Let’s face it, we are living through some strange times at the moment. What’s more the things many of us turn to for alleviating stress, namely holidays and travel, are suddenly not available to us. We can’t lift the lockdown but we can offer you a list of cool and quirky travel shows to watch on Netflix from the comfort of your own homes. Perhaps even you’ll be inspired to get planning the trip of a lifetime for when all this is under control. In the meantime though, you can vicariously enjoy some of the extraordinary journeys that others have taken before you. From the moving to the darky comedic here are 15 cool and unusual travel shows to watch on Netflix…
Expedition Happiness – two free spirits and one dog head out on a road trip in search of something more
“Happiness is the only thing that doubles if it’s shared” Felix Starck
German film director Felix Starck, his musician girlfriend Selima Taibi and their dog Rudi make an epic journey from North Carolina to Mexico in an old converted school bus. We join the pair as they head to Alaska through some breathtaking Canadian scenery before heading down the West Coast of the States, cutting east through Death Valley and finally exploring the cities and landscapes of Mexico. The cool and quirky pair are charismatic and engaging, approaching everything with a charming sense of eternal optimism. They really had me in their corner as they struggled with bad-tempered border guards, various breakdowns and a very poorly dog. I particularly enjoyed the ethereal soundtrack composed by Selima, otherwise known as Moogli, which provides a perfect backdrop to the freedom of the road. This is a great one to watch if you’re feeling claustrophobic as the landscapes are spectacular and it’s pretty close to a real breath of fresh air!
The Calling – travel junkies complete bucket list challenges for a chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime scholarship
This is a very cool travel game show from India. Three aspiring travel bloggers set off together for some breathtaking locations across the country. Each episode starts with a challenge, the winner of the challenge gets a grand experience, 1000 miles and two experiences curated by their fellow competitors. The competitor who curates the best experience gets to accompany the winner on their grand experience and some miles on the clock. The winner at the end is the person who accumulates the most miles and their prize is a once in a lifetime scholarship and the opportunity to continue travelling professionally. It took me the first episode to get into it and then I was hooked! It such a great little show, not least because the three competitors are so personable, cultured and intelligent. I found it such a breath of fresh air amongst all the shouty showy, money-driven shows that seem rife at the moment, highly recommended!
Lea and I – a beautiful and moving road trip journey with a twist
This unusual little gem of a travel documentary focuses on a spiritual journey as much as a physical one. The impulsive Lea and her reserved friend ( and our eyes in the film ) Camille take a trip from LA through Mexico in search of a cure for Lea’s Cystic fibrosis. Along the way they meet many people on similar quests and experience some fascinating rituals and alternative medicines that are deeply steeped in the local culture and mysticism.
Tales by the Light – follow professional photographers travelling around the world capturing images that tell a story
For all you camera buffs out there this is a must-see; renowned photographers from around the world travel to the far reaches of land and sea for the perfect shot. From swimming with massive green anacondas in South America to visiting some of the most remote tribes on the planet, each episode is a plethora of beautiful imagery and delves into the story behind the photograph.
Tales ….is intellectually pleasing too as each photographer follows a cause very dear to their hearts, whether that is diffusing myths about ‘dangerous’ sea creatures or raising awareness of the cruelty behind shark fin soup or the deprivation in some of the poorest slums in the world…it is unfailingly thought-provoking and illuminating.
The Kindness Diaries – a unique Netflix travel show where Leon Logothetis travels the world with only a vintage motorbike and the kindness of strangers
This left me sniffling like a big softie in every episode! The premise is simple; Author and motivational speaker Leon Logothetis travels the world relying on the kindness of strangers. He starts in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a tank of gas and, depending on the season, a vintage motorbike or a vintage VW Beetle. From those humble beginnings, he must reach his destination appealing to the kindness of the people he meets. When he meets someone who truly touches his heart he gives them beautiful gifts in return. There are lots of fantastic scenery and must-see travel destinations to put on your bucket list, but what struck me most is the compassion of both the presenter and the wonderful characters that help him along his way. One to watch if you just need to restore a bit of hope in humanity!
Travels With My Father – follow professional comedian and his dad in this travelogue series
If you are a fan of Jack Whitehall’s posh boy quirkiness and his father Michael’s old Tory eccentricities then you will love this show in which father and son tackle various destinations and tourist activities together. The show is packed with amusing scenario’s in particular series 3 which sets the two up in LA complete with Naked Yoga, Vegan restaurants and tours of Compton. Light-hearted fun!
Cuba and the Cameraman – a man films life in Cuba over the course of 45 years
“It just takes faith, faith and guts to succeed.” Luis
This is my absolute favourite….. infused with Cuban joy and spirit it’s a beautiful and thought-provoking retrospective in which Cameraman Jon Alpert films the Cuban people over a whopping 40 years of change. From the peak of Fidel Castro’s rule through it’s many changes and manifestations to his eventual death at age 90 in 2016. Jon revisits old friends, including Castro himself, at intervals of around 5 years over 4 decades and through natural and genuine friendships he paints a vivid picture of one of the most polarising regimes in modern history. If you watch just one thing on this list, watch this!
