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TV shows that inspire travel

This post is part of a mini-series about travel inspiring literature and media. Some people prefer to absorb their travel inspiration from books, others from movies. In this series I’m going to highlight my favorites from each of the following categories: quotes and poems, books, songs, movies, and television shows.

Lately television shows have been my favorite source for travel inspiration.  Movies are too long for my scatter-brained self and I haven’t had enough time lately for books.  Though I’ve been slowly working on My Life in France by Julia Child and I’m loving it.

The great thing about television shows is that there are a wide variety of travel-inspiring programs so you’re likely to come across something you like.  Here are my favorite ones that I’ve discovered so far.

An Idiot Abroad

Summary: An Idiot Abroad is a hilarious British travel series about a man named Karl Pilkington who is sent on adventures around the world, organized by his friends Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant.  Only Karl has no interest in seeing the Seven Wonders of the World, especially when Ricky and Steve plan amusing little side trips for him.

Why I Like It:  When I first caught an episode of An Idiot Abroad on the “telly” I thought that Karl was a whiny asshole.  But after watching a few full episodes I found it to be extremely funny, especially because Karl’s reactions to his adventures are so damn witty.

My Favorite Episode:  Three seasons of An Idiot Abroad were made and my favorite episode would have to be “Trans-Siberian Express” from Season 2, though the last 5 minutes of “Route 66” from the same season had me in stitches.  I also recently discovered that Karl did another show on his own called The Moaning of Life that involves traveling the world to get different viewpoints on major life events like marriage, having kids and death.  I’ve only seen one episode so far but it looks pretty darn good.


House Hunters International

Summary:  HGTV captures the stress of house hunting in a foreign country as travelers choose between 3 homes to live in.

Why I Like It:  I’m well aware that the show is staged but it’s still nice to get a feel for what it would be like to live in another country.  There’s nothing like seeing a cheap mansion in Costa Rica that makes me want to pack my bags and become an expat.

My Favorite Episode:  With 13 seasons of shows to choose from there’s no way I could narrow down my favorite one.  I enjoy watching most episodes except those with a very expensive taste and I simply hate when house hunters nitpick over the smallest things when looking for a new home.  You’re not in America anymore, honey!  Get used to a two-burner stove.  There’s a few full episodes you can check out on HGTV or Netflix


Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations

Summary:  A popular NYC chef travels the world on an empty stomach in search of culinary adventures.

Why I Like It:  I just love Bourdain’s personality and straight-forward attitude.  But while many of the dishes looks yummy some of his episodes involve fine dining which really isn’t my cup of tea.

My Favorite Episode:  My favorite episode has always been “Peru” from 2006. It brings back a lot of great memories for me, of times spent in the jungle fishing for piranha and our weekend at Machu Picchu.  The Ecuador episode brought back some memories too, of our guinea pig dinner, though Anthony enjoyed his “cuy” a lot more than we did!


Samantha Brown’s Passport to Europe

Summary:  Samantha Brown is a well-known television host with multiple shows.  Her Passport to Europe is an older series that focuses on various European locations with a variety of suggestions for activities, lodging and dining.

Why I Like It:  I love Samantha Brown’s personality and willingness to try quirky things on her trip.  I’ve seen a few episodes from each of her shows but Passport to Europe and Passport to Latin America are my favorite shows of hers.  I love the fact that she always includes travel tips and gives important information like the cost of her lodging, meals, etc.

My Favorite Episode:  Vienna, Austria.  It was a close toss-up between Paris and Vienna for our upcoming European trip and if I had seen this episode before making my decision then it probably would have been Vienna.  Such a beautiful city!  Unfortunately I couldn’t find the Vienna one on Youtube so instead I’ll leave you with an equally inspiring Parisian episode.


River Monsters

Summary:  Jeremy Wade is an extreme fisherman on the hunt for extreme fish, monster freshwater killing machines.  His episodes usually investigate an incident of some sort, a mysterious death or injury that occurred near water, and finds out whether it was done by man or beast.

Why I Like It:  I’ll be the first to admit that River Monsters isn’t your average travel-inspiring show but I’ve always loved fishing and watching Jeremy travel to remotes corners of the globe in search of monster fish always makes me a little adventurous.

