Skip to content

10 movies that inspire wanderlust

July 24, 2014

A movie has the power to transport, transform and transcend. As a frequent traveler and movie buff, I love discovering new destinations via movies. Especially those that take me to far away places, where I can feel the essence of the place alongside the main characters. Movies that inspire intense wanderlust are far and few, the really good ones make you want to grab your backpack and head out of the door even before the closing credits start rolling. Everybody has their own list of favorite “inspired me to travel” movies, here’s my list! Even if we have some in common, I’d love to know about your favorite wanderlust-inspiring movies in the comments. In no particular order, here goes –


1. The Motorcycle Diaries

Wanderlust inspiration: South America

Following two dashing young men – Ernesto Guevara and Alberto Granado on a road-trip along the coast of South America, from across the Andes mountains, along Chile’s coast, towards Peru and the Amazon is the stuff of wanderlust dreams. What brings a great measure of seriousness to this road-trip is that it is based on the true story of how Ernesto Guevara found his life’s calling on this road-trip which eventually led him to become the famous revolutionary Che Guevara. Travelers travel to learn more about the world and to learn more about themselves. This movie captures that idealism excellently and allows us to travel with Ernesto on his life-changing road-trip to see what he saw, feel what he felt and witness his transformation.


2. The Beach

Wanderlust inspiration: Thailand

As if a delightfully young and handsome Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t reason enough to watch this movie, how about adding a secret island destination, unbelievably beautiful virgin sand beaches, surrounded by turquoise seas? Throw in an intriguing plot and a thought-provoking premise of an alternative lifestyle and you have a true travel-thriller. No doubt this movie has inspired many young twenty-somethings to head out on a backpacking trip through Thailand and Southeast Asia in search of their own secret island. Intense performances and unexpected situations add drama to what starts off as an idyllic vacation for Leo’s character in Thailand. The gorgeous beach where many parts of the movie was shot – Koh Phi Phi – has since become a popular spot to visit by throngs of tourists. But for anybody who has seen the movie, Koh Phi Phi will always be the quintessential paradise showcased in The Beach.


3. Out of Africa

Wanderlust inspiration: Africa

A movie about doomed romance and complicated relationships, Out of Africa is based on a true story. With stunning cinematography, the movie provides unforgettable scenes of Africa, both rural life on the coffee farm owned by main character Karen Blixen (played flawlessly by Meryl Streep) and showcasing aspects of living in the wildlife-studded African savannah. The scene where Meryl Streep and Robert Redford fly over the green hills of Africa, maneuvering a biplane and flying low over scattering herds of wildlife & pink flamingoes is a powerful scene that transports the viewer to the heart of this wonderful country.


4. The Way

Wanderlust inspiration: Spain (Hiking in the Pyrenees along the Camino de Santiago)

This film has a very special place in my heart. It was released soon after we had hiked the 4-day Inca trail to Machu Picchu. Watching this movie about walking the Camino de Santiago brought back a lot of fond memories from our own hike on the Inca trail. We started with strangers who soon became close friends and part of cherished memories over the course of just 4 days. Walking the Camino de Santiago is a great pilgrimage undertaken by a lot of people, both from around the world and locals in Spain. This walk leads from the scenic foothills of the Pyrenees in France to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, covering a staggering distance of 490 miles. The movie focuses on highlighting the ups and downs that every person faces in their lives. A father’s grief leads him to walk the Camino de Santiago in memory of his son and along the way he meets fellow travelers who are walking the trail fighting their own demons. The Way is as much a movie about celebrating life as it is about travel being a way to connect with oneself spiritually.


5. Midnight in Paris

Wanderlust inspiration: Paris

Woody Allen does it again! Complex, memorable characters, an unpredictable yet charming storyline, set in a city that has inspired great artists and writers from Picasso to Hemingway. Paris is on top of most people’s destination bucket lists and this movie transports viewers back to the 1920’s – a creatively rich and vibrant era in Paris. Not all but definitely some will identify with the main character’s yearning for a time and place from the past, where people he idolizes were at their artistic zenith. The movie also showcases the Golden Age of Paris in the 1890’s – the Belle Epoque, yearned by all those living in the 1920’s. Midnight in Paris is an ode to the city of light and the city of romance. After watching the movie, what stays with the viewer is the main character’s epiphany that no matter when and where you are, it is part of the human condition to always yearn for something better from the past.


