The Ultimate List for Travel Inspiration
It doesn’t take much for me to get wanderlust and start thinking about where in the world I can head off to next. Regardless if it’s a good Travel Quote, an amazing photo, an addictive book or snuggling up with a glass of wine to watch a scenic TV show or movie, I love to be inspired and learning about new places. I figured other travelers must be the same way … so I asked – Name a Book, Movie or TV show that inspired you to travel. The results were great. You’ll find a large variety in these lists and some wonderful options to add to your reading and watching lists.
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Read or Watch these Inspiring Books that have also made great Movies and Shows
Regardless if you like to get lost in a book of find travel inspiration from a movie. These very popular books that have become even more popular movies and shows with instill wanderlust even in the most grounded.
Outlander not only made me fall in love with everything Scottish, it made me fall in love with reading again. This series of large novels with numerous branching novellas and shorter stories is part historical fiction and part science fiction with a moderate dose of romance. Add in some time travel, a dash of ghosts, fabulous scenery, relatable and likable characters, and writing that can sweep you off of your feet then you have the Outlander series. Eight of the 10 larger novels are finished and the other 2 can’t come soon enough for us Outlander addicts. This series is so popular that it ranked second in the recent PBS’s Great American Read. If your looking for a series of books to fall in love with – get Outlander today.
You can’t have an article about books that inspire people to travel without mentioning Harry Potter. It’s a great story, you fall in love with the characters and the scenery (in the book and the movie) is outstanding. If you want to check off your Harry Potter travel wish list then the first stop has to be Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando Florida. Spring for the park-hopper so you can ride the Hogwarts train. The attention and thought put in to these theme parks are just spectacular. It’s so realistic that it really feels like the temperature drops while staring at the snow-covered buildings. The details of the rides, the stores, and just walking around will transport you to another land.
If you’re looking for something other than a theme park experience then try London, Edinburg, or the Jacobite Steam Train in Western Scotland. There is a ton of advice floating around the web and with a little planning you can make a great Harry Potter themed vacation.
Lord of the Rings
Game of Thrones
These books and the show are intense. The shows are extremely popular but do tend to run on the explicite side. The scenery is fabulous. The books are long (I’m on book 3) and reading them takes some time commitment but I have enjoyed them. Even though these set of books and the show is based in an alternate world the filming locations are right here on planet Earth. Filming locations of Game of Thrones include Northern Ireland, Croatia, Iceland, Morocco, and Seville Spain – all are spectacularly beautiful places.
Into the Wild
This book turned movie is set in a small French village in 1959. I did like the book more than the movie but both are charming . I enjoyed being immersed in this outwardly idyllic community as the book and movie both explored the underlying prejudices of the small town. The characters are relatable and I really enjoyed rooting for the different, the outcasts, and villagers that don’t follow the norm.
Seven Years in Tibet
Wild follows a young lady with a sketchy past trying to overcome her struggles by hiking the Pacific Coast trail. Cheryl doesn’t always do thing the best or most researched way but she powers through (over-packing can sometimes get us all). With her success in hiking the trail she finds herself. This is a great book about overcoming your past and using grit to accomplish a goal.
Travel Inspiring Books
Changing Gears is the book that inspired our year of travel with 3 kids. This book is an easy read and has some great insight of life on the road. The story is based on a family that biked (you read that right) – They biked with 10 year old twins from Alaska to the tip of South America over 3 years. WOW … After I read this book I just knew if they could do that then getting my family of five on planes to travel for a year – easy. If you’re looking for perspective and something that can convince you that you can make big life changes too then this is the book for you.
Following the steps of “Maya’s Notebook”, a book I read one year before I went to Chile, led me to one of my most unexpected travel experiences. I liked Isabel Allende’s book so much that when I planned my itinerary for Chile I included in it Chiloe Island, the place where the author placed half of the action of her novel. This meant that I would not make it to Patagonia, but I was so fascinated by the way the author described the island, with its myths and tight communities, that I had to go.
