These travel documentaries are available across a number of streaming platforms, ready for your viewing pleasure.
With worldwide travel reduced to only the most essential of cases, you aren’t alone if you find yourself with upcoming plans in tatters. It’s important to remember that lockdown won’t last forever.
The world is vast and at some point soon, it will once again be open for exploration. We’ve compiled a list of the best travel documentaries currently available on a variety of streaming platforms — maybe you’ll be able to pick up a few ideas for your next destination.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner (Netflix)
Korean American chef David Chang’s 2019 four-part series, currently airing on Netflix, features him and four famous friends as they traverse a range of cities — sampling cuisine and culture on the way. Chang and his guests, Seth Rogan (in his hometown of Vancouver), Chrissy Teigen (Marrakesh), Lena Waithe (Los Angeles), and Kate McKinnon (Phnom Penh) bounce amiably off each other, exchanging stories and jokes as they delve into the culinary offerings of their host cities.
Discussions of the culinary inevitably intersect with discussions of culture and politics, and Chang and McKinnon’s exploration of the turbulent past of Cambodia makes for some particularly poignant and striking content. A more lighthearted affair is on offer from the affable Seth Rogan, who gleefully whisks Chang around his favorite spots in the city he grew up in.
Conan Without Borders (Netflix)
American TV host Conan O’Brien unfurls his considerable wingspan and invites us to join him on expeditions to some of the world’s less-visited locations with his 2015 show “Conan Without Borders”.
In Port-au-Prince, O’Brien offers the inspiring community leaders of Haiti the opportunity to express what they personally find so special and uplifting about their country.
Each episode focuses on a different country, with the six-foot-five friendly host towering over various locals, imbuing them with an easiness that makes for terrific viewing. If you want to see how O’Brien deals with the physicality of Lucha Libre wrestling, his first ever Bar Mitzvah, or the intense world of Korean pop star fandom, this is the show for you.
An Idiot Abroad (Amazon Prime)
Comedian Ricky Gervais and his long-time collaborator Stephen Merchant have made an indelible impression on the world of comedy with TV show “The Office”. One of the stranger impacts the duo has had on the world of entertainment, however, was the catapulting into fame of television producer Karl Pilkington with “An Idiot Abroad”, which originally aired in 2010.
The premise of the show revolves around Gervais and Merchant sending Pilkington to far-flung lands to experience some of the most bizarre and impressive cultural phenomena on the planet. Pilkington — a man who is genuine when he implores the viewer he would rather be at home with a cup of tea — experiences a fire massage, a Brazilian Carnival, and meets a living Saint, facing all of them with absolute disinterest and endearing diffidence.
Michael Palin’s Around the World in 80 Days (Google Play)
In the starkest contrast possible from Karl Pilkington, British actor and comic Michael Palin is a picture of wonder and interest. This documentary series, originally aired by the BBC at the end of the ‘80s, is still widely considered one of the best ever series on travel. Palin, without the use of air travel, attempts to traverse the planet in just 80 days, following as closely as possible the path taken by character Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s classic “Around the World in 80 Days”.
Palin traverses Europe and the Middle East before boarding a boat from Dubai to India in perhaps the most captivating and visceral footage of the series. Palin’s public-schoolboy charm is warm and his genuine interest in those he encounters is contagious, providing this 30-year-old series with a timeless character.
Lost Cities with Albert Lin (Disney +, 2019)
Those with a thirst for knowledge will enjoy film producer Albert Lin’s exploration of some of the world’s most important and extraordinary sites of antiquity in his 2019 series “Lost Cities with Albert Lin”. Featuring a fortress of the Knights Templar, Inca temples, and El Dorado, the famed city of gold, Lin’s infectious enthusiasm and undoubted expertise makes for fantastic viewing.
Lin has access to some impressive technology during his exploration and investigations. 3D-scanning technology allows us to visualize these sites as they might originally be seen and if you have hopes of following his path and visiting these destinations, you’ll have the clearest of images in your head for when you arrive.
No Reservations (Hulu)
The late Anthony Bourdain is perhaps the patron saint of travel shows that focus on the stomach. The American chef believed resolutely that the source of all cultural matters was the kitchen. In the 2005 tv series “No Reservations”, Bourdain invites his viewers to join him as he samples authentic local cuisines from locations as varied as Uzbekistan, South Carolina, and French Polynesia.
This multi-award winning show can be affecting and hilarious, sometimes within the short span of five minutes. Bourdain’s genuine, charming personality provides the perfect partner with which to sample these cultures.