In times when you can’t travel, it doesn’t hurt to dream—and plan. In fact, according to a Cornell University study, the simple act of planning and anticipating a trip can increase happiness more than buying material things.
Allow travel-centric books, television, films, and podcasts to be your happiness allies in this effort. They can transport you to amazing places from the comfort of your couch and be vehicles to inform and inspire your next vacation when the time is right.
Here are some suggestions.
IF THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER…
Below are three books to consider giving a top spot on your coffee table.
- “The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World” by Lonely Planet is an impressive Bible of travel that tempts and tantalizes with incredible imagery and highlights from, literally, every country in the world. Each destination gets a full-page spread that wows and woos.
- “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” by Patricia Schultz is a classic that’s been inspiring travel enthusiasts for years. It highlights 1,000 iconic sites and experiences around the world worth planning trips around.
- “Off the Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives” is a visually stunning tome that encourages skipping the heavily-traveled spots for lesser-known destinations that offer an equally marvelous experience. You’re sure to gain some truly unique trip ideas from it.
IF YOU’RE CRAVING TIME IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS…
- Ken Burns’ “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” is one of the most beautiful and moving documentary series to highlight the natural splendor of the United States. It’s currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and can provide renewed motivation to explore national parks in our own backyard, such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Glacier.
IF YOU WANT TO LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH (AND BE INSPIRED BY) ANOTHER PERSON’S TRAVELS…
Oh, boy. There are so many amazing travel memoirs out there, it’s hard to pick just a few.
- The memoir-turned-movie “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, follows the life-changing journey of its author as she explores Italy, India, and Bali. It is a widely beloved book championing personal growth that comes through travel—inspiring many to chart a personal travel journey of their own, even if for a weekend.
- In “Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain,” journalist Lori L. Tharps writes about moving from the mostly White suburbs of Milwaukee, where she was often the only person of color in the community, to Spain, where she meets and marries a Spaniard. Against ancient backdrops of Cádiz and Andalucía, it’s a story of finding oneself in the most unexpected places while pulling back the curtain on the untold history of Spain's enduring connection to West Africa.
- “a more lighthearted and hilarious—but no less enlightening—read.
- The podcast “Armchair Explorer” has been hailed as the “best podcast to listen to in self-isolation” (Daily Express). It immerses you in travel adventures as told by those on the road living them out, from gorilla trekking in Uganda with a conservationist to exploring Alaska’s backcountry with an Olympic skier.
IF YOU’RE CRAVING A ROAD TRIP
- National Geographic’s “Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Spectacular Trips” — with its sweeping photos and polished prose—will rev up a vacation behind the wheel to destinations you perhaps didn’t even consider.
- Cult legend John Waters’ bizarre road trip across America is brought to life in “Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America.” It’s an entertaining ride (pun intended) that reminds that the menagerie of characters encountered along the way can be just as memorable as the locations visited.
- Of course, there’s also the classic road trip film “National Lampoon’s Vacation” to tickle the funny bone (and your wanderlust).
IF YOUR TRAVEL STYLE RESTS AT THE INTERSECTION OF FOOD AND CULTURE…
- Chef Anthony Bourdain shows how culinary curiosity while traveling can inspire cultural insights and understanding in series such as “A Cook’s Tour,” “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.” You may grow an appetite to visit a relatively off-the-beaten-path destination to sample dishes like a meat slushy (Singapore) or Frito pie (New Mexico), thanks to him.
- If you’re a carnivore who travels for mouth-watering meats, Cooking Channel’s “Man Fire Food” will tantalize your BBQ-inspired wanderlust. Host Roger Mooking travels across the American South for different styles of regional barbecue, the Pacific Northwest for a tribal salmon bakes, and New England for unique seafood feasts.
- In the Travel Channels series “Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations,” James Beard awarding-winning chef Andrew Zimmerman travels to places near and far in search of each country’s best regional dishes.
IF YOU’RE ENTHRALLED BY ANCIENT HISTORY AND RUINS…
- Your inner archeologist will be indulged by (re)watching the original “Indiana Jones” movie trilogy. The cinematic adventure winds its way around the world through South American jungles, Indian temples, Arabian deserts, and beyond.
- For a more intellectually meditative approach, consider reading “In Ruins: A Journey Through History, Art and Literature.” Author Christopher Woodward brings to life the world’s most celebrated ruins of ancient civilizations—settings you can still travel across destinations like Italy, Egypt, and England. It’s a grand tour weaving together history with literary anecdotes and mystical reflections, inspiring Literary Review to call it “Nothing short of a masterpiece.”
IF YOU WANT TO INSPIRE TRAVEL WITH THE KIDS…
Plan a Disney movie marathon that takes young adventurers around the world. While some animated films are more authentic to the traditions of the destination than others, each can spark curiosity about a place that plants the seeds for in-person exploration later. Ones to consider include:
- “The Princess and the Frog” (New Orleans)
- “Brave” (Scotland)
- “The Lion King” (Africa)
- “Hunchback of Notre Dame” & “Ratatouille” (Paris)
- “Mulan” (China)
- “Aladdin” (Arabia)
- “Moana” (Polynesia)
- “Frozen (Norway)
- “Coco (Mexico)
- “Lilo & Stitch” (Hawaii)
IF YOU WANT TO BE AN INFORMED TRAVELER…
- “Travel Show” is a weekly podcast hosted by legendary travel expert Arthur Frommer (founder of Frommer’s guide books) and his daughter Pauline Frommer. It will keep you in-the-know on the latest travel trends and news, to better inform you of the how, why, and where you might want to vacation.
- “The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World” will steer you toward (and conversely away from) locales based on the “happiness” of residents. Author Eric Weiner mixes travel, psychology, science, and humor into a book that highlights sociological studies and cultural anecdotes on what drives happiness, visiting places like Iceland, Qatar, Switzerland, Bhutan, and Asheville, North Carolina, along the way.