I don’t own a television, at home, or abroad. I haven’t watched television in the last 10 years (I never watched it much as a child either) unless at someone’s home or a bar or restaurant that has one playing. I rarely go to a movie theatre (I mostly read) but every now and then I will cue up a movie on my laptop or when I am in the states usually watch a movie when I am visiting my friend Teri. I tend to be drawn to movies that feed my wanderlust or foodie movies. I haven’t been able to come up with a topic for my next blog post, so I decided to do my favorite travel movies. I usually choose movies that are in places I have visited or places I want to visit. Some I have watched a dozen times, some only once, but all have somehow resonated with me. In no specific order with a short synopsis and my thoughts, the following are my five favorite travel movies. Sure, there are others I really like but after much consideration, this is my list.
Some of you may be surprised that “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain” didn’t make the list, especially since I have seen it easily a dozen times. I just consider it a fun “French” movie, not so much a travel film. You might also argue that Midnight in Paris is just a movie set in Paris, but trust me, it may just get to your wanderlust and make you want to visit the City of Light. I am also linking the movies’ trailers to the film title just in case you want to check any of them out.
Some may argue that when I started on my journey almost 8 years ago (WOW, how is that possible?) that I was on my own Eat, Pray, Love pilgrimage. While not entirely true, I did feel a connection to Liz Gilbert. Based on a true story, Liz Gilbert (played by Julia Roberts) thought she had it all: a home, a husband, and a successful career. Newly divorced and facing a turning point, she finds she is confused about what is important to her. I was ending a 27-year relationship and was hating a job I used to love. Stepping out of her comfort zone, she takes off on a quest of self-discovery that over the course of a year takes her to Italy, India, and Bali, Indonesia. Although self-discovery was and continues to be a big part of my journey, it wasn’t my goal. I basically just wanted to run away from my life. I enrolled in some online language courses through the University of Miami Florida and received my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certification. I found a job, packed a suitcase, and moved to Paris, France. While things didn’t go quite as planned, I did discover this was the life I wanted. I briefly returned to the states and made another plan. This time I headed to China for 6 months, which turned into 4 years. China led me to a short stint in Bali and now here I am in Poland still discovering many things about myself and life in general. As a side note that has nothing to do with this post, as much as I love to read, I tried 3 times to read the book, “Eat, Pray, Love” and just couldn’t get into it. Thank goodness for the movie.
My first love…Paris! Yes, Paris stole my heart even before my first visit. I also love to write, so when Midnight in Paris came out it was a must-see. In my humble opinion, the opening montage alone will make you want to visit. Gil Pender (played by Owen Wilson) is a screenwriter and aspiring novelist. Although vacationing in Paris with his fiancée, he finds himself walking the city at night, alone. One night at the stroke of midnight, Gil encounters a group of revelers who are strange yet familiar. Soon he finds himself in Paris, in the ’20s, with the era’s icons of art and literature. The more time he spends with these people in the past, the more disenchanted he becomes with the present. While partying with these characters, there is a scene that shows a carousel with bicycles that you pedal to make it move. It can reach speeds of 60 kph. This scene takes place at Musée des Arts Forains. This is a museum of fairground art, carnival games, and rides. It is one of my favorite places to share with visitors in Paris. My favorite line from the movie is, “actually, Paris is most beautiful in the rain”. I believe Paris is most beautiful in the rain. This is one of those movies I never tire of watching.
If there is one movie that best explains the feelings, the experiences, the ups and downs of the last 7+ years of my life, it is A Map for Saturday. Although I am not a young backpacker, on the road for a year, or staying in hostels (I have but not usually my first choice), it does do a great job of showing all the feels. I have mostly had a home base in some country or another over my journey, but I have also traveled extensively during this time. Those first hours of being alone in a new destination, meeting people over the course of your stay, and knowing when you leave it really is “goodbye”. Most of the time it isn’t see you later because deep down you know you probably will never see these people again. The movie’s filmmaker, Brook Silva Braga, quits his lucrative job as a producer with HBO Sports and documents his 11 months of backpacking around the world. During those 11 months, he spent time on four continents, Australia, Asia, Europe, and South America. The title of the film comes from the fact that when you are on long-term travel with no obligations, every day feels like Saturday. When I eventually return to the states (yes, someday but no idea when), I would love to talk to young people. Their parents will probably hate me, but I want to tell them to take that “gap year”. A foreign concept to most Americans but it is embraced by other cultures. What you can learn when you move out of your comfort zone and embrace the chaos of Asia, or the mindset of Europe is not something you will learn in the classroom. I agree that lifestyle, even for a year, or my lifestyle which has been even more long-term isn’t for everyone. But I can’t repeat it enough if you have even the smallest desire…GO! Even if you aren’t a young person who hasn’t settled into a 9 to 5 life, if you are someone unhappy with a job, or just want to experience living a different culture from your own, even if it is for 1 month, 3 months, 6 months…GO! If you want to understand my lifestyle because it is something so hard to put into words, watch this movie. If I recommend one movie on this list for people who have a desire for long-term travel watch “A Map for Saturday”.