Pedal The World – Felix Starck documents his 18,000-kilometre bicycle journey across 22 countries
Predating Expedition Happiness this film is Felix Starck’s first offering and sees him heroically biking 18,000 km in 365 days, through 22 countries and for the large part alone. It is rawer than Expedition Happiness and sees our hero going through many ups and downs, both emotionally and physically, he scales some impressive peaks – especially in Thailand and Newzealand! Starting from his home town in Germany, with nothing, it seems, but a few pairs of shorts and a pair of Birkenstock’s, he traverses Austria, Eastern Europe, Greece, Turkey, South East Asia, NewZealand and the US before heading home. My calves hurt just watching him, but it was worth it for the stunning scenery and honest reflection of a solo trip of a lifetime!
Ainori Love Wagon Asian Journey – Seven men and women board a travelling pink bus in search of true love
Seven young Japanese gals and boys set off in a pimped up pink van in the hopes of finding love on the road, whilst back in Japan a panel discusses the blossoming couples as they watch them start to fall for one and other. The premise was a little confusing to me and I still don’t completely understand the rules but it was still very cool and enjoyable to watch. The scenery in this case merely provides a backdrop for the growing romances and the show only lightly explores the local cultures that the participants travel through. It’s very sweet though and, like J Style Trip, a glimpse into another way of making TV.
Reggie Yates Extreme – filmmaker Reggie Yates travels the world tackling serious issues
Full disclosure, if you are genuinely looking for holiday destinations this is probably not for you! It’s a hard-hitting documentary that explores some of the most extreme views currently being expressed on our earth and the places and people behind them. In South Africa, he delves into the post-apartheid generation of both blacks and whites to find out if there is any hope for true equality in the future. In Russia, he hangs out with Neo-Nazis, marginalised immigrants, Siberian teen models, Putin-loving hipsters and the much oppressed LGBT community. Back in the UK, he explores the pressures of masculinity on the modern man. This is a frightening glimpse into some very dark aspects of modern society and Reggie manages to navigate it with tact and finesse. A real eye-opener!
Mountain – a breathtaking film that takes viewers to the summits of some of the world’s most amazing mountains
This is one to watch at bedtime as it is basically a wonderful collection of birds eye footage from the highest and most dangerous peaks around the globe. Set against a classical score with sparse narration by Willem Defoe it is truly hypnotic. If you are a climber or someone that seeks thrills in high places this will certainly whet your appetite to plan a post lockdown expedition! If you are just someone who enjoys cinematography and the amazing scope we have now to film in some pretty harsh environments you will also appreciate this!
J Style Trip – Taiwanese megastar Jay Chou travels to destinations meeting up with buddies along the way
Well this is definitely not your average travel show! Taiwanese musician and magician Jay Chou and his mates travel to Paris, Singapore and Taipai surrounded by crazy Manga-esque visuals and lots of banter. It’s completely different to anything else I’ve ever watched… ok it’s a little frenetic and over-exuberant but it’s worth a watch just as a window into a different culture and how they make TV shows and if you’re a fan of the Asian anime-type aesthetic you’ll love it!
Dark Tourist – a thought provoking documentary series about the phenomenon of dark and off beat tourism
NewZealand journalist David Farrier travels around visiting some of the weirdest and most wonderful places in the world whilst trying to discover what draws some tourists to these darker travel experiences. Destinations include Vampires in New Orleans, Exorcisms in Latin America and nuclear testing sites in the Middle East. He explores countries through the most obscure spots and encounters, collecting insights by chatting to the people that provide them and those that seek them out.
Somebody Feed Phil – comedy writer takes viewers on a fun eating tour of the world
Writer, Director and Producer Phillip Rosenthal take us on a culinary journey around the world with each episode focusing on the delicacies and pleasures of one city and it’s surrounding area. From Buenos Aires to Copenhagen Phil is such a great host managing to infuse each episode with authentic joy and humour. It’s so absorbing to watch as he travels, eats, befriends locals and finds magic everywhere he goes. My favourite bit is when he chats to his elderly parents back in the US at the end of each episode, usually eating something delicious, and much hilarity ensues! It should come with a warning though…. eat before you view! If you’re anything like me it will make you hungry!
Stay Here – an original and entertaining AirBnB development show
Designer Genevieve Gorder and real estate expert Peter Lorimer travel around the USA helping people spruce up their unusual rental properties to get more bang their buck. It’s pretty amazing what they manage to accomplish and you can definitely pick up lots of cool tips on making the most out of little spaces and you might get a few alternative ideas for your next holiday too! Personally I was sold on the first episode which featured a romantic little houseboat on the Seattle Waterfront, within spitting distance of historic Pike Place Market…Yes please!!
Hopefully there’s something here for everyone that will inspire travel to unusual and remarkable places when all this craziness and isolation is over. Just think of it as the perfect time to finally make those plans, take that trip and see as much of this big and beautiful world as you can! Stay Safe and of course, Bon Voyage!