6. The Painted Veil

Wanderlust inspiration: China

This movie is as much about wanderlust as it is about people caught in the human emotions of a complex relationship, made more challenging by the cholera epidemic they find themselves in. Shot on location in rural China, in a village called Huang Yao, this is one of the few movies I’ve seen that shows off China’s natural beauty and rural landscapes. Gorgeous scenes shot in Shanghai are set in the 1920’s and are a treat to the viewer. The Painted Veil is regarded as being in the same genre as Out of Africa and The English Patient. Similar to these movies, The Painted Veil digs deep into raw human emotion with the help of multi-faceted characters in exotic landscapes. If it wasn’t already, China will be on top of your must-visit list after you’ve watched this movie!


7. Eat Pray Love

Wanderlust inspiration: Italy, India, Indonesia

Following the popularity of the book, a movie in the works was a no-brainer. Julia Roberts turns in an excellent performance and the movie does full justice to the book. Shot in Italy, India and Indonesia, this movie is a real visual treat and will inspire you to daydream of far-flung destinations for your own versions of Eat, Pray and Love. If I were to travel around the world like Elizabeth Gilbert, I think I’d go with my version of Eat (Japan), Hike (Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania) and Relax (Tahiti, French Polynesia). What about you?


8. Titanic

Wanderlust inspiration: Time travel back to 1900’s and sail on a cruise ship

Titanic is a movie of the fate of the world’s largest ship (at the time), brought to life by James Cameron’s ambitious desire to make the characters in the movie stand out more than the well-known fate of the unsinkable Titanic. Worthy of every award bestowed on this film, this is a movie for the ages, that can be seen umpteen number of times. Every viewing peels back yet another layer and gets us closer to the characters, including the main one – Titanic, the most luxurious ship in the world. Every traveler, deep in their heart, desires to be as free as Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) is portrayed in the movie. Rose (Kate Winslet) gives a stellar performance as a young girl caught between her dreams of travel and adventure versus reality. Together, they make a compelling pair of doomed lovebirds. For both, their encounter on the Titanic changes the very course of their lives. Similar to meeting fellow travelers on our own journey, some of whom have the power to change the course of our lives.


9. Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Wanderlust inspiration: Barcelona, Spain

Much like Anton Gaudi’s multi-colored mosaic art which adorns famous sights like Park Guell in Barcelona, the characters in this movie are like mosaic artworks come-to-life. All of the main characters are unsure of love and life, unsure of each other, but sure that what they have is not good enough. And so they must continue to seek. Their willingness to explore and step into uncharted territory with complex relationships endears them to the viewer. The movie highlights a gorgeous summer in Spain, focusing mainly on Barcelona, showcasing familiar landmarks like Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Casa Mila and Oviedo. With plenty of soulful Spanish guitar music and flamboyant flamenco to light up the passion, the Catalan city provides the perfect backdrop for the intense affection that unfolds as the characters get to know each other better.


10. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Wanderlust inspiration: Iceland, Greenland, the Himalayas

Having been released in 2013, this movie is a relatively new addition to this list. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is surprisingly refreshing and solid proof that Ben Stiller is both an amazing actor and director. Irrespective of whether the movie did well at the Box Office or not, this is a must-watch for anybody who loves daydreaming about traveling the world. Beautifully shot in magnificent Greenland and Iceland, the cinematography is guaranteed to take your breath away. An intriguing storyline and a complex plot with superb acting by Ben Stiller, Sean Penn and Kirsten Wiig make this movie a “wanderlust worthy winner”. Keep your backpack packed and ready before you start watching this movie. It is very likely that midway through, you’ll find yourself running out the door, heading to the nearest airport for a flight to Iceland! After all, Carpe Diem is this movie’s motto.


From → Top 10

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: