You may be stuck at home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel.
ell, in your imagination at least.
Our wings are clipped, so why not use the time on your hands to escape through travel movies, TV shows, books and podcasts, using the inspiration to plan some future trips?
Here are some ideas to get you started.
10 of the best travel films
The tale of Cheryl Strayed’s solo hike along the Pacific Coast Trail starring Reese Witherspoon will make you want to strap on a pair of hiking boots as soon as you possibly can. Alternatively, it might just make you eternally grateful that you’re plonked on a sofa rather than trekking over 1,000 miles with a giant rucksack on your back.
Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
This Mexican road trip movie follows the journey of two teenage boys and an older woman, as they drive across gorgeous desert landscapes and along coastal roads. The title is Spanish for ‘And your mother, too’ but let us warn you… this is certainly not one to watch with your mother.
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Is there anything more comforting than popping on a Wes Anderson movie? Of course there isn’t. The Darjeeling Limited is one of his best, tracking three brothers on their train journey across India (if you’re currently cooped up with family members, you’ll relate hard to this one).
Out of Africa (1985)
A classic of the genre, Out of Africa tells the true (and somewhat tragic) story of Karen Blixen and her lover (played by Meryl Streep and Robert Redford). Set against the backdrop of Kenya’s stunning Ngong Hills and Rift Valley, this one may be a bit of a tearjerker, but you’ll be bowled over by the beautiful African setting (and that hair-washing scene).
The Way (2010)
Covid-19 has dashed Camino plans for now, but if you’ve ever been tempted to walk the famous route, this is the movie for you. Martin Sheen plays a man walking the French Way in memory of his son, and falls in with a rag tag group of pilgrims along the track. On a similar vein, David’s Lynch’s The Straight Story (1999) is a weepie for the ages, chronicling a 73-year-old man’s road trip… by lawn mower.
Thelma and Louise (1991)
If ever there were a time when we needed to live vicariously through a road trip movie, it’s now. Thelma and Louise (below) is the ultimate adventure movie. It makes me tear up every time, has bonus Brad Pitt points, and you can follow it by digging out some vintage 501s and a headscarf.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Every time I watch Jurassic Park (and I confess, that happens quite often) I fall in love with it all over again. The luscious green peaks of Hawaii, the excellent tension, the shirtless Jeff Goldblum… what’s not to like? The effects have aged, sequels have followed, but Spielberg’s dino-epic is the original and the best.
The Beach (2000)
Need any further proof that we, as a human race, can’t have nice things? Maya Bay, the setting for The Beach, was closed last year after it was all but destroyed by overtourism. But while the beach heals, we can still enjoy it on screen, along with a baby-faced Leonardo DiCaprio (above).
The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)
There’s something so dreamily aspirational about all of this film (apart from the, uh, murdery bit). But the Italian island of Ischia, seen through a 1950s filter, is undeniably swoonworthy. Mix up a Campari and soda for the screening and you could be there with Jude, Matt and Gwyneth (almost).
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
It’s almost impossible to watch this movie without being swept up with the overwhelming urge to go to Singapore. But until you can, this glossy, colourful, celebration of a film is the next best thing. Just make sure you have enough snacks to hand – the food envy is strong in this one.
If you like those, try…
Moana (2016), an animated adventure set in Polynesia, is a great one to watch with the kids and feels like an adventure in itself (it’s on Disney+, which has just launched in Ireland from €6.99 a month). If you’re longing for some Californian sun (and wine… and wit) then give Sideways (2004) a go, while other road trip options include Little Miss Sunshine (2016) and Easy Rider (1969).
– Nicola Brady
Eight essential travel books
1. White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World by Geoff Dyer
From the author of the excellently named Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It, White Sands is a gorgeous read. A sharp and witty writer, Dyer takes us to Los Angeles, China, French Polynesia and the Svalbard archipelago (his chapter on not seeing the Northern Lights is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read). But there’s heart, too – the appreciation he has for the everyday beauty of the world after having a stroke is more than a little inspiring.
Heal Me: In Search of a Cure by Julia Buckley
After being told by doctors that her chronic pain condition can’t be cured, Julia sets off on a search around the world to find the miracle that she believes is out there. Her journey takes her from the Californian desert to the jungles of Bali, meeting healers, gurus and therapists from every corner of the globe. Interwoven among the travel tales are fascinating insights into the science of pain and the psychology (and failings) of modern medicine – I learnt more about the neurological system in one chapter than I have from any science class.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Remember that summer when every single person on the bus seemed to be reading this book? Be snobby about it if you like, but Eat Pray Love was a genuine game-changer, and inspired many a knock-off pilgrimage (be honest – you wanted to head straight to Naples as soon as you read the pizza chapter). This is still the perfect armchair travel fodder. You’ll whizz between Italy, India and Bali without ever having to leave the house.
Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy
A true original, Irish woman Dervla Murphy is a hero for anyone with an incurable case of wanderlust. In this, her first book, we see her travel from Ireland to India on her trusty bicycle, which would be an impressive enough feat in itself. But the fact that she went on this journey as a solo woman in 1963 is remarkable. She faces packs of starving wolves and gangs of pervy men, but tackles each with aplomb and humour (as well as the revolver packed safely in her saddle bags).
Departures: A Guide to Letting Go, One Adventure at a Time by Anna Hart
Travel books can have braggy tones of superiority. You know the kind – an intrepid explorer sets off to climb all of the world’s mountains barefoot, with a kitchen table strapped to his back and a piece of cling film for shelter. But what I love about this book by the Irish travel writer Anna Hart is the utter lack of any pretension. Part memoir, part travel bible, this book takes us on Hart’s previous journeys and explores why we love to travel. Her wisdom about travelling alone as a woman is refreshingly brilliant, and will leave you longing to pack up your suitcase and hit the road.
The Wonder Trail: True Stories from Los Angeles to the End of the World by Steve Hely
An American comedy TV writer with some classics to his name (including 30 Rock, The Office and Veep), Steve Hely’s book sees him make the trip from his home in Los Angeles all the way down to Patagonia. Unsurprisingly, it makes for a damn funny read, but it’s also jam-packed with historical facts and titbits that will make you seem super intelligent when you recite them later on. Hely parties with Australians, narrowly avoids a kidnapping, and takes ayahuasca with a shaman in Peru (so you never have to).
The Best Moment of Your Life, Lonely Planet
I picked up this coffee-table book thinking it would be something to dip in and out of. I ended up devouring it in one sitting. It contains 100 stories from travel writers, each describing the best moment of their lives. These range from the adventurous (climbing the fabled Half Dome in Yosemite) to the wild (finding mountain gorillas in Rwanda) but aren’t all dramatic, bucket-list moments. There are stories of getting lost in Peru (but crashing an excellent party in the process) and wild camping in Wales, too.
Down Under by Bill Bryson
Settling down with a Bill Bryson book is like sitting down with an old friend. Whenever I’m feeling anxious, or uneasy, I pluck a book of his from the shelf and immediately feel like I’m being wrapped up in a big comforting cuddle. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of his titles, but I’ll always love Down Under, the tale of his trip around Australia, for the hilarious breakdowns of every single outback creature who can (and will) kill you. When you’ve finished that, try A Walk in the Woods, the story of his hike along the Appalachian Trail, or his debut book The Lost Continent, about the road trip he takes around his home country, America.
– Nicola Brady
10 top travel TV shows & podcasts
1. Big Little Lies
Acting royalty like Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep abound, but the glamorous town of Monterey and the surrounding Californian coastline are also stars of the series. Big Sur’s Bixby Creek Bridge (a half-hour drive out of Monterey) is in the opening credits. Monterey Bay Aquarium is where Jane (Shailene Woodley) works and Del Monte beach is where she runs. But frankly, anywhere along California’s Highway 1 will give you that Big Little Lies vibe (Sky Atlantic, Now TV).
2. Chew the fat
Ireland’s Gastro Gays — aka Russell Alford and Patrick Hanlon — blog about their foodie adventures at home and abroad. Their podcast — Chew the Fat — sees the pair tour the country, doing on-the-ground interviews which really immerse the listener in the location. Hear them chat to a goats-cheese producer and seaweed farmer on Inis Mór, for example, a cookery book writer in Dublin, or a café owner in Cork. The couple’s casual style and enthusiasm is infectious and their personalities shine through. Regular listeners will know that they are big Eurovision fans… a guilty pleasure in itself. gastrogays.com
3. Coffee Break Languages
Next time you go abroad, you could make it your aim to have a crack at conversing in the local lingo. Whether you’re at home or working right now, this free podcast is designed in short bursts and suitable for beginners and up. There are four levels, with each having 40 lessons. The emphasis is on conversation, which is obviously what most of us need when travelling. If you really get on with it, you can sign up for a further online course. radiolingua.com
4. Our planet
You want the world’s most spectacular landscapes and wildlife up close and personal? The footage in this series, narrated by David Attenborough, is simply jaw dropping. It ranges from sweeping aerial shots to magnified, time-lapsed close-ups. Frozen icefields segue to parched deserts, temperate forests to underwater coral gardens. The messages about climate change and our part in it are thought-provoking, too. (Netflix)
5. The Big Travel Podcast
Travel journalist, filmmaker and radio broadcaster Lisa Francesca Nand hosts relaxed and chatty interviews with famous and interesting people, exploring their lives through their travels around the world. Interviewees include a film maker, an author, a style icon, an explorer, a DJ and an astronaut. thebigtravelpodcast.com; Apple
6. Conan Without Borders
