If you’ve been following along, you know that I recently collaborated with some fellow travel bloggers to write about books that inspire you to travel. Well, I’m back with a follow-up collaboration! This time we’re talking about movies that inspire travel, both in the United States and around the world! Have you ever watched a movie and then knew that you just had to visit the location? We have! Read on to find out where you’ll want to go next – and find some new movies to add to your Netflix queue!
Movies That Inspire You to Travel … in the United States
No movie has inspired us to travel more than Into The Wild. The story of Christopher McCandless, AKA Alexander Supertramp, escaping from society is told with spectacular cinematography and a virtuoso soundtrack. Slab City / Salvation Mountain California was Christopher’s sunset on family, love, and any semblance of society. As we began our journey to location independence, we knew we had to visit this special place and remember all the choices one makes as they venture into the wild.
Slab City / Salvation Mountain is an abandoned military base in the California desert beyond San Diego and the Salton Sea. It’s been an anarchist enclave since the mid-’60s with several thousand full-time residents. In that time, several permanent art installations took shape in the ruins. Visitors should check out Salvation Mountain, replete with a shrine to Chris McCandless, East Jesus, and a host of other unusual sights. However, it’s the residents of Slab City that make it truly unique, so be sure to stop by the Slab City Library for a conversation or the ongoing Saturday Night talent show at The Range. You’ll meet people who live their life by Eddie Vedder’s refrain “Society, you’re a crazy breed. I hope you’re not lonely without me.”
“One thing about living in Santa Carla [Santa Cruz] I never could stomach, all the damn vampires.”
I was 16 whenThe Lost Boys came out, and it was the coolest thing ever – like Atari 2600 level cool. Santa Cruz looked like the perfect place to live, except for all those damn vampires. My kids came of age during the time of Twilight. I wanted to show them what a real vampire movie was but, unfortunately, my ex had already claimed The Lost Boys (I didn’t even know that was a thing!) so I had to do the next best thing. I took my daughter to Santa Cruz in person on a school visit and she ended up going there. All I have to say about that is – “You wait ’til mom finds out buddy!”
There were so many cool things to do in Santa Cruz that it was even better in real life than in the movie. It’s like every good thing about California got packed into one little town halfway between San Francisco and Monterey. On the water, there was a pier with sea lions, beaches, the boardwalk, and the first surf break in California. In the mountains, there were redwoods, zip lines, and mountain biking. These two different worlds are separated by only 10 miles and connected with a scenic railroad.
If you come in the summer, it’s (almost) warm enough to swim, and the weather is phenomenal. Fall is the best time to visit because it’s still warm (enough), but the crowds have dissipated. Winter brings unique animal encounters like nesting elephant seals and monarch butterflies. Spring is damp and hazy, especially mid-April on the UCSC campus 😉
A movie that really inspired me to travel was The Big Easy. The Big Easy is a comedy-drama set in New Orleans that starred Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin. It was shot on location in New Orleans and the city and its inhabitants featured largely in the movie. The music and local cuisine of New Orleans were also part of the story.
As soon as I saw this movie I could not wait to travel to New Orleans and experience the richness of the Creole culture for myself. It was such a delight to be able to walk down the streets of the French Quarter and hear the Cajun and Zydeco music and smell the delicious seafood gumbo and taste those Po’boy sandwiches. Hearing a New Orleans accent still serves as a great reminder of that wonderful city.
See more from Lesley:
Movies That Inspire You to Travel … to International Destinations
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
If you haven’t seen it yet, add “Watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” to your to-do list. Now. I’ll wait… Okay, so for travel lovers, Walter Mitty has become a quick classic. The story follows along as Walter (played by the incredible Ben Stiller) journeys around the world in search of a famous travel photographer to get the perfect photo as his first cover feature for TIME Magazine. The scenes go back-and-forth from reality to daydreams as Walter’s monotonous life gets exciting and adventurous. One of my things about the film? The absolutely gorgeous scenery from the places Walter visits. He explores the landscapes of Greenland, Iceland, Yemen, and Afghanistan (though filming was done exclusively in Greenland and Iceland).
