Travel series used to be all about visiting the big landmarks and repeating stuff that’s on the backside of every guidebook. Moving on from Michael Palin and Ian Wright, a new standard for travel-related content was set by Anthony Bourdain as he was filling the screen with ordinary people and telling their story instead of showing the same old tired monuments.
The last decade has seen a new generation of storytellers. Five years ago I wrote about inspirational travel movies, so it’s about time to mention a few great travel-inspiring series.
- Simon Reeve: A British writer and filmmaker with angles outside the common glossy sphere of world travel, such as examining social injustice and political dangers. To quote him, “Life is too bloody short and the planet is too bloody special to waste it on just getting a tan”. Some of his series that I recommend are Indian Ocean (2012), Mediterranean (2018), Russia (2017), Places That Don’t Exist (2005) and Caribbean (2015).
- Long Way Up: The first two series, Long Way Round and Long Way Down, has been around for some years, but last year a third series was released. Long Way Up chronicles the journey from Ushuaia to Los Angeles, and this time Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman goes all in with electric motorcycles. It is fun to see how much that has improved since their first journey in 2004. The production level is far better and the drone footage is a great improvement, but I especially enjoyed to see how everyone has evolved as a person.
- Levison Wood: This British explorer is a writer and photographer among many other things. But even though I’ve read several of his books, he is probably best known for his walking expeditions. I’ve seen most of them and my personal favorite is Arabia (2017), where he travels around the entire Arabian Peninsula. I also recommend Walking the Himalayas (2015), Walking the Nile (2013) and Walking the Americas (2017).
- Gino D’Acampo: Here we have another celebrity chef doing food shows. Gino has a lot of energy which can be both hilarious and tiresome at times. Check out his episodes from all over Italy in Italian Escape (2013-) with amazing locations and mouthwatering plates.
- Gordon Ramsay: Gordon is a big player in the world of food, but he took some heat recently as several people remarked that his latest series Uncharted (2019-) was too similar to the works of Anthony Bourdain. I think it fell a bit flat, so you might instead want to see the shows where Gordon teams up with Gino, with a lot of bantering as expected.
- Tareq Taylor: In Tareq Taylors matresa (2021), the Swedish chef travels with his father and brother to Israel, going back to the family roots. It’s very touching to see them returning to places they haven’t visited since they were small children.
- Travel Man: In the show Travel Man, Richard Ayoade is like a cynic anti-traveler, reminding me of Karl Pilkington in An Idiot Abroad. Hilarity ensues.
- Expedition Unknown: The main premise of exploring archeological mysteries is interesting, but Josh Gates can be quite tiresome in the long run. He tries to be a mix of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, but all too often turns into a parody version.
- Julia Bradbury: If you want a more traditional travel program, Julia has a travel show where she visits Australia, the Greek islands and more.
Any other shows that you can recommend?