Little did I know that one year later I would sit at the same table as Isabel Allende did and eat the food cooked by the woman who hosted the author and was the inspiration for the main character of the book. The same tradition that the author describes so well in her novel.
Visiting Chiloe Island after reading “Maya’s Notebook” was a fantastic experience, a unique way of getting to know the locals and experience their culture.
Dan Brown Novels
When I picked up The Da Vinci Code in 2003, I was so immediately and forcefully sucked in to a thrilling story set in the real-world destinations I had visited that I could barely put it down. Like millions of people around the world who discovered Dan Brown through his second book in the Robert Langdon series first, after finishing The Da Vinci Code, I read Angels & Demons (the first in the series). Although Dan Brown is a novelist (and not a historian), his books have driven me to specifically seek out, explore, and study the real stories behind places like the brass line embedded in the floor of the Saint-Sulpice Church in Paris and the massive Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. I’ve also added destinations to my bucket list like the intriguing Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland and Casa Mila in Barcelona. Whether you are a fan or not, these destinations featured in Dan Brown’s books are sure to inspire your travels.
The Sun Also Rises by Earnest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald will always be my favorite writers. Of all I have read, they seemed to capture travel experience in a way in which I wanted to relate. Their novels continue to inspire me to get out and experience the world in a robust way. Books such as, “The Sun Also Rises” and “Tender is the Night” are my favorite examples.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say they were the most focal figures in my wanting to take a sabbatical from day to day life and get lost for a while. I did as such (with my family) full-time for a little over a year, and in the process created a food and travel blog with my wife.
I certainly played the part, putting on my favorite writing sweater on cool nights, smoked unfiltered cigarettes, ate and drank as if not to heed doctor’s warning, and came back feeling that lovely hybrid of having been battered and refreshed.
In the end, it’ a quote from Hemingway that captures all my travel adventures best. He writes, “writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up”.
1000 Places to See Before you Die
I love the 1000 Places to See Before you Die series. It has a prominent place on my book shelf. We have so much fun going through and marking off places that we’ve been. When we’re short on ideas or looking for new places this is also the book we grab.
America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
Pival Sengupta is about to head out on her very first foreign holiday, traveling from Kolkota to New York City. The journey doesn’t end there though, she has also booked a cross-country trip all the way to California. The First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour Company owned by a hard working, American-dream seeking immigrant Ronnie Munshi will lead the way. While Mr. Munshi thinks this is a basic cross-country trip, Pival is traveling to find out the truth about her only son Rahi who devastated his parents by telling them he was gay. She is led on her journey by Satya who has been in America for one year. For modesty’s sake Rebecca Eliot, a failing New York actress comes along as Pival’s companion. Together they travel, eat plenty of horrible Indian food, and learn about one another and themselves. America for Beginners is a heartwarming story about humanity and growth. For more book recommendations to inspire your travels be check out these outdoor adventure and travel reads by Kristi who blogs at Indoorsy Camper.
Among the Believers
Night by Elie Wiesel
During my high school years, I wrote a handful of reports covering a wide variety of books…but the one that had the greatest impact on my life was Night, by Elie Wiesel. Published in 1960, Night is a candid and moving autobiographical memoir that follows young Elie and his father through their experiences at Auschwitz II – Birkenau and Buchenwald concentration camps during the height of the Holocaust. We’ve all heard the stories before, visited museums, seen movies…but never have they penetrated so deep into my soul. After crying through most of the book, unable to fully grasp the horrors that young Elie experienced, I had a moment of clarity: I needed to visit a concentration camp for myself.
Fast-forward 10+ years and I found myself embarking on a solo trip around eastern Europe, prior to starting a study abroad program in Germany. My time had come: I booked a train that would take me to Auschwitz and Auschwitz II – Birkenau. I will forever remember that day when my life changed forever.
