School’s out, the days are getting longer, and that means two things: summer and VACATION! The Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower, and the Great Wall all beckon. Unless of course you’re too broke or too lazy (or both) to plan a trip any farther than your back yard. But never fear – you can travel the world vicariously through these travel movies, all without going on a frantic hunt for your passport. Bon voyage!
Under the Tuscan Sun: Italy
Ever dreamed of chucking your sad-sack life and buying a villa in Tuscany, taking an Italian lover, and eating fresh pasta every day? Then immerse yourself in a different pace of life with Diane Lane, Sandra Oh, and this cast of stereotypical (but charming) Italian characters. From the sunflowered fields of Cortona to the Positano coastline, you’ll see some of the most gorgeous parts of Italy, and your taste buds will tingle at the thought of all those fresh olives and tomatoes. Snuggle up with a bottle of Chianti and you might actually feel like you’re there.
Eurotrip: European grand tour
You know why the world hates American tourists? This. This is why. But if you dream of doing Europe the American way (i.e. 3 days, tops, in all the capitals, with a stylin’ money-belt and huge-ass camera) then this is the film for you! There’s even a nude beach, “special” brownies, and a fantastically horrible sequence in Eastern Europe, where a nickel can buy you the royal treatment. Of course this was all before the Euro – you’d probably need a whole quarter today.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: India
A bunch of Brits in their golden years are lured by the smooth-talking Sonny (Dev Patel, of Slumdog Millionaire fame) to a hotel-turned-retirement-home in Jaipur India… but accommodations are somewhat less luxurious than advertised. Not only is the cast a dream-team of British greats (Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, to name a few), the movie perfectly captures India in all of its brilliance, warmth, and confusion. Order in your favorite Indian take-out and take a big whiff of cardamom – you’re practically there!
Lost in Translation: Japan
Exploring a new country can be exhilarating and also over-whelming, especially when you find yourself in a place where you stick out like a sore thumb… or like Bill Murray in a crowd of Japanese. This critically acclaimed 2003 film explores culture shock, loneliness, and the strange bonds we find ourselves making with people we never would have even looked twice at, all because we’re desperate for an ounce of familiarity in a foreign landscape. This movie is the opposite of Eurotrip, and is best for the existential wanna-be-traveler.
National Lampoon’s Vacation: The Great American Family Vacation
Here’s the thing about the country you live in…you’re less likely to actually see it. What I mean is, more often than not when we go on vacation we want to go somewhere different, somewhere exotic. So, we end up missing out on some of the beauty of our own stomping grounds. So, whatever happened to the great american family vacation? Loading up the station wagon and setting out across the country for campgrounds, hijinx, crazy relatives and corny songs. And let’s face it, yours might not be quite as crazy as Clark Griswold, but who doesn’t have a memory of Dad freaking the hell out when that family vacation headed off the rails?
Into the Wild: The Contemplative American Adventure
For the purpose of the conversation, let’s sidestep his tragic demise and focus solely on the penultimate chapter in the life of Christopher McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp. Prior to his fatal mishap, McCandless enjoyed a backpacking, barefooted venture that those of us crammed into cubicles or positioned in front of customers could only dream of braving. In the film, McCandless (a shaggy Emile Hirsch) hoofs it away from his college graduation (abandoning his “with honors” distinction and a fruitful path to law school), travels the Colorado River, into Mexico, then California, and finally into Alaska, where he tests his modern Thoreauvian ambition and Emerson self-reliance to an unimaginable degree. Along the way, he exposes himself to a rare, untamed side of the American landscape.
Note that I didn’t say the movies in this list are objectively good (although most of them are). In fact this movie is probably the biggest stinker of the list. But it will take you on an African safari, where you can scout out the Big Five and enjoy traditional African songs and dance. I hope you do, because you sure as hell won’t enjoy Barrymore’s and Sandler’s performances. Hang a mosquito net, spray a little deet in the air for olfactory ambiance, and tease your cat into a frenzy so you can feel the real fear of an impending lion attack. Rawr. (By the way, if anyone knows of a better African travel movie, please comment below! Everything I could think of even set in Africa was either about Nelson Mandela, or really would NOT encourage anyone to travel there [think Heart of Darkness]).
Australia: ‘Nuff said
While it showcases hints of the trademark Baz Luhrmann glistening polish, Australia preserves enough of the country’s fabled rough and tumble exterior to set itself apart as distinctly proud and boastful of its setting. The romantic epic maintains the sense of adventure dreamed of by wide-eyed travellers who have their hearts and compasses pointed down under. Luhrmann, a native Australian, used his love for the landscape to frame the movie as a love letter to his homeland, assigned the leading roles to the country’s two biggest movie stars, and partnered with a tourism company to the tune of one million dollars to start a campaign to combat the country’s contemporary recession. And, damned if it didn’t all come together into pure tourist temptation.
The Bucket List: World Tour
Two old geezers (Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson) pair up to check items off their bucket list before they, well, kick the bucket. From scaling Mt. Everest to exploring the Great Pyramid to flying over the North Pole, this is a great way to see many of the travel highlights of the world in one film, all while being lulled into that lovely warm place to which only Morgan Freeman’s voice can take us.
Up in the Air: why it’s sweet to be a frequent flyer
The life of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is so far from your own at this moment; you can’t even fathom racking up a thousand miles, much less a million. Here you are, perfecting that butt-dent in your couch, and Bingham is all like, “Do I even have a couch? I’m not sure, I’m so rarely at home. If I do no WAY it’s as comfy as United’s elite lounge. I wonder if I could get them to install some of those bitchin’ first-class seats in my living room…” If you’re going to travel, might as well do it right – fully-reclining seats, complimentary champagne, and your own personal TV screen. What’s that you say? You already have all that at home and didn’t have to shell out thousands of dollars for it? Well then by all means, kick back, imbibe, and enjoy!
Up: No actually this is a command. YOU! Get up!
One major gripe about traveling is having to leave the comforts of home. No room to pack the fuzzy slippers, and taking the Nespresso seems like overkill. Solution? Tie about a million and 2 balloons to your house and you, too, can travel the world, Wizard of Oz style, with literally ALL the comforts of home… except maybe your utilities and internet. Curmudgeonly Carl inspires us to get our asses UP off the couch and stop finding excuses for not taking that vacation. Carl and Ellie had a full, beautiful life (and I’m sorry but if that montage did not melt your heart then the only destination you should be considering is Antarctica), but life got away from them, as it so often does, before they realized their dream of seeing the world. But Carl shows us that it’s never too late – with a little spare change, a trailing boy scout, and a lot of helium, we, too, can go an an adventure. Where will YOU go?