Just because you may not be travelling right now doesn’t mean you can’t go places. Armchair travel has come a long way since we had to wait for our monthly National Geographic to show up in the mailbox. Thanks to streaming services, online virtual tours, museums with digitized archives, and of course, books (remember those?), there are plenty of ways to tour the world without leaving your own home. Here are a few ideas.
Armchair Travel: Movies That Take You Around the Globe
Whether you find them on Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, or in your DVD cabinet (go on and dust them off!), here is a list of some all-time awesome movies if you want to engage in a little armchair travel. Grownup Travellers, you’ll recognize some of these classics from way back.
Out of Africa (sweeping vistas of the African plain)
Born Free (the true story that stuck with me as a kid and made me want to go on safari in Africa)
Casablanca (“Play it, Sam”. You realize that Bogart never actually says “again” in that quote, right?)
The Gods Must Be Crazy ( for something goofy and fun)
The Last Emperor (when the Forbidden City was a different kind of off-limits)
Slumdog Millionaire (who doesn’t love an underdog and a Bollywood dance ending)
The Beach (Thailand’s beaches. Enough said.)
Memoirs of a Geisha (beautiful to look at and also a fantastic read if you prefer to armchair travel with a book)
7 years in Tibet (because Brad Pitt, that’s why)
Lara Croft Tomb Raider (the first film allowed to be filmed at Angkor Wat)
Australia & New Zealand
Australia (this is a no-brainer with Nicole Kidman who does the best accent of her career – ha-ha)
Crocodile Dundee (go for the first, the classic)
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (this movie ‘drags on’ in the best of ways)
The Lord of the Rings Series (because the real landscapes are as impressive as the computer-generated ones)
Under a Tuscan Sun (swoon-worthy scenes of Tuscany)
Only You (from Venice to Rome to Positano, with Robert Downey Jr. What’s not to love?)
Roman Holiday (my all-time favourite Italian movie)
Mamma Mia (only Meryl Streep can make you want to cry as she sings an Abba song on a picture-perfect Greek island)
In Bruges (quirky dark humour in this city of canals in Belgium)
Chocolat (Johnny Depp and a French village: ooh la la!)
Star Wars: the Force Awakens (windswept Ireland stands in for a galaxy far, far away)
Before Sunrise (for anyone who has ever backpacked through Europe. Go for all 3 flicks that include Before Sunset and Before Midnight to tour even more of the world)
Amélie: Paris, Paris, Paris. The City of Lights is more than just a supporting character in this film.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (we all remember the book, but this is set in Iceland for an added bonus!)
Central and South America
The Motorcycle Diaries (a five month, life-changing trip for Che Guevara)
Indiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Iguazu Falls makes an impressive appearance)
The United States
Sideways (because wine.)
Thelma and Louise (who will ever forget that final Grand Canyon scene?)
Forrest Gump (if ever there was a box of chocolates, it’s the USA!)
One Week (a motorcycle trip across Canada from Toronto to Tofino: it doesn’t get more Canadian than this)
Anne of Green Gables (there’s a bunch of movies out there, and all of them do a great job of showing off the beauty of Prince Edward Island)
The Shipping News (lard, tunderin jaysus! a story set in Newfoundland)
Brokeback Mountain (yep, betcha didn’t know it was filmed in southern Alberta! Watch it for the men or the mountain views, whichever is more beautiful to you)
Armchair Travel: 10 Books That Immerse You in Other Countries
There are thousands of books set in exotic locales, from romance novels to murder mysteries. Here are 10 reads that take you to places far and wide, in no particular order.
In a Sunburned Country (Bill Bryson is hilarious no matter which country he is writing about, but this one in Australia is particularly fun)
Eat Pray Love (the book is better than the movie by far: sorry, Julia Roberts)
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (same as above, but this time, sorry Nicholas Cage!)
Memoirs of a Geisha (a fictionalized glimpse into this exotic part of Japanese culture)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (charming and funny expats in India)
Like Water for Chocolate (mystical Mexico with a side of sweetness)
A Year in Provence (a popular memoir of a 50-something ex-adman who moves to France)
The Lost City of Z (history, biography and travelogue in the Amazon jungle)
A Year of Living Danishly (funny, and for fans of Copenhagen especially)
The United States of Laughter (Comedian Andrew Tarvin’s 50 stories from 50 states – because we could all use a laugh right about now!)
Armchair Travel: Virtual Attraction/Museum Tours You Can Take
Thanks to technology in every form, from 360-degree interactive tours of museums to drone footage of historic attractions and sites, armchair travel has never looked so good! Here are a few places to check out from inside your own home.
Machu Picchu: Views and commentary as you scroll around the ruins on top of the mountain. No climbing required and no altitude issues.
The Louvre in Paris: From the latest exhibitions to the permanent collections, here are a series of virtual tours you can explore in Paris’ most famous museum. Follow the arrows to move through the museum, use the magnifying glass symbols to zoom in , and ‘read’ the information on each masterpiece. No crowds at all!
How about a Live View inside the Georgia Aquarium? See jellyfish blooping around in their tank, or watch Beluga Whales on their live web cams.
Visit the Vatican Museums without the crowds. You’ll never see the Sistine Chapel as empty as in this virtual 360-degree tour. Plus there are the Raphael Rooms, and more to see.
If you are a fan of the Renaissance painter, Raphael, this Musement site has collected all his works in one place. Search by museum or just click on a photo for its name and a closer look.
The Google Art Project: Google partnered with 1200 or so cultural institutions to document their works of art and create virtual tours of landmarks, museums and more. Check out some of these, where you can zoom in on Monet paintings, follow a tour of Queen Victoria’s Indian-inspired palace rooms or walk around the top of the Eiffel tower. It’s a great way to spend a day ‘travelling’ to some of the best museums in the world.
The Next Best Thing to the Real Thing
Although there is no substitute for actually being there, armchair travel can be a good option and does have certain advantages: there are never any crowds, the admission is always free and you can go wherever you’d like without ever getting out of your pyjamas! So sit back, find a movie, pick up a book or wander the virtual world of art and nature, and keep your wanderlust alive!