Prepare to be inspired — and get your passport ready!
This article is different than the run-of-the-mill, stereotypical ‘travel movie article’ because I’m going to ask you to ‘be open to inspiration’, be open to the lessons you may glean from each movie, and to ‘take steps toward finding your own way’. You’ll have a small taste of the movie, some quotes, and a sample of the lessons you might get from watching these films. I’ll include some videos clips and some music too. The idea is to get inspired to travel, and travel with the right mindset.
Always be a Conscientious Traveler
I thought it important to add this at the outset. If you’re reading this, you are most likely in a highly “westernized” country like the USA. This means that you might be predisposed to western culture which means everything outside of the borders of the United States is culture shock (if you are paying attention). And this is a good thing. Pay attention, but don’t expect that people in other places should be like you or have the same cultural beliefs and traditions that are the norm in the US. You’re a guest everywhere else in the world, so please be the most gracious and understanding guest possible. Have respect for other cultures and the environment. We want to continue to be welcomed around the world so please be a ‘conscientious traveler’ not just a tourist. There are plenty of lessons in the following movies, but I hope to instill a sense of being a conscientious traveler first and foremost.
Without further adieu, and in no particular order, the 9 life-changing movies that will inspire you to drop everything and travel:
1. Eat Pray Love
Let’s get this one out of the way immediately because Eat Pray Love is the quintessential ‘travel movie’ on everybody’s list of top travel movies. I tried not to include it and just list 8 movies, but the lessons in the movie are too important to skip.
Based on the 2006 memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia” by American author Elizabeth Gilbert, the movie, “Eat Pray Love” chronicles the author’s trip around the world after her divorce and what she discovered during her travels.
Primary Locations: India, Italy, and Indonesia.
Lessons to consider from Eat Pray Love
“The Bhagavad Gita — that ancient Indian Yogic text — says that it is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert
- Regardless of what story (or movie) inspires you to travel, go your own way. Trying to mimic someone else’s experience is still going to lead to your own unique experience. There’s no way around it. And don’t worry if everything doesn’t go as planned. Life never does.
“I’m choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I’m making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert
- Make space for the unexpected pleasures ahead. If you live your life confined to a daily routine, you need to take a long break from that to broaden your horizon; to become the butterfly rather than remain a caterpillar.
Music and Scenes from the movie Eat Pray Love
Eat Pray Love inspires us to find a new perspective on life elsewhere in the world. And reminds us that we should not wait too long before going somewhere to see beautiful places, find new perspectives, meet new friends, and love.
2. Cast Away
Many might argue that Cast Away isn’t a travel movie at all, but a movie about hopelessness and tragedy. But I would argue that Cast Away is a movie about love, being happy with simple things, and the timeless nature of living in the moment. And that’s what travel is truly about.
Cast Away came out in 2000 and depicts FedEx employee Chuck Noland, played by Tom Hanks, who is marooned on an uninhabited island after his plane crashes in the South Pacific. The story highlights his attempts to survive on the island using remnants of his plane’s cargo and what’s available on the tiny island (coconuts, coconut tree fronds, etc). The movie takes us on a journey that touches Memphis, Los Angeles, Moscow, the South Pacific, and finally closes out the movie in the middle of nowhere, Texas.
It is at that crossroads in Texas where our hero Noland is faced with what to do now. And perhaps that’s where you are right now; searching for new perspectives. Where do you want to go?
Primary Locations: Memphis, Los Angeles, Moscow, the South Pacific, and Texas
Lessons to consider from Cast Away
Near the beginning of the movie, Noland says the following quote:
“Time rules over us without mercy. Not caring if we’re healthy or ill. Hungry or drunk. Russian, American, beings from Mars. It’s like a fire, it could either destroy us or it could keep us warm. That’s why every FedEx office has a clock because we live or we die by the clock. We never turn our back on it and we never ever allow ourselves the sin of losing track of time.” — Chuck Noland
- That quote illustrates what most of us unconsciously feel in our daily lives. And because our lives are filled with the pursuit of income and keeping up with the demands of our western lives, we all-too-often forget to breathe. We rarely take time to live in the moment and to feel. Cast Away teaches us that we need to slow down and relish the little things in life, especially when we travel. If you’re planning to cram a bunch of travel-guide experiences into a tight schedule, then you’re doing it wrong.
“I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?” — Chuck Noland
A small taste of the music of Cast Away
Cast Away reminds us that no matter what battle we’re fighting, nor the struggles of everyday life, that we are all at a crossroads in our lives. Travel is about embracing new perspectives and being open to diversity. And every day we wake up to find what the tide may bring.
3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Set in New York with awkward trips to Greenland, Iceland, Yemen and Afghanistan, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is as much about love and friendship as it is about living a “noteworthy and mentionable” life.
Walter daydreams of adventures and love, but never goes anywhere and doesn’t take any chances. But he’s bullied into unfamiliar territory and forced to face the unexpected on an unforgettable journey.