The Island and The Return by Victoria Hislop
Andalucia trip has to be one of my most memorable ones, and a big part of that is because of this incredible book.
I collect guide books. I also love to go to the library, browse the travel section and grab a handful of guides to read through. My favorites are Rick Steves, Frommers and Lonely Planet. You’ll find great information on the history, culture, and overall travel experience.
Daniel Friebe’s Mountain High is a must buy if you are a cyclist and you love mountains. It’s a coffee table book that’s not only full of glossy shots of some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes in Europe (courtesy of Pete Goding), but dense inspiring stories that leave their mark on you long after you’ve finished reading.
Friebe’s seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of cycling history and racing means you get a real sense of the cycling folklore that surrounds the mountain roads. The writing leaves you itching to get out and ride these mountain legends. I now have a great long bucket list just due to his inspirational tales!
I think this book is a must-read for anyone that loves cycling and mountains. But even if you’re not a cyclist, you won’t fail to fall in love with these mountain destinations of Europe.
Murder in the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
There were two things that have fascinated me since childhood: murder stories and trains. My parents soon discovered that, instead of reading children’s stories or fantasy, I’d rather pick up an Agatha Christie novel. The fascination continued into adulthood and I still read her books with that same pleasure.
The book features who else than the famous detective Hercule Poirot. His journey back to London from the Middle East is interrupted to solve a murder.
The celebrated Orient Express connects London to Istanbul. The service was created in 1883. The action in the book takes place in 1930. Since then the route has changed plenty of times and now the train in synonymous with luxury travel.
For me, the book was a perfect introduction to daydreaming about long train journeys (without the murder part). Suffice to say, my favorite means of transportation is the train. And I do recommend reading as a great way to not get bored during a long train ride.
Movies that Cause Wanderlust
Under the Tuscan Sun
Dreaming of leaving everything behind and just moving to Italy? That’s what happens in Under the Tuscan Sun when a writer impulsively buys and moves in to a Tuscan Villa. You’ll fall in love with the town, the people and those views.
This a great movie about what’s what become important at the end of life. It will help you examine your own priorities and and treasure the gifts and people that are a part of your life. The travel is not bad either.
Home Alone: Lost in New York
I just love this movie. I don’t know if it’s the people that I watched it with or the movie itself but this movie always make me laugh. I know every joke before it happens and it becomes an instant giggle fest. It’s full of goofy slap-stick humor but I don’t find it to be over the top. Looking for a movie where you can grab a beer with friends and watch some sophomoric travel humor then give Eurotrip a try.
Star Wars may be out of this world but it’s filming locations aren’t. If you’re wanting a touch of the Star Wars Experience then try Skellig Micheal Island in Ireland, the deserts of Tunisia, Death Valley California, Forests of North California (watch out for Ewoks), Seville Spain, Iceland, and Croatia. Disney has some Star Wars themed areas with a much more involved section opening fall 2019.
Spectre Influenced Travel to Oaxaca, Mexico
From overhead we see an ancient city block. People fill the street, the balconies, the stairways. Everyone is dressed in gowns, suits and tuxes, and covered with gorgeous flowers. Live drum beats motivate the crowd as they march in line and dance to the beat. As the camera closes in, we see that everyone’s faces are also painted a pale white, with dark hollowed eyes, skeleton teeth, and a disappeared nose.
The screen lets us know: Mexico City. Day of the Dead.
And then the camera closes in on a costumed couple, walking against the crowd. As we follow them we find out that it is James Bond and guest. A crazy scene inclusive of gun fire, a blown-up building, and a helicopter ensue. All to the backdrop of a gorgeous, inviting parade celebrating those that have passed.
I leaned over to my husband in the movie theatre, and said, “Wow.”
And he knew exactly what I meant.