My Favorite Episode:  “The Mutilator” from Season 3, simply because it’s a fish that I caught myself.  Though the episode about him catching the giant arapaima is a good one too.


Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern

Summary:  Andrew Zimmern is a chef and food critic who is willing to taste the oddest foods on the planet.  The funkier the better!

Why I Like It:  It’s hilarious that he can try all these odd foods and find something nice to say about each one, making you feel as though it were the most succulent dish in the world.  Except durian, he hates durian!

My Favorite Episode:  Like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations I like the “Ecuador” episode the best, not because Andrew tries cuy just like Anthony did but because a shaman spit fire on him.


Rick Steves’ Europe

Summary:  Rick Steves is one of the most well-known travel authors.  He’s also a host for his PBS travel show that focuses solely on European travel.

Why I Like It:  Some people find Rick Steves annoying but I like his shows.  They’re really informative and his travels aren’t over-the-top luxurious.  He also has an extensive website for finding your way around Europe, though I do look on other sites for information.

My Favorite Episode:  I love watching “Norway’s West: Fjords, Mountains and Bergen”.  The great thing about Rick Steve’s Europe is that you can watch almost all his episodes online for free.


Long Way Round

Summary:  Actor Ewan McGregor and his buddy Charley Boorman embark on a three-month motorcycle trip around the world, starting in London and heading east to New York City.  Ewan and Charley did another trip titled Long Way Down that goes from Scotland to southern Africa which I haven’t watched yet.

Why I Like It:  I actually didn’t think I would like this show.  The first two episodes of preparation were pretty boring to me.  I didn’t see how I would possibly be interested in two guys riding a pair of motorcycles.  But once they started the journey its was really exciting.  These guys got seriously beat up on their trip!

My Favorite Episode:  Hands-down my favorite episode is “Yakutsk to Madagan”, the Siberian part of their journey.  Watching the crew try to cross some of those treacherous rivers had me gripping the couch for dear life.  But this show isn’t the kind you can skip around on.  You really need to watch it from the beginning.



Summary:  Scott Wilson and his high school friend Justin Lukach spend a year traveling the world and meeting new people

Why I Like It:  I love the fact that Scott and Justin are adrenaline junkies who do some crazy things on their adventures.  The only downside is that it’s about two young guys traveling the world so a lot of their episodes involve drinking, especially on Justin’s part.  After seeing a dozen drinking scenes it gets a little old.

My Favorite Episode:  I’m only halfway through the first season of Departures (there are 3 seasons but only 2 are available on Netflix) and so far my favorite episode is “India: Sacred Ground”.  The sights and sounds of India are so exhilarating and overwhelming at the same time.  Departures is a Canadian show so it’s really hard to find on American television.

What are your favorite travel-inspiring television shows?

9 TV shows that inspire travel. Which one is your favorite? Written by Travel Fearlessly

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  1. We don’t watch very much tv, but Long Way Round is one that both my husband and I agree on. 🙂

  2. There’s a few shows here that I haven’t seen, but I am also addicted to HH international and Anthony Bourdain, love!

  3. Great suggestions…love watching travel shows and movies! Anthony Bourdain is great. Check out Hamish & Andy Gap Year Asia for a real laugh…hilarious! Well done on the list. Cheers – WILL

  4. Thank you for these tips! I’ve watched a few episodes of The Idiot Abroad, and it is probably one of the most British things that ever came out of the telly – I love the oh-so-British humour of it, which I miss every day, after living a few years in London and now being back in my home country in Finland. Will definitely check out the House Hunters as well!

  5. I’ve seen a few of these and enjoyed them all except for An Idiot Abroad. Like you, I thought he was an asshole. But maybe I’ll give it another shot.

  6. Love all of these! Bourdain is Boss!

  7. I absolutely love Departures. I’m watching the 3rd season now. To your point about the drinking, that’s true when the travels first begin, but it’s neat to see Justin change as the episodes progress. He turns down nights out in turn for sleep 🙂 Love that show!

  8. When I was a kid, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom was just the best thing ever, and I think it planted an adventure seed somewhere in my lizard brain. I so seldom watch TV anymore, but when I do I still gravitate toward nature stuff. Wild Australia on Nat Geo is pretty cool.

  9. An Idiot Abroad = Pure Genius.
    Enough said.

  10. Love it…some awesome suggestions! Departures it is!

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