Primary Locations: New York, Greenland, Iceland, Yemen, and Afghanistan.
Lessons to consider from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
“Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”
― The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
- When you start exploring the world you will inevitably witness many people taking ‘selfies’ everywhere and Instagramming the most popular ‘Instagram spots’. My suggestion is to “stay in the moment” instead. Sure, grab a quick photo, but don’t be so distracted as to miss the moment entirely.
“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
- If you take away from this movie anything, remember this quote. Because most people think of travel in terms of bucket-list places to check off or photos that must be taken to prove to others you’ve been there. Take it from me, that’s not what travel is about. Travel is about what you take with you after you’re gone — once you go somewhere else — it’s that experience you just had that makes you a better person wherever you go from here. Travel is life; the most important parts are the people you’ve touched, the perspectives and understandings you gain along the way, and the moments in love.
Music and Scenes from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty shows us how one awkwardly normal guy can create a noteworthy and mentionable life by embracing the unfamiliar and engaging with people in different cultures in unexpected places. Sometimes all it takes is that first leap on the plane.
4. The Way
Written, produced and directed by Emilio Estevez, The Way honors the Camino de Santiago and promotes the traditional pilgrimage (spiritual, religious, or otherwise). Emilio called the film “pro-people, pro-life, not anti-anything”. Set almost entirely in Spain, The Way explores many different cultures by sharing the incredible diversity of people that make the trek on foot across the widest part of Spain.
The movie shares what it might be like to meet people from all over the world who are on their own journey but going along the same path to the same place at their own pace. The main characters discover that although they’re all different, their first impressions of each other don’t truly reveal the difficult struggles they might be going through. Over time traveling together, their realities surface and they learn to accept each other for who they really are. And that’s how friendships are made. The lessons here are that travel done right is about the people you meet.
Primary Location: Spain
Lessons to consider from The Way
“You don’t choose a life Dad. You live one.” — Daniel
- The Way opens your eyes to traveling solo and tells us that we are not alone in the world. The message is to live life and not try to force a square peg into a round hole. Sometimes it’s better to just go and see what happens.
“Most people don’t have the luxury of just leaving it all behind.” — Tom
- It’s important to recognize that most people don’t have the freedom to travel or to escape the rat race. And if you find a way to do that, you are lucky. However, it is also important to understand that the idea that we’re supposed to conform to a consumerist society is just a social construct that might not be as strict as we are told. About 300,000 people complete the Camino de Santiago every year. And in the movie, we are shown a wide variety of people from just about everywhere — all with very different economic backgrounds. The message is that you CAN leave everything behind because you can always start fresh again.
Some music from The Way
The Way will undoubtedly inspire you to consider walking the Camino. After you watch the movie, think about how the movie affects you. Consider, what about the movie makes you want to go on a pilgrimage with a bunch of people you’ve never met, from all over the world. Remember, you can find a way to walk the Camino regardless of your circumstances.
5. Lost in Translation
The film Lost in Translation shows us a side of Japan most people never experience. Japan is a unique country that is dramatically different from western society. It’s a must-do country for anyone looking to immerse themselves in a wildly different culture.
Primary Location: Japan.
Lessons to consider from Lost in Translation
“I just feel so alone, even when I’m surrounded by other people.” — Charlotte
- Often travel begins by being surrounded by people you don’t know. It can be overwhelming and disorienting to be in a completely unfamiliar place with not even a basic understanding of the language or culture. One of the most common feelings you might get traveling is loneliness. Lost in Translation loosely illustrates the transition from ‘I don’t know anyone and I’m alone’ to ‘I can make friends just about anywhere’ that many people experience traveling.
Charlotte: ‘I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be.’
Bob: ‘You’ll figure that out. The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.’
- When people travel they often get a lot of “alone time” where self-contemplation takes over. The new perspective makes us wonder about our place in the world — our life’s purpose. Even frustrations can be defeating and give rise to questioning yourself, “what am I doing here.” But over time you’ll figure that out.
Let’s never come here again because it would never be as much fun.
- After you’ve traveled to many places you get a sense of what it’s like to visit a place for the very first time. It can be exhilarating to experience a feast of the senses. For many, visiting a new country is like that first kiss.
Scenes from Lost in Translation
Here’s a short video showing scenes from Lost in Translation. The music is from Coldplay, which is not on the soundtrack, but this song fits the emotions of the scenes very well.
6. A Map For Saturday
Another travel-movie favorite, A Map For Saturday by Filmmaker Brook Silva-Braga, documents his solo travels across four continents — Australia, Asia, Europe, and South America. The film highlights 12 of the 26 countries he visited during his 11-month trip around the world. It’s a great look into what it’s like traveling to many different countries on a budget.
Primary Locations: Australia, Asia, Europe, and South America.
