then you are welcome. I still love it today, and I think it still holds water after 20 or so years. I hope you love it, too.
Young Witherspoon plays Nonnie, the daughter of an American gamekeeper living in Africa. When her family gets slaughtered by poachers hoping to clear the way for easy business, Nonnie and her friend Harry (and I say friend loosely, since they hate each other) have to flee for their lives and escape across the unforgiving Kalahari desert. Led by Nonnie's local pal Sarel Bok, who basically keeps everyone alive single-handedly, they journey across the sand and escape poachers in helicopters to find freedom.
The desert is portrayed as deadly, yet beautiful. I certainly don't want to cross the Kalahari after watching this movie, but I could be inspired to participate in an overnight camel caravan excursion.
Let's stick to Reese for a while longer. "Wild" is based on the novel by Cheryl Strayed, an American woman whose life tail-spinned into depression and substance abuse after the death of her mother. As a result of Cheryl's behaviour while depressed, her marriage also crumbled and ended in divorce. A bit lost and unsure of where her life is headed, Cheryl decides to walk the Pacific Crest Trail despite knowing nothing about long-term hiking.
In spite of (or because of) a series of wrong moves and amateur mistakes, Cheryl grows more experienced and confident, meeting other hikers along the way, and enjoying the beauty that nature provides. She begins her quest in the Mojave Desert in Southern California, moving north through snow-filled mountains, finally ending at the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington.
On a scale of 1 to 10, my desire to hike the Pacific Coast Trail for months on end is about a 0. But the footage from this film is truly stunning. I would head out for a weekend hiking trip for sure!
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
I have never been to India, and the busyness of the country intimidates me a little bit. But after watching "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", I decided India sure looks like a vibrant, colourful and fantastic adventure... with the right guide. I am still not convinced I could explore it solo.
The movie focuses on a struggling hotel in India where a rag-tag group of retirees find themselves staying. The events in the film follow several storylines, each relating to the characters and how they find themselves interacting with the rich culture and people of the region. It a very heartwarming film, with a great deal of humour and cheek.
The biggest thing is that I love is the message inherent in the plot: no one is ever too old to travel and experience more to life. I also love the scenery and window into India's culture.
This selection is not technically considered a travel movie, unless you think traveling in your dreams counts. Which sometimes I think might have to do for me.
The plot of "Inception" is too complicated to explain here. And if you haven't seen it yet anyway, I am going to assume you live under a rock. But this movie is most definitely a globetrotter - it was filmed in England, France, Tokyo, Morocco, and (the main reason I included "Inception") Alberta, Canada. The scene with the snowy ski chase was filmed about two hours away from my home. I think that is pretty cool, and inspires me to continue traveling locally and extending my 'backyard bucket list'.
Also on everyone's travel movie list: "Amelie". You don't even have to read the subtitles to appreciate the beauty that is "Amelie". The story centers around young Amelie, as we watch her grow from a quirky child into a semi-reclusive adult. She is sweet as pie, eclectic, romantic, and very lonely.
Throughout the tale, we learn about her little neighbourhood in Montmartre: the cafe she works in, her neighbours in her building and their stories, and the unusual but enchanting hobbies Amelie keeps, such as random acts of kindness (or revenge). And then, since it is Paris and l'amour and whatnot, there's the romantic storyline.
The Paris that is presented in "Amelie" is modern, but looks like Paris of 50 years ago due to the cinematography. This is because the director purposely made it so. "Amelie" was shot on location at Montmartre, but the crew diligently cleared the streets of garbage and debris, moved cars so the cobblestoned roads were visible, scrubbed away graffiti, and replaced mundane flyers and posters with colourful and vintage ones instead. The Paris of "Amelie" is the Paris of my dreams!
Midnight in Paris
And speaking of Paris, how about a movie that combines the modern world of Paris with the glitz and glamour of the 'ex-pat' society of Gertrude Stein and Scott F. Fitzgerald? Woody Allen directed this film, and say whatever you want about Allen, but he is excellent at choosing locations for his films. This movie is particularly charming, as it easily flips between modern Paris and Paris of the 1920s.
Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams star in this film as a completely mismatched couple about to be married. While strolling the streets of Paris at night, contemplating the massive mistake he is about to make wife-wise, Wilson enters a strange vehicle headed to a party (because why not?) and when he emerges, finds himself in 1920s Paris wining and dining with the great writers of the time.
This whimsical time travel movie shows Paris in all of its glory. The modern couple sight-sees to places like Rodin's gardens, while 1920s Paris is all cafes, bars, and writer's salons. We even get a glimpse of the 1890s Moulin Rouge during the Belle Epoque. Time travel never looked so good!
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Since I have been to Iceland and know first-hand just how amazing and oddly beautiful the country is, I was able to really appreciate the scenery in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". The movie features Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty, who works at Life magazine but doesn't seem to have much a life of his own. A missing negative from one of the magazine's most coveted photographers has Walter hopping on a plane to track down the photographer and with him, the missing negative.
Walter ends up going on a life-altering trip. He flies to Greenland, jumps from a helicopter into the ocean, sails to Iceland, learns to longboard, flits about the Icelandic countryside (which is spectacular both in the film and in real life), and ends up on the other side of the globe climbing the Himalayas. Everything about this movie is enchanting: the scenery, the ridiculous chase to find the photographer, and the message about living your life to the fullest.
Lost in Translation
It is odd how "Lost in Translation" can make a busy, bustling, crowded city like Tokyo seem so isolated and lonely, but that is exactly what this movie did. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson star as unlikely travel companions after meeting in the bar of their Tokyo hotel. The characters are in the city for different purposes, but both feel quite alone and unsure about their respective futures. This feeling of mutual despair is what initially brings them together and helps them to connect.
Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson seem an extremely odd mix for romantic tension, but they make it work. What makes the relationship believable is the crazy amount of fun they have exploring Tokyo. Having a blast in a foreign city the way they do would bring anyone together as friends.
This is my only cartoon entry for this post, but for good reason. If you haven't seen it yet, as it is relatively new, then go out and watch it! Right now. Read the rest of this post later. Disney has outdone itself with this feature: the plot is entertaining and energetic, the music super catchy, and the animation... well, it might be the most beautifully drawn cartoons I've ever seen. The colours are brilliant. The ocean is animated so vibrantly, there really aren't words to describe it.
Moana, the Polynesian daughter of a chief, longs to travel the sea but her father forbids her. However, her island is dying as a result of an ancient stone, the heart of Te Fiti, being stolen and lost in the ocean. Without the stone, the ancient goddess Te Fiti can no longer create or give life to the world. Moana is charged with the task of returning the 'heart of Te Fiti', with the help of the delusional demigod Maui.
The movie shows Moana and Maui sailing from island to island during their quest to restore the heart of Te Fiti. The ocean scenes are brilliant, particularly one with a ghostly sting ray sparkling in the water. Each island is colourful, floral, and full of life. After watching this film, I was definitely ready for a vacation to Bora Bora!
Speaking of tropical getaways, the comedy movie "Couples Retreat", while ridiculous and at times completely stupid, has some spectacular scenery to offer viewers. In this movie, characters Dave (Vince Vaughn) and Ronnie (Malin Akerman) are convinced by divorcing couple Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristin Bell) to come with them and a two other couples to a "Couples Retreat" in French Polynesia.
As with any Vince Vaughn movie, missteps and miscommunications abound with entertaining results (to varying degrees). Throughout the film, however, the scenery tends to steal the show. The ocean huts the couples stay in are fantastic, with little glass windows on the floor designed to gaze at fish. While I would be more than happy to avoid the 6 a.m. couples therapy that is featured in the movie, the rest of the resort looked more than adequate!
There are so many more wonderful movies based on travel or set in lovely places, but I had to start somewhere. I'd like to do more posts on this topic, so I'd better get out the popcorn and get cracking! It is a tough job, but I know I can power through. If you have any recommendations for me, I'd gladly take them! Please leave your suggestions in the comments below. Happy watching, and hopefully, happy travels!
*All movie poster images for this post are from imdb.com.