With most global travel on hold these past few years, our feet have become majorly itchy. But on the upside on lockdown, we got to watch a *whole* lotta TV. Even as we sat on the brink of climbing all four walls, we were also breaking beyond them – figuratively, at least – thanks to some of our favourite TV shows, spiriting us away to lands and horizons new.
The beauty of TV travel inspiration is that it can strike at any time. You don’t need actual travel shows (good as they are) to feel it; you could be watching a tense whodunnit, or an epic literary adaptation – and bam! – the wanderlust hits you.
Here are some of our best, most binge-worthy series from Netflix, HBO and Amazon Prime in recent years that deliver an unparalleled sense of place.
You can also fuel your adventurous side with a look at Flash Pack destinations right here.
The White Lotus
This deliciously dark comedy was filmed at The Four Seasons Resort Maui, and – despite the biting satire – there’s plenty in it to inspire your next trip to Hawaii. Sure, there’s fair helping of cocaine, murder, unhinged concierges and the brattiest teens known to man.
Yet amid all the chaos, you’ll also catch snippets of the magnificent natural beauty of Hawaii – whales at sunrise, beaches bathed by a golden sepia glow, and a hint of the islands’ spiritual core – that are all the more mesmerising for their rarity.
We’re going to level with you here: the BBC’s addictive new thriller is not the most obvious advert for the Australian outback. In the eyes of The Tourist (Jamie Dornan), it’s a barren, sinister place: full of nowhere towns and trucks with a maniacal tendency to ram you off the road.
Yet, if you can look beyond the show’s dramatic licence, you may well develop a taste for this vast and uncharted land. The dazzling open skies. The surreal, otherworldly feel of the landscape. The rose-tinted desert plains that stretch out for miles – some beyond the size of your average European country. All these may be suitably oppressive cues for a tense crime drama; but in real life, they’re also the ingredients of an adventure not to be missed.
The Lost Daughter
The Netflix adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s short novel stars Olivia Coleman as an English professor holidaying alone in Greece. Created by Maggie Gyllenhaal as her debut in the director’s chair, the film is packed with ominous symbolism, along with a brewing sense of tension that builds as Olivia’s character comes face-to-face with disturbing baggage of her past.
Yet, if the overall vibe of The Lost Daughter is unsettling – creepy, even – its settling on the Greek island of Spetses is sublime. We challenge you not to be moved by the evocative backdrop of sandy coves, sleepy harbours and secluded pine forest. A one-way ticket to Athens, please.
Big Little Lies
The HBO production of Liane Moriarty’s hit novel brings a powerhouse cast to the small screen including Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Zoë Kravitz – and in the second season, Meryl Streep. When a fundraising fancy dress night at a local school ends in tragedy, its tight-knit community is rocked to the hilt.
Blending moments of hilarity and friendship with hard-hitting themes of betrayal and domestic violence, Big Little Lies will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions – but always with one eye to the scenery. The show is filmed in Monterey, California: a town that’s loved for its creative spirit and old-school, Sunshine State charm. The sweeping views of the Pacific Coast Highway, along with nearby Bixby Creek Bridge, are reasons alone to book your Big Sur road trip.
Dream team Andie MacDowell and Margaret Qualley bring Stephanie Land’s memoir to life in this gripping series about a young mum struggling to make ends meet in the shadow of an abusive relationship. Alex (Qualley) takes a job cleaning houses as she grapples to create a better future for herself and toddler daughter, Maddy, in the face of impossible odds.
The show is set in Washington state, but it was mostly filmed in and around the laid-back, artsy city of Victoria on Vancouver Island. The result is a spectacular show reel for this corner of British Columbia, with its tapestry of alpine forest and wild, Pacific Northwest seascapes; not to mention the idyllic-looking ferry rides to and from the fictional “Fisher Island”. The storyline may be bleak, yet the scenery is anything but.
Below Deck Mediterranean
Last but not least, a little light relief for the reality TV folks among you (you know who you are). If you’re a fan of Below Deck Mediterranean, almost every season of this hit Bravo TV production – which takes a behind-scenes look at the lives of luxury charter staff, or “yachties”, as they’re known – is worth a watch. But the latest season, set in Croatia, is particularly rewarding when it comes to a good old-fashioned dose of wanderlust.
Form an orderly line for all the white-wine-and-tequila shenanigans that this show is known and loved for; not to mention love triangles, diva guests and the formidable presence of Captain Sandy. Yet above all this drama lies a front-row view of Croatia with all her many charms. Think terracotta rooftops, turquoise inlets and ancient, Game of Thrones-style vistas at each new turn.
Main photo: The White Lotus on HBO
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