Lessons to consider from A Map For Saturday
“It’s funny because you think you’re on this search all by yourself and then you come across all these other people who are doing the same thing.” — A Map For Saturday
- This lesson keeps repeating for good reason. Travel is about the people you meet as much if not more than the places you visit. If you’re ever lonely all you need to do is smile and say hello.
“No one understands, no one gets it when you get home and everyone says, ‘Ah, so what did you do? How was it?’ How do you explain to someone who has a 9 to 5 job, that does that every single day?” — A Map For Saturday
- The good advice here is knowing that you will not be the same person after you get the travel bug. Once you start trekking all over the world you will gain a completely different perspective coming home. And it’s not going to be easy to explain it all to the people you used to know. Because you’ve changed and so have they. Everything changes.
“Well, sometimes situations make me recognize that I am born in a Western country, and somehow I can adapt to another culture but only to a certain grade… The more you see of the world the less exotic it gets for you. You just get to know the differences between countries are smaller than you expect them to be.” — A Map For Saturday
- Perspectives change all the time. Once you are on the road learning about a new culture in a different country, pretty soon you find those dramatic differences you first experienced become less unusual over time. Travel teaches us to be more understanding and less frustrated — well, most of us anyway.
“normal life really doesn’t seem that attractive at all anymore. I can’t imagine not traveling again. I can’t imagine going back to a real job.” — A Map For Saturday
- This is the one thing you might experience on your first trip abroad that’s longer than a month. You might come home and realize your previous life isn’t as exciting as you once thought. This can make it difficult to assimilate back into the society you came from after you’ve expanded your worldly perspective.
The Trailer for A Map For Saturday
A Map For Saturday is another film that’s sure to inspire you to pack a bag and get on a plane to somewhere, anywhere!
7. & 8. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (I and II)
None of these movies are listed in order, but this movie impacted me in a very profound way. There are actually two movies, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and I suggest you watch both on the same day. Both films have something to add to the experience.
Set on the immense backdrop of India, this film unfolds how different cultures collide and often dance together. India is a place that will assault your senses in the most magical ways you can’t imagine. This movie takes you right there and gives you a brief glimpse to entice you to take the journey yourself.
Primary Location: India
Lessons to consider from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
“The only real failure is the failure to try. And the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment. As we always must. We came here, and we tried. All of us, in our different ways. Can we be blamed for feeling we’re too old to change? Too scared of disappointment to start it all again? We get up every morning, we do our best. Nothing else matters.” — Evelyn Greenslade
- I find it somewhat difficult to express in mere words how important some of the quotes in this movie are pertaining to travel, and life itself. The writing is so well done. When you travel, you will experience many feelings you might not be used to, such as, feeling too old or too scared. But you must remember that we get up every morning and the most important thing you’ll do every day is your best.
“Everything will be alright in the end, so if it is not alright it is not yet the end.”
― Deborah Moggach
- When we travel, there are often roadblocks and setbacks. It is important to understand that’s all part of the experience. There’s no sense in fighting it in an effort to ensure a trouble-free life. It’s just not going to happen that way no matter how to live it.
A short clip from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
I hope you’ll get as much out of these films as I did. The music, the people, the culture, the colors, the relationships, and the saga continues.
No travel inspiration list should be without Sideways, although you probably won’t find it on many. Sideways is a comedy-drama directed by Alexander Payne and written by Jim Taylor and Payne adapted from Rex Pickett’s novel of the same name. It follows two 40-year-old guys, Miles and Jack, on a week-long road trip in California where they meet Maya and Stephanie.
It has equal parts of road tripping the wine country and what it’s like taking a trip with two different people who just happen to be old friends. Again, this movie is about people meeting new people and experiencing new digs. The movie resonates with some people and connects them with the idea of ‘just getting in a car and going somewhere’. That’s why I’m including it.
Primary Location: California.
Lessons to consider from Sideways
“[Describing her passion for wine] I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it’s an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I’d opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it’s constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks, like your ’61. And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline.” — Maya
- In this quote from Maya, the appreciation for wine and how it feels knowing the details of who, how and where the bottle of wine came from deepens the experience. This is an important lesson for travelers. The importance of subtle nuances is celebrated in this movie, and to gain the full range of pleasure from travel, you should tune in to the subtle cues around you as well.
A short clip from Sideways
Sideways is a whimsical movie about taking friends on a road trip that also explores the good and the bad of meeting new people along the way. It suggests that you might want to take that trip because you never know what the tide might bring.
Here’s your homework
Watch as many of these movies as you can in the next few weeks. Remember to ‘be open to inspiration’, and to ‘take steps toward finding your own way’. I recommend that you get your passport ready as soon as possible, and remember to always be a conscientious traveler.
In creating this list of movies I revisited my longing for departure to places I’ve never been; to explore myself somewhere else, and to meet people and to fall in love. I hope you’ll go somewhere as a result of being inspired and become the butterfly of your former self.
Aloha, namasté, arigatou gozaimasu, and Buen Camino.