Can a person be happy living abroad, alone? I often get asked if I get homesick, feel lonely, or unhappy. I can honestly say I have never been homesick. I truly feel at home anywhere in the world. Lonely? No…I consider myself a loner and solitude (which I don’t think is the same as loneliness) is something I need. I will admit there have been times I have seen or experienced something amazing, and I wish there was someone there to share it – at that moment instead of sharing it with them via social media or text message, or a phone call. But that feeling doesn’t last because when I do share on social media friends are happy to share that experience with me in that way. FOMO – fear of missing out – not really, after all, in the world of video chats I don’t have to miss out on much if I just make the effort. Now, do I ever feel unhappy? If I said no, that would be a giant lie. No one, even me who tries to be positive all the time, can go through life without feeling unhappy every now and again. Usually, that unhappiness is short-lived. Maybe my roommate doesn’t shut the freezer tight, and I walk into a puddle on the floor at 2 am….definitely unhappy. Or I walk to the tram stop (10 minutes), catch a tram across the river (15 minutes) walk to a museum or shop or restaurant (10 minutes), and discover I should have maybe checked to see if they are open because I just came all this way to find out they are closed….big unhappy! Truthfully, I am happy most of the time.
I often scan the internet for books/movies on travel. Somehow I came across Hector and the Search for Happiness. Hector is a psychiatrist. He lives a very organized life. One day, he confesses to his girlfriend, Claire, that he feels like a fraud because he gives recommendations to his patients who never seem to improve or get any happier. On a whim, he finds some courage to break out of his lackluster routine and embark on an international journey to find the formula for joy and happiness. As he globe-trots, Hector captures in his journal his notes on happiness and things that spoil happiness based on his encounters. One of these notes says, “Happiness is doing a job you love”. Bingo…I knew I needed to move on when I started hating a job I used to love. “Happiness is to be loved for exactly who you are”. Nowhere or at no time is this more apparent than when you are traveling alone in a foreign place. No one knows your history, what you looked like (yep, how you would take that body back when you thought you were fat at 21), nothing…they know nothing about you yet like you for who you are right at that moment. “Making comparisons can spoil your happiness”. Don’t compare yesterday to today. His list goes on and it’s a good list. I could write about everything on it, but one more… “Happiness is knowing how to celebrate”. Celebrate even the small things. When I first got to China, I had a two-week training period with a bunch of kids on their gap year. They celebrated everything from learning how to write something in Chinese characters to finally mastering chopsticks. This is the number 2 movie after “A Map for Saturday” I would recommend.
Who doesn’t love Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman? Together in a movie … a no-brainer. In my life, I have ticked many things off my so-called Bucket List. Billionaire Edward Cole (played by Jack Nicholson) and car mechanic Carter Chambers (played by Morgan Freeman) are complete strangers until fate lands them in the same hospital room. The need to discover who they are and what they have done with their lives leaves them with a desire to complete a list of things they want to see and do before they die. Spoiler alert – One of the things on the bucket list is “laugh until you cry”. This is satisfied when Carter reveals to Edward the origin of the “most expensive coffee in the world” (Kopi Luwak) that he obsesses over. Of course, I got a good laugh from this because I have sometimes been on the receiving end of laughter when I would drink Kopi Luwak. Some of the other items on their bucket list were see something truly majestic, kiss the most beautiful girl in the world (his granddaughter), drive a motorcycle on the Great Wall of China, skydive, see the Taj Mahal, drive a Shelby Mustang, sit on the Great Pyramids, and get a tattoo. Some of these I have ticked (well I didn’t drive a motorcycle on the Great Wall, but…) and I still have the Taj Mahal on my bucket list. The greatest thing in the movie for me is Carter explains the Egyptian myth: When Egyptians die, the gods would be waiting at the gate of heaven to ask them two questions before allowing them to enter: 1. Have you found joy in your life? 2. Has your life brought joy to others?
I hope whoever is reading this has found joy in their life. I know I have. As I am winding this down, I happened to glance at the calendar on my desk, January 9, 2022. It reminds me that 2 years ago today, January 9, 2020, my heart was overflowing with joy. It was the grand re-opening of the Robins Theatre brought to fruition by my brother and sister-in-law. My “little brother”, I witnessed that night something truly majestic and how his life brought joy to so many. I hope my life brings joy to others also.
As a postscript, the next five on my list. I had to end the main text at 5 or this post would have been a small book. I will however link trailers to the titles.
Paths of Souls a documentary of eleven Tibetans who prostrate themselves every few steps during a 1,200-mile pilgrimage that lasts for seven months.
Paris Je T’Aime a collection of 18 vignettes set in Paris.
Under the Tuscan Sun Frances Mayes, a 35-year-old San Francisco writer gets a divorce that leaves her with terminal writer’s block and depression. Later, she decides to buy a house in Tuscany to change her life.
Mamma Mia As Sophie and her family are busy preparing for her wedding, she secretly invites three men, who were her mother’s lovers in the past, with the hope that one of them is her father.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel A decrepit hotel hosts seven British tourists who come to Jaipur on a holiday. Each one has a past and a new ambition. Their lives intertwine with their host, who is also trying to get a grip on life.