Likeable, funny late-night US talk show host Conan O’Brien visits countries like Ghana, Mexico, Armenia and the Australian bush. This is not about beautiful panoramic shots, but Conan getting down with the locals (some appreciate his humour; others don’t quite get it) and their culture. We see him hacking the top off a coconut with a machete in Ghana, training with women of Israel’s Defence Forces and floating in the Dead Sea… while getting teased about his pale white Irish skin. (Netflix)
7. The Rough Guide to Everywhere
So many of us have enjoyed the books and online guides, it’s exciting to listen to Rough Guide writers and guest travellers talking about their adventures — everything from off-roading in the Scottish Highlands to Witchcraft in Western Iceland and The Art of Responsible Photography. (Apple, Soundcloud)
8. Game of Thrones
If you still haven’t seen it, self-isolation is the ideal time to immerse yourself in all eight seasons of GoT. Northern Ireland stars as much of the backdrop. When Arya Stark escapes from King’s Landing dressed as a boy, for example, she rides along the Dark Hedges, a magical avenue of beech trees in Ballymoney, Co Antrim. The grounds of Castle Ward, Co Down, starred as Winterfell, home of the Stark Family, throughout the series. (Sky Atlantic)
9. Ugly Delicious
If much of your holiday revolves around where you are going to eat, this is the series is for you. Chef David Chang travels the world, visiting friends, shopping in food markets and eating in restaurants. Adventures include asking where in the world serves the best pizza, exploring Indian home cooking with his friend Padma Lakshmi at her apartment in Mumbai, and sampling the best steaks in his home city of New York, as well as in South Carolina and Sydney. Mouthwatering stuff. (Netflix)
10. Out of Office: Powered by Contiki
Adventure travel tour operator Contiki is behind this podcast, with recent episodes focusing on a journalist who interviewed women creating businesses for women in India, such as a woman-only rickshaw business in Jaipur, or a chat with a vegan traveller about how she copes on her world travels… clue — there’s lots of planning ahead! (Apple, Google, Spotify)
PS. National Geographic
A suite of Nat Geo’s wonderful wildlife and travel documentaries is now available on Disney+. Wild Yellowstone shows the vast US National Park at its natural best — in summer, when bears and bison and wolves (oh my) sun themselves and in winter, when the snow is interrupted by boiling geysers and bubbling mud pools. Adventurers will be thrilled by the nail-biting Free Solo, which follows climber Alex Honnold as he climbs the towering El Capitan in Yosemite National Park — without ropes. (Disney+)
— Emma O’Reilly
Your online travel toolkit
Screentime shooting up? Now, make it more productive… YouTube has some awe-inspiring drone footage from the likes of Devan Supertramp, plus on-the-road travelogue-style video guides from VagaBrothers and Irish travel blogger Janet Newenham. Instagram is chock full of travel inspo – browse the travel section or hashtag any destination. Pinterest is another visual feast with travel writing guides and features – create themed boards and pin what tickles your fancy.
Find the best time of year to travel with the very detailed website weather2travel.com. It also includes travel advice and holiday deals. Lonely Planet Survival Guides and Wikivoyage.org are also useful sources of practical know-how – history, culture, flights, visas, public transport, money, the internet, language… it’s all there.
Rome2Rio (rome2rio.com) is a great app – put in a starting point and a destination and it will serve up all the viable travel options, as well as timings and prices. Skyscanner (skyscanner.ie) and Momondo (momondo.ie) are good for flight deals, while you can find the best seats on trains with The Man at Seat 61 (seat61.com) and planes at seatguru.com.
Smart hotel lovers can find tasty choices at Mr and Mrs Smith (mrandmrssmith.com) or HIP Hotels (hiphotels.com), a globally curated collection founded by photographer, Herbert Ypma. In Ireland, take a look at Original Irish Hotels (originalirishhotels.com), the Blue Book (Irelands-blue-book.ie) or Hidden Ireland (hiddenireland.com). Why not plan around the accommodation rather than the destination?
Saving for holidays can take away much of the ‘ouch’ factor, and there are apps to help, such as Spendee (spendee.com) which splits all your spending (not just for holidays) so that you can see exactly where you are going wrong (and right). TrabeePocket (trabeepocket.com) will keep a daily track when you are away, recording purchases in the local currency.
Whatever your holiday style (super organised or more laissez-faire?), it’s wise to have some sort of structure to your travels. There are apps and websites to help you do it. Old faithful, Trip Advisor (tripadvisor.ie) now has a Trips function to customise itineraries. The Trip It app (tripit.com) magically finds your bookings and reservations and organises them into one master itinerary.
Google Maps is the go-to option and works offline if you download street maps while you have WiFi (remember to pin places of interest first). CityMaps2Go works similarly and you can mark places you want to visit. Currency calculations on the run are easy with the xe.com app and Google Translate is handy for when you’re tempted to play charades with the locals (it works by voice or text – again, download in your chosen language beforehand for offline).
Make professional looking videos to keep and to share on social media with online editor Magisto.com. The DayOne app (dayoneapp.com) creates online journals – add in photos, handwritten entries and drawings and audio to make it totally personal.
– Emma O’Reilly