I was lucky enough to score a flight deal to Reykjavik earlier this year. (Roundtrip from Boston for only $200!) While I didn’t get the chance to visit the specific filming locations, the places I did visit were just as beautiful.
Other Movies Filmed in Iceland
Iceland has become quite popular for filming lately due to the low cost and beautiful scenery. Here are the places I was able to visit on my trip:
Reynisfjara, famously known as Black Sand Beach, which served as the opening scene for Rogue One
Thingvellir National Park, famous for various scenes out of Game of Thrones
To this avid James Bond fan, Casino Royale with Daniel Craig is one of the best films of the series. While planning out a trip to Europe I did some research and found out most of the movie was shot in Prague and Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic (not Montenegro as the film suggests). The Grandhotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary is center stage and amazingly I could stay at this 5 star hotel in the off-season for the price of a mid-range priced hotel inthe United States. It took me 2 seconds to make that decision.
The hotel itself is stunning to view and brimming with history. Bach and Beethoven both stayed there. You’ll see pictures of other famous people who have all stayed there as well. The breakfast buffet allows you to sit in the place where Bond and Vesper enjoy caviar after a winning night at the poker table, and enjoy an amazing spread of foods with chefs standing by to cook-to-order. In the evening, head down to Becher’s Bar below the casino for a nice meal, a Vesper martini and some relaxing music. Then head up to the casino and enjoy a complimentary beverage. And Bond fans should ask the hotel about their 007 packages. You’ll feel like the rich and famous without spending a lot of money.
And when you get back home, if you want to relive that hotel even more, check out Queen Latifah’s Last Holiday which was almost entirely filmed at the Grandhotel Pupp.
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arkcame out when I was 12 years old. While Star Wars and Star Trek had certainly whet my appetite for space adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark was the first great movie to inspire me to travel to places that actually existed on this planet.
I mean, here’s this guy, and he’s traveling all over the planet having all of these great adventures and it made me want to do the same thing. At one point, I thought it would be fun to see where some of it was filmed, but then I discovered better.
In Ghana, they have a place called Kakum National Park where they have a rope bridge suspended high above a tropical forest. Sort of a combination of the jungle scene from Raiders and the bridge scene from Temple of Doom. So in 2003, I took my first real solo trip to Ghana and had many great adventures, including the rope bridge at Kakum.
When I first saw the movie The Mission, which came out in 1986, I was mesmerized by the scenery. Filmed in and around what is now the Iguazu National Park, the place looked to me like something from another planet. It planted a seed in the back of my mind that I wanted to go there someday. Then I saw the moving again earlier this decade and that moved the destination further up my list.
It’s a powerful historical drama involving Catholic corruption, colonialism, slavery, power, redemption, and the battle between church and state in the 1700s. It has some big Hollywood names—Jeremy Irons, Robert De Niro, and Liam Neeson—but the real star of the film is the location. With the jungle, Parana River, and Iguazu Falls as the backdrop, you may pay more attention to what’s behind the actors than what they’re doing.
I finally made it to the falls this year, seeing them from the “Iguazú” Argentina side and the “Iguaçu” Brazil side. Definitely visit viewpoints from both countries while you are there because the perspective is strikingly different. Plus with lots of hikes and nature walks in the area, it’s worth making this epic location more than a quick stopover.
Timothy Scott is the editor of Luxury Latin America, the leading online magazine and blog for high-end travel in Mexico, Central America, and South America, established in 2007. See their hotel video tours on YouTube or follow them on Facebook.
Have you seen any movies that inspire you to travel?
I’d love to hear about them! Let me know in the comments. Then I can add them to my ever-growing watch lists on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. Yes… I have them all! PS – If I had to choose any fictional place to visit from a movie, Avatar wins by a landslide!