Something a little bit different from me with this blog!
With a new national lockdown in place in the UK, and many restrictions in place elsewhere around the globe, I thought it might be helpful to try and provide you that travel-fix in a slightly different way! I’ve compiled a list of top 5 books and TV shows that will give you some travel inspiration and a little escapism.
So sit back, and explore the world from the comfort of your couch (or bed if you didn’t even make it that far)
Top 5 TV shows
Race Across the World, BBC iPlayer
The thought of being able to do this now in a post-Covid world seems crazy! The series follows teams of 2 as they race against each other, across countries and continents in a bid to get to the end destination the fastest… but without any use of phone, internet or any air travel! Relying on the help of strangers and a map, the teams pick their route (be it bus, bike, train, boat) and on a limited budget make decisions on when, where and how they want to stop. This series really appeals to my own way of travel - in fact I’d love to take part with my husband, I feel sure we would win it (or have fun trying!)
Walking the Nile, All 4
Ex-paratrooper and all round action man, Levison Wood has been on some epic trips and seems to turn merely walking into a dangerous activity with the amount of risky situations he finds himself in. Walking the Nile was a 9 month endeavour through 6 countries in Africa - and a total of 4000 miles! This programme shows the journey, history, culture and modern life in the countries he visits.
Warning: The series has some extremely traumatic viewing and just shows the serious side of how quickly things can go wrong in remote areas no matter how well equipped you are. I had an assumption that armed with crew and cameras nothing could go wrong on a televised documentary like this but how wrong I was.
Down to Earth, Netflix
Stay with me on this one, as when I heard this was Zac Efron I wasn’t so sure. But that’s just me being judgy and I shouldn’t be - because it’s a really great series and Zac turns out to be such a likeable, funny person who you could imagine having a beer with if you met him on your travels! Follow him and his very Californian, wellness-loving friend Darin Olien on their journey to a mix of unusual and touristy places. There they discover everything from rituals, environment, processes and food from these destinations. Some of the wellness bits I glazed over but if you take it for what it is, I’m sure you will enjoy.
Dark Tourist, Netflix
This series is perfect for those who find anything morbid fascinating. I think so-called ‘dark tourism’ gets a bad name, but for me sites of dark tourism are opportunities to learn about history, culture, human psychology and give insight and understanding into a country’s past. This series heads to some fascinating places - Chernobyl and the exclusion zone, Indonesia to witness their death rituals, and to Cyprus and the forbidden city of Varosha - something I previously knew nothing about. A few of the destinations are a bit weird and some feel a bit gimmicky but overall a great watch and you’re bound to learn something new.
Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, Netflix
This absolute mega-series was filmed from 2013 up until Boudain died in 2018. In that time he managed to cram in a full 12 series, and with ~ 9 episodes per series Parts Unknown will literally keep you going for months (which might be handy depending on how much longer this goes on for). Bourdain is such a legend, and you really see him develop as he tours literally everywhere in the world searching out the best food and discovering different cultures. What I also love about this series is there’s no food snobbery - he eats everywhere and frankly has an appetite for pig parts that you rarely see these days.
Top 5 books
I’ve just finished this book, and absolutely stormed through it. After our own South American adventure got cancelled in the dumpster fire that was 2020, it was a while before I could stomach reading about anyone else adventuring out there. This is a great read, which follows 2 women taking on an epic journey down South America on pedal bikes, involving a lot of mountain ranges and extreme altitudes. ‘McNuff’ as she calls herself is a complete inspiration for women everywhere - a real adventurer with incredible strength, determination and endurance.
Long Way Down
Charley Boorman & Ewan McGregor
Motorbike enthusiasts Boorman and McGregor tell of their journey from John O’Groats in northern Scotland to the southern tip of South Africa, Cape Agulhas. The pair met in the 90’s when filming together in Ireland and have been friends ever since, it’s this friendship and their fun and honest way of telling their story that makes the book so enjoyable. Plus, it’s also available as a TV series if that’s more your thing!
The Trouser People
Myanmar always holds a special place in my heart which is what attracted me to read this book. In this book Marshall (a travel journalist who has lived in Asia for 10+ years) follows in the footsteps of Victorian Adventurer Sir George Scott, as he uses his route from Yangoon to Mandalay and the tribal jungles. Taking the same journey through Burma over 100 years later, this book is a nice balance of referencing Scott’s journal as well as what Marshall finds in modern day Burma, although nearly 20 years ago now!
You’ve gone too far this time, Sir!
Another cycling adventure here, teacher Danny Bent cycles from his home in the UK to India, via China, Russia and Pakistan. It was apparently a trip ‘20 years and 1 minute in the making’ - the one minute being, when he stood in front of his class and was put on the spot to say he would cycle the distance. His purpose was to raise money for charity ActionAid, but the book focuses on the journey telling some amusing tales on route. The charm of this book is that it’s clearly written without much editing, if you can put aside the bad spelling in points it’s a fun, quick read.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
This is an amazing real-life journey of self-discovery as Strayed takes to an 1,100 mile hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. After the death of her mother and at a very broken point in her life she sets off on her own and is completely unprepared, not to mention the fact she had never even hiked before. I read this book several years ago and snippets still stay with me - the way she describes the pain in her feet from the new hiking boots, wrapping her feet in gaffer tape. It’s beautifully written and very moving, and the film with Reese Witherspoon is actually just as good.
Hope you check out a few of my recommendations above, hit up the comments below to let me know what you thought of them, or suggest any recommendations of your own!