For Day of the Dead, or Dia de Los Muertos, we found the site of the REAL parade – Oaxaca, Mexico. Over the course of a week in 2016, we took part in the original and official parade, attended several services at cemeteries with locals celebrating their families, enjoyed amazing Oaxacan cuisine, and explored the outer villages and ruins. We traveled south to a natural spring and cliffside pools.
We had one of the best travel experiences of our lives, all because of that opening iconic scene in Spectre that wasn’t even film in the actual location.
This is one of my favorite winter movies (because who doesn’t want to see a bunch of bikini wearing surfers playing in the waves when there’s a foot of snow on the ground outside). It’s also got a lot of beautiful scenery, likable characters and a main character that overcomes challenges. Yes, it may be a little on the cheesy side but it’s still a good one.
A classic in it’s own right. Well, kind of – but I do like this movie and I really love the boat. Get inspired to find a beat up sailboat and go where the wind takes you.
50 First Dates
Another one of my favorites. What does it have to do with travel? Well, it’s set in Hawaii and that ending scene on the boat in the glaciers – makes me cry every time – (I may really need to buy a boat).
Disney Cars Movie
My kids were just 4 and 6 when we sat in the cinema watching the original Disney Cars movie but I remember distinctly walking out of the theatre and knowing that we had to take our kids to see Route 66 which is what the movie was based on. We’d never even been to the USA at that point but it was on the bucket list! I loved the story of the movie, how it was such a friendly place, where life was a little slower and you really got to know a place when you travelled. It felt like how I wanted travel to be, less big brands and more personal experiences. It took us 8 years to get there, so my kids were 12 and 14 when we made it, but it was even better than we expected. We’d also watched some of the extras on the DVD and one was of a barber in a small town called Seligman who helped get Route 66 back on the map – when we visited the town we managed to get to meet him and have a chat as he was cutting someone’s hair! A dream trip come true!
TV Shows to Inspire Travel
The late Anthony Bourdain was once said, “If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”
The last part of the quote, which is to walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food is what speaks to me most. Anthony Bourdain’s shows, starting as early as 2002 with “A Cooks Tour” always served as inspiration for me to pursue travel through food.
My feeling of kinship with the man on the screen truly started when I first viewed an episode on San Sebastian, Spain. I have traveled to Spain often before, but never there. Upon seeing that episode, it became our next destination. The Pintxos he ate, the sidra he drank were sought out by us a if it were a pilgrimage.
I’ve always thought that a country’s cuisine spoke of the culture more than any other item, and this and all his shows to follow continued to have agreed with me. Few of us are able to get on a plane on a whim, but every Sunday night, in his shoes I’ve been taken (along with my family) to a destination both familiar and not.
When educated about a cuisine I may have never tried or reminded of one that I enjoy, I transport myself to that destination via the food; either by trying to cook it or go out for it. Lastly, and more importantly, aspire to get on a plane soon and experience it first hand.
Special Thanks to:
Samin Nosrat is a cook, teacher and author living in Berkeley, California. In her four part series she takes you on a journey to understand the four elements necessary for spectacular cooking; salt, fat, acid and heat. Each episode dives deep into one element, showing viewers how to find perfect ingredients, how to combine flavors and textures and how to prepare gorgeous dishes. Samin is not precious in her cooking style, her cooking is approachable and friendly, just like the woman herself. If you’re inspired by her show be sure to pick up her book of the same name, Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking.
Travel with Kids
This is a great TV series for traveling families. It’s simple, has good advice and can give you a feeling of what it’s like to travel with 2 youngsters in tow. I highly recommend watching this with the family before you travel.
Another one of my favorite travel shows. We love to sit down with the family, find inspiration for trips, learn about areas then after our trip bring back memories of our good times. The Andalusia episode is a big reason why my kids fell in love with Cordoba.
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We’re a family of 5 (Physician Assistant mom, IT project manager dad and 3 kids ages 3,6,10) taking a gap year from normal life to travel. For blog posts, locations, and more information on how we did it and how you can to click here.