Like much of rural America in the early 90s, the boob tube had a huge influence on my view of the outside world. I don’t remember if we had Travel Channel back then, but kitschy 80s movies on TBS (can you bring back ‘Dinner and a Movie,’ please?) or movies that you actually rented to rewind and return, were my primary source of travel intrigue.
Here are some selections worthy of a watch, that ultimately made me want to see more of the world.
Romancing the Stone
There are many movies that when you watch as a child, there are so many things are over your head. In Romancing the Stone, it was why they were acting all funny when the “smelly” leaves (mota) were being burned at the campfire scene. But at that age, all of I could think of is how exciting the adventures of rope swinging through the jungle, with a young Michael Douglas type character, would be. This inspired several school projects on Colombia and still a strong desire to travel there. I’m starting with Panama and Southern Mexico this year, but it’s certainly on the list for when someone is as passionate about joining me.
This movie was not filmed in Colombia, but rather Veracruz, Mexico; Colombia Travel Blog has some interesting insights into how inaccurate aspects of the backdrop were. It’s still a great princess “fish out of water” type story and I’d like to see this genre of adventure/romance/comedy come back to the big screen. Colombia is actually on the up in both tourism, and safety. In 2013, Peru surpassed them as the number one producer of cocaine (sorry, Peru), and drug production has decreased by 60 percent in the last decade.
The Lizzie McGuire Movie
Girl goes to Italy for school trip and is romantically swept off her feet by an Italian with a motorbike. How cliché! But I love it, and that sort of happened to me when I was studying abroad in Rome. This one is cheesy to the brim, so viewer beware, and I wouldn’t expect guys to enjoy it – but it was absolutely filmed in Rome and features great shots of Roman landmarks and its cobblestone streets. “Women breaking the mold” references are aplenty, and one of the movie’s theme songs “Why Not” sums that yearning to follow your heart well: “you always dress in yellow, when you want to dress in gold.” Lesson learned, wear gold, be bold, and if a foreign country mistakes you as someone famous? Go with it.
Set in Sydney and fictional parts of Queensland, Australia, this hilarious romp is something anyone who ever felt somewhat outcast-y can identify with. Plus it’s hilarious, and Toni Collette is an awkward heroine goddess. In addition to making me want to visit Australia, I appreciated her “screw this, I don’t need to be caught in a dead end life or ruled by my parents” type of attitude.
Though at first Muriel’s dead set on finding a man to solve her problems, and it shows the harsh realities and potential pitfalls of pursuing your dreams, I think she ultimately comes out victorious. I’m really interested in visiting Sydney, but I feel like the laidback beach vibe of Gold Coast and Byron Bay would be perfect for my travel style. I’ll admit the expensive plane tickets and high cost of everything there is holding me back, but Australia is still high on the list. I’ll also give the Shrimp on the Barbie an honorable mention for fueling my intrigue for Australia. Plus, Cheech.
Devon Sawa, JTT and a marginably attractive older brother is an automatic trifecta of mid-90s preteen success. Throw in some environmental conservation, old fashion American prospecting, and you have the young girl’s gateway drug to caring about exploring nature. I dare say this movie inspired my current venture into travel blogging and long standing desire to document my travels through photos, journals, and other means.
National Lampoons Vacation
Another case of several adult themes I didn’t get when I first watched it, but still as entertaining today as it as when I was young. The quintessential road trip flick, this one documents the Griswold’s mishaps and misfortunes on their journey from Chicago to Southern California’s Wally World. Good lessons on what not to do (basically everything that Clark does), as a traveler, and a good route to experience once in my life (Chicago to California – though I feel like I could skip Missouri and Kansas).
The visuals in this from both Bangkok and the remote beaches are absolutely transfixing and the beach vistas are lifted from my dreams. Add to that the romanticism of stumbling on a secret self-sufficient community that gets by on gardening and fishing. I wonder if those actually do exist outside the states? I’m sure it does, and I’d love to see it. Also, the romantic scene in the bio luminescent plankton is pretty badass, and something I hope I can quasi recreate on an upcoming trip to Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca, Mexico. The secret beach portions were filmed in Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Leh Island. I’ve heard it’s become somewhat of a tourist trap since the film’s release, but I’m really interested in these sleep aboard tours. I also agree with Joe Reid who wrote in the Atlantic that Leo needs to take more artistic risks like the Beach, versus all the safe bets we’ve been seeing.
I’m not alone in this movie travel motivation, as several movies have measurably driven tourism to destinations. Braveheart drove a 300 percent increase in visitations the following year after its release to the Wallace Monument in Scotland, and the tiny town of Dyersville, Iowa (population approx. 4,000) saw 35,000 visits in 1991 and still sees tourists today wanting to experience “The Field of Dreams.”
I’ll admit I went slightly out of my way to see the Full House house in San Francisco, but it was convenient and certainly not the purpose of the trip. I visited the Dazzled by Twilight shop in Forks (it burned down a few years ago, sadly), and gazed over in awe as I drove by the Safari Inn in Burbank from that epic shootout scene in True Romance.
Have movies or television show locations driven any of your travel decisions?