With self-isolation and social distancing being all the rage these days, most of us are probably spending a lot of time in front of the television. I sure am. Here are a few series I’ve been watching to satisfy my travel itch, at least a little bit, vicariously.
For the foodie
Hosted by the late chef and travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain, this series was released in 2013 and ran for five seasons until Bourdain’s untimely passing. It features Bourdain travelling around the globe to uncover lesser known parts of the world, exploring unique food and dining rituals. I watched several of the seasons when they were still on Netflix, and they served as a great source of travel inspiration. My favourite episodes were the ones in Asia, particularly South Korea, Japan, Laos, and Vietnam (this episode was notable for his interview with Barack Obama while eating bun cha). You may remember from my Vietnam travel blog that we ended up visiting a banh mi spot in Hoi An made famous by Bourdain during his travels there.
This is a new mini series that was just released late last year on Netflix, hosted by chef David Chang of Momofuku. It has a more lighthearted mood than Parts Unknown, featuring Chang’s explorations of international cuisine while accompanied by various celebrity guests. Mr. Chuckles and I enjoyed the episode in Phnom Penh with Kate McKinnon of Saturday Night Live, which we watched shortly before our departure to Cambodia. So far there have only been five episodes, but hopefully there will be another season, perhaps when the skies reopen.
For the nature lover
This mini documentary series was released on Netflix sometime in 2019, with eight episodes worth of epic cinematography exploring the planet’s range of ecosystems. From deserts and grasslands to coastal seas, you can go on a trip around the world from the comfort of your sofa while listening to the soothing narration of David Attenborough. The jungle episode was my personal favourite, for the gorillas.
This is a nature documentary series focused on the nocturnal lives of animals. It was produced by the team that created Planet Earth II, another series that received some local press attention here as it featured an episode starring the racoons (colloquially known as ‘trash pandas’) of Toronto. As usual with these types of shows, the cinematography is impressive, employing state of the art low-light camera technology. The most entertaining episode for me was ‘Sleepless Cities’ – those little monkeys are pretty devious. Interestingly, the series is narrated by Samira Wiley of Orange Is The New Black, another binge-worthy Netflix production.
For the guilty pleasure
Please don’t judge me for this one! The world is in a dark place right now and I spend my days doing serious things, so sometimes I need something mindless as a reprieve. Besides being The Most Dramatic show ever, ABC’s Bachelor/Bachelorette series does also feature some travel. Toward the middle of the season, once the lucky Bachelor or Bachelorette has whittled down their selection, the contestants are all taken to some international location. At the same time as you are engrossed in all the romance related drama of this past season, you can admire views of destinations like Costa Rica, Peru, and Australia which serve as backdrops to cheesy dates that usually include a helicopter ride.
If you’re looking for something even trashier to watch, 90 Day Fiancé has got you covered. It is a reality show that follows long distance couples looking to get the non-American partner into the United States via the K1 ‘Fiancé Visa’, which apparently allows them to enter the States for 90 days in order to get married. There are a zillion spinoffs, including Before The 90 Days and The Other Way, which feature the American partner travelling outside the country, where drama ensues. The series airs on reality show laden TLC, so you are forewarned that this is not exactly intellectually stimulating content. However, like I said, sometimes you just need some mindless entertainment!
What are you watching these days?
By the way, if the threat of COVID-19 or getting stranded abroad isn’t enough, you can also check out this post I wrote last month about movies to scare you out of travelling.