For many people, watching movie is a form of escape from reality. Movies take us to a different reality, and some even take us to places. I love watching movies, even more so movies set in exotic destinations and movies about travel. Some movies are so well made that they created a traveling boom for the destination; i.e. The Lord of the Ring for New Zealand; Amelie for Paris; The Beach for Koh Phi Phi.
And there are some that stir up wanderlust in us. These movies make us want to quit everything and go to exotic destinations and search for unforgettable adventures. In essence, they encourage us to get out of our comfort zone and throw our known reality upside down, and in the process find our true self.
These are five movies about travel that have impacted and inspired me. They feature incredible destinations, but what makes them special to me is that they all deal with the inner journey, a soul searching journey.
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” Miriam Beard
The first thing I do when I arrive in a new place is to get lost. I leave my guidebook or map in the hostel and just wander the streets. I love the sense of getting lost, walking with no set destination or expectation. This is when the childlike wonder takes over.
I’m not sure if this tendency of mine was influenced by Before Sunrise. This 1994 movie is about two strangers wandering the cobblestone streets of Vienna at night after a a chance meeting on a train. The whole movie is about them sharing thoughts, jokes, opinions, etc. as they walk aimlessly.
Before Sunrise truly captures what traveling is about: unscripted, unadulterated, spontaneous, and just go with the flow. And it also highlights how ephemeral travel relationships are.
When I first watched it, I was smitten by the romanticism of travel, captivated by the spontaneity, and the connection of strangers. I dreamed about falling in love in foreign land, but more so I craved for the meeting of the minds of two strangers. And only travel predisposes you to experience this.
This awe-inspiring movie is based on a motorcycle trip taken by Ernesto Che Guevara and his friend cum cousin; traveling from Buenos Aires up along the western side of South America all the way to Venezuela.
It showcases stunning landscapes and heart-wrenching poverty in South America. It also shows how Guevara’s views were shaped in part of his journey to becoming the revolutionary he was.
In retrospect, the Motorcycle Diaries is a microcosm of my travel experience in the magical continent; I saw breathtaking scenery, met amazing people, had unforgettable adventures, but it also changed me as a traveler as well as a person. I am not the same person today as when I started traveling 12 years ago.
At the end of the movie Guevara states, “Wandering around our America has changed me more than I thought. I am not me any more. At least I’m not the same me I was,” which perfectly sums up any long-term travel.
Into The Wild
Based on the real-life story of Christopher McCandles, Into the Wild tells an inspiring story of how a disenchanted young man rejects the conventional lifestyle, gives up everything, and hitchhikes his way to Alaska. Along the way, he meets an assortment of characters who influence and shape his life. The movie is a lyrical ode to wanderlust and youthful idealism.
It talks about the disillusionment of society, the running away from the expectations of a “normal” life, and to search for bigger things – a soul searching journey. And that is what travel is really about.
This movie resonated very personally and deeply with me. I shared many of McCandles’ view about life and society. But unlike him, I don’t have the courage to disconnect completely from society and people. While McCandles seek the extreme I strive to find a balance.
“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
Not many movies can capture the essence of a life-changing experience quite like The Way did for El Camino de Santiago. This movie tells a story of a father who goes to collect the remains of his vagabonding son who has died walking the Camino. In a spur of the moment decision, the father decides to continue the walk, with the ashes of his son.
The beautiful scenery, the myriads of interesting characters he meets on the way, and the positive change it does to the protagonist have motivated thousands of people to add walking El Camino de Santiago to their bucket list.
The Way manages to be a movie about travel and inspiration without being typical. The physical travel is overshadowed by the emotional journey the characters go through, and the power of transformation doesn’t come from religion, even though it is a religious pilgrimage.
I first walked the Camino de Santiago in 2005 and the experience totally changed my life. I had wanted to return but as the years passed, the motivation diminished. Until I watched The Way. The movie brought back many beautiful memories of my maiden walk, and managed to resurrect the dormant desire to return. And in the summer of 2015 I finally did.
“You don’t choose a life. You live one.”
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
On the verge of losing his job, Walter Mitty decides to embark on a global journey in search of the photographer whose image is to be the final cover for the magazine he works for. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty not only portrays stunning scenery from Iceland and the Himalaya, it’s also a story of how a person turns his daydream into reality. And in the process finds himself.
The movie takes the don’t-take-it-too-seriously approach and manages to both entertain and charm. But there’s also something more profound being told here if we can look beyond the glossy images and simple story line.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is not a flawless movie. But it manages to do what many good movies struggle to do – it arouses wanderlust.
After watching this movie, I found myself longing for the desolate landscapes of Iceland, dreaming of the solitude of travel and the immeasurable joy of adventures.
The tagline in the poster says it all- “Stop dreaming, start living“.
There are many movies about travel and wanderlust, but these five are the ones I can watch over and over again. And with each watching, they will arouse wanderlust in me, with such intensity that I have no choice but succumb to it.
How about you? Which are the movies that arouse your wanderlust?