When it is not possible to travel the next best thing is to vicariously wander the world via the flat screen in the living room. I enjoy travel shows to both revisit destinations I have been lucky enough to visit in the past as well as a means to get ideas about future explorations. When I travel I want to see the big sights; the iconic buildings and landscapes, National Parks and World Heritage Sites. Although the amount of travel programming is so much more than what it used to be there are times I miss the travel programs of old. The emphasis used to be on the great sights and “tourist attractions” now the focus is on cultural experiences. A mixture of the two styles is more my preferred mode of travel. With my particular travel focus in mind here are my favorite five travel TV shows. Most of these are still available over the air or if not, available either through a streaming service or DVD.
#5) Any show hosted by Samantha Brown. The list of programs from this prolific travel host is long; Girl Meets Hawaii, Great Hotels, Passport to Europe and Samantha Brown’s Asia to just name a few. Samantha who hails from my home state of New Hampshire is a perky, cute and energetic host who brings to every subject be it hotel, cruise ship or destination the highlights that will make your trip memorable. She may be overly perky for some tastes but the enthusiasm she brings compensates for the sweetness overload. She has a new show called Places to Love coming to PBS soon.
#4) Rick Steve’s Europe. Rick is one of the most knowledgeable tour guide authors you can find and he most definitely brings that knowledge to his European travel TV shows. His shows have a great mix of sights, food and culture and he captures the essence of each location he covers. I also highly recommend both of his travel podcasts. Travel with Rick Steves covers several travel related topics per episode. Rick Steves Travel Talks is an interesting show as it is a series of lectures by Rick on art and history with a travel bent.
#3) Bizarre Foods. This show is more geared to the foodie in the audience and the more extreme one at that. I cannot agree more with the host Andrew Zimmern when he says the best way to experience a culture or a destination is to share a meal and eat like a local. To do this you must put aside the food prejudices that we all have and be adventurous. Whether it is organ meat, strange creatures or off putting textures this show is going to show you the options in all their glory.
#2) Globe Trekker. This long running show has a rotating cadre of hosts some of whom I like more than others. The hour long show seen on PBS stations coves a gamut of travel destinations ranging from city tours to countries to road trips. On one show you might see a road trip on the rust belt in Midwestern United States and the next the silk road in Central Asia. The best part about the show is the even mix between sights and culture.
#1) departures. This Canadian series features two high school friends (Scott Wilson and Justin Lukach) as they travel around the world going to some very unique destinations as well as some more routine areas. The two friends along with cameraman Andres Dupuis take you to the Cook Islands, Ascension Island, North Korea and Mongolia. The camaraderie and convivial nature of the hosts and the exotic destinations make this show something you do not normally see on TV.
Honorable Mention. Shows hosted by Anthony Bourdain or Michael Palin. Starting with his first and I think his best show A Cook’s Tour leading up to his prime time CNN show Parts Unknown Tony has brought his unique perspective to the airwaves. His focus is on the cultural experience of the destination and its food. Michael Palin formerly of Monty Python fame has hosted numerous travel shows for the BBC for the last 25 years. He has an irreverent style and his obvious love of travel comes through in each of his series.
These are my favorites check them out and let me know what you think and which ones are your favorites.