Travel documentaries are a great educational tool, but some of them offer even more than knowledge. If you’re wondering whether you should go or not, travel documentaries can help you to find motivation. Since they’re based on stories of real people and places, they present realistic views, not magical, overly confident fairy-tales.
Watching travel documentaries is also a fun activity for travelers who’re currently home, missing the road and sense of adventure. Some of them can make you feel as if you were far away, not just watching the pictures shown on your screen, but being inside of them. Here’s a list of 11 inspiring movies. In addition to classical documentaries, we included some mini TV series and slightly fictionalized productions, to make a list more diverse.
There’s no narration in Baraka, and at first sight, it seems like the movie doesn’t tell a story. Instead, what we get is a compilation of episodes. The camera only captures short moments, but these moments are beautiful and symbolic enough to represent the most important truths about the Earth, human life, the history of our species, technological development and natural phenomenon. The shooting took place in 24 countries on all of the six continents. Even though Baraka is neither a story of travelers nor a classical travel documentary, it can inspire you to go wandering. Looking at all those fascinating pictures from all over the world, you can’t help but think of how much is there to be discovered.
In a way, Samsara can be called a sequel to Baraka. The idea behind the movie is similar – it speaks through pictures, raising such subjects as philosophy, nature, and spirituality. Without words, the film creators can bring up some of the most intriguing, interesting questions about human existence. Just as Baraka, Samsara shows a variety of places around the globe. It was filmed in almost a hundred locations across 25 different countries. Samsara is like a long journey condensed into an hour and a half. It gives a unique meaning to details and makes common situations seem unusual.
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
Politics aside, The Motorcycle Diaries is a great road trip movie. It’s based on a Che Guevara’s travelogue in which the famous revolutionary describes his journey across South America. Together with his friend Alberto Granado, Guevara uncovers secrets, beauties, and struggles of Latin America. This journey, full of realizations, significantly influences his life. In addition to being a great source of knowledge about South America, the movie is also an example of how traveling can affect one’s views and decisions.
Stephen Fry in America (2008)
A mixture of British humor and American landscapes – sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? The idea itself is interesting, but implementation even better. Stephen Fry, a famous British comedian, takes a London cab, drives it all around the United States and creates a mini-series about his adventures. He visits the quirkiest of places and meets a variety of individuals. Immigrants, Aboriginals, hard workers and IT specialists, hoboes, sheriffs and college students, all of them exemplify different cultures and realities present within the vast land of America.
Encounters at the End of the World (2007)
Directed by a German master of the documentary, the movie Encounters at the End of the World is like a vehicle that takes its viewers on a trip right to the world of ice. Werner Herzog, the screenwriter, and director visit Antarctica to explore its fascinating nature as well as people who live amongst it. He interviews them to ask how come they ended up at the end of the world, surrounded by icebergs, seals, penguins and volcanoes. The movie is atmospheric and absorbing, so much that after watching it you might keep on thinking about the icy mountains and eccentric characters for many days.
South Pacific (2009)
A real trait for nature-lovers, the mini-series produced by BBC surveys the nature and culture of the numerous islands of the South Pacific region. Have you seen some photos taken in this part of the world? If the answer is yes, you have probably wondered how all this beauty has been created and how is it to live in its surrounding. The South Pacific series answers these questions in an interesting way. After seeing it, you’ll know a lot both about the local nature and the life of islanders significantly affected by natural conditions.
Life in a Day (2011)
Have you ever wondered what people around the globe do with their days? How they sleep, what they eat, how they communicate with their families and why they love their friends? Have you ever wondered what someone on the other side of the world might be doing right now? If these kinds of questions pop out in your mind, Life in a Day is a perfect watch for you. It’s not a reality show, so you won’t get to see what people are into at this very moment, but it’ll give you a glimpse of how days might be like for a variety of humans.
The movie was crowd-funded and produced by individuals from all over the world. It’s an example of how the Internet might connect people if used correctly. During one day hundreds of people filmed events from their lives and submitted it to YouTube so that all of the videos could be composed into one movie.
The Endless Summer (1966)
Whether you’re a water sports enthusiast or not, this movie can charm you. The director and narrator, Bruce Brown, joins two surfers on their long journey around the coasts of Australia, Tahiti, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Africa. Their goal is finding a perfect way, or at least that’s the most poetic version of their mission’s description. In fact, the passionate surfers not only try to find the best spots but also introduce their favorite sport to locals. Besides, they aim to prove that, with enough of time and resources, sun-seeking travel could live an endless summer, moving from one warm season to another. It’s an enjoyable watch, but, unless you’re a master of self-control and positive thinking, be ready to face at least a tiny little bit of jealousy.
Into the Wild (2007)
A dramatic story of one vagabond, Into the Wild, is a biographical movie with an important, worth-spreading message. It describes the journey of Christopher McCandless who tramped across North America and entered the harsh wilderness of Alaska. It’s beautifully shot, so much that seeing the pictures makes you want to pack and hit the road immediately. Nevertheless, the movie is also an important reminder that traveling, like anything else, can be dangerous, especially if it becomes an ultimate escape. Combining sadness and beauty, Into the Wild is a great piece of art, awe-inspiring, reflective and thought-provoking.
Human Planet (2011)
Human Planet shows how incredible nature can be and how humans can adjust to its principles. This BBC mini-series was filmed in over 70 locations in 40 different countries. There are deserts, jungles, forests, urban metropolises, oceans, high mountains, riversides, and grasslands. Then, in each of those locations, some humans manage to cooperate with their surroundings, even in harsh climates and severe conditions. You can see camel herders in the Gobi desert, African fertility dances, Hunters from Greenland, divers in the Philippines, Hawaiian surfers, uncontacted tribes in Brazil, bee-keepers from New York and many other creative representatives of the surprising human kind.
If you have doubts about your abilities to travel, this movie should help you to get rid of them. It tells a story of six blind Tibetan teenagers led by a blind mountain climber, Erik Weihenmayer. The American adventurer is known as the only blind person who has reached the summit of Mount Everest. A camera follows him and the rest of the group on their way to the top of Lhakpa Ri, a spectacular mountain standing in the shadow of Mount Everest. The blind teenagers must not only deal with physical limitations, but also social prejudice associated with their disability. Nevertheless, they manage to face the problems and, instead of giving up, they overcome the obstacles. Few movies are as inspiring as Blindsight.
Do you have some other recommendations of travel documentaries? Let us know! Before you start watching, don’t forget to share this article of the best travel documentaries with your friends, so that they too could enjoy these captivating productions.