Unfortunately, life is only rarely kind enough to provide us with opportunities to travel. If we've got the time, we've not got the money (students), and if we've got the money, we've not got the time (professionals).
Fear not, fellow movie-buff and travel-lover, for even though you might not be able to start packing your bags just yet, you can whet your appetite and live the experience just a little with these essential travel films.
The Motorcycle Diaries
The Motorcycle Diaries shows South America in a slightly idealistic way (charming, passionate Latinos with an intrinsic love of dance and spontaneity) but also in a way that we might like to ignore (which is, for the most part, the crippling inequality of many parts of the area). Either way, we’re both moved and inspired by the picture painted in the film, and the themes of freedom and adventure will strike a chord with any traveler. The Motorcycle Diaries has inspired countless travelers with its vivid representation of South America. Handsome as ever, Gael Garcia Bernal plays revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara as he traverses the vast continent, encountering the human stories of both sadness and triumph that sparingly occupy the land.
Into the Wild
Into the Wild is an inspiring tale of alienation, disenfranchisement and youth. Except for the fact that it doesn’t end well at all and is really sad.
Based on the real-life story of Christopher McCandless, Into the Wild takes us on the journey of this alienated young man as he saves up his money and hitchhikes to Alaska where he wishes to live in the wild, away from those pesky “people” he keeps encountering elsewhere.
This feeling will resonate with many who, while perhaps not wanting to be quite as extremely isolated as McCandless, nonetheless seek something more from life, and want new experiences, be they good or bad. That’s just why we travel, right?
The Darjeeling Limited
3 things I love: my brothers, tea and travel. That pretty much also sums up Wes Anderson's cinematic journey to India, The Darjeeling Limited.
The Darjeeling Limited tells the tale of 3 narcissistic brothers from a wealthy family who take an overland train in India to mend their broken relationships. Trials and tribulations abound as their selfishness and spoiled habits come through but, thanks in part to India's spiritual offerings, it all turns out ok.
While all the actors are great, the real star of the show is its setting. India dazzles with its array of colors and unmistakable charm.
Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight
Taken as a trilogy these three films not only offer an insight into a modern relationship, but also act as postcards to Vienna, Paris and Greece respectively.
Each film explores the relationship between the two protagonists as they wander somewhat listlessly along, ruminating on questions regarding life, both large and small. While the topics might not exactly be about travel, the independent spirit and the constant questioning of just what the hell we’re doing with ourselves at any given time should ring some rather large bells for travelers (“there’s so many things I want to do and I end up not doing much” and “baby, you’re going to miss that plane” should certainly hit home).
Of course, the stunning shots of each location do their part to wake up your wanderlust, too.
What list of travel movies would be complete without some kind of American road movie? And what mention of an American road movie would be worth its weight in webspace without being Easy Rider?
Easy Rider dates back to 1969 and it's still cooler than you or me. Two drug-addled bikers (Dennis Ford and Peter Fonda) travel through the States in search of some serious chillaxing, women and a decent batch of drugs. Their journey, as you might expect, gets somewhat more complicated in the broken America in which they live.
Thanks to its excellent soundtrack and strong counter-cultural message (as well as the road trip theme itself), travelers have flocked to this film for decades.
Linear film? Pah! Us arthouse fans know a thing or two about movies, and one absolute certainty is that non-linear films are (for some reason, don’t ask me to explain) intrinsically better than linear films. So there.
Sans Soleil (1982) is a rhapsody on travel, communication, philosophy and the very art of film itself. It defies easy categorization but, with its startling images from Africa, Europe, Asia and the States, manages to captivate its audience. No direct sound is present, instead Sans Soleil relies on sporadic spells of music throughout, while a woman’s voice narrates letters from an unnamed traveler.
It’s a masterpiece of avantgarde cinema, and one that demands to be seen by any traveler looking to expand their horizons – both celluloid and physical.
A Map For Saturday
A Map For Saturday is the traveler’s favorite travel movie. Producer Brook Silva-Braga (awesome name, Brook) left his cushy job with HBO to travel the world with very few possessions. Sound familiar? That’s right, traveler buddy, it’s your life (apart from the HBO part).
This is an intimate portrayal of long-term travel that shows the highs, the crushing lows, and those long stretches of contemplation/boredom that define our journeys. We deal with Europe’s prices, India’s difficult train travel and traffic in Vietnam. If you want to relive a trip or simply get in the mood for travel, check out A Map for Saturday.
Y Tu Mama Tambien
At least, that's according to the creators of Y Tu Mama Tambien.Take two adolescent boys on a road trip, mix with a middle-age woman who just got cheated on, add the Mexican sun and a couple of tequilas and what do you get? A threesome.
This is the film that inspired me to travel in the first place, not so much for the threesome part as the images of barefooted dances with sultry women in far-off lands and abandoned beaches with perfectly golden sands.
All beautifully shot to the background of Mexico‘s irresistible towns and coastlines, Y Tu Mama Tambien is sure to inspire you to travel to Latin America in search of some tequila, dancing and – just to complete the cliche – yourself. Gael Garcia Bernal makes his handsome way into the list once again as he traverses Latin America, and the similarities with The Motorcycle Diaries don’t end there. This movie deals with individuality, adventure and freedom, as well as personal development and the path to finding oneself and “becoming an adult”.
Paul Fowler works for trip.me, the best place to go to plan your next adventure abroad.