Travel Shows

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Travel Shows

Lindsay Igoe, Editor-in-Cheif

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Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

Bourdain is probably the most well-known travel show host. His show Parts Unknown is a sensational, dramatic account of his travels. Each episode gives lots of information about the region’s history and current politics, especially if he’s visiting a place that his American viewers are unlikely to be well-informed about, which I thought was helpful. There’s definitely a focus on food; he talks with locals or expats over meals at least once per episode. And don’t watch if you’re squeamish: the show includes some graphic shots of food preparation, like when he uses dull knives to behead chickens on a dark boat in the Congo. I also found Bourdain a bit arrogant, which annoyed me. Still, the sheer variety of places he visits over the eight seasons available on Netflix means there’ll be something to interest most everyone.

Rick Steves’ Europe

Rick Steves, hailing from Washington State, is a good-natured, friendly, unfailingly polite traveler. He gives viewers travel tips, advising the best places to stay, what to pack, and what to eat in each European locale. He also gives interesting historical information about the places he goes. Steves doesn’t venture too far off the beaten path though; his show covers mainly conventional European vacation destinations. Avoiding the dramatics of a host like Bourdain, Steves perhaps skews a bit too far in the opposite direction; after a while, the show can get a bit dull. There are entertaining bloopers at the end, though. And each episode is only 25 minutes long, so it’s not as much of a time commitment as the other shows on this list. Watch if you’re interested in history and don’t want a sensationalism. Available on PBS.

Departures

Two Canadian guys, Scott Wilson and Justin Lukach, are the hosts of Departures. The show feels more authentic than the others I have watched, showing the real experience of traveling—from sleeping in airports during layovers to losing their luggage and going to a grocery store in rural Mongolia to replace their belongings. They also portray themselves as normal guys who are traveling to learn about other places and cultures rather than already knowledgable on these places. This means, however, that they tend to give less information about the locations to which they travel, focusing more on their own experiences than on factual background. They engage with local people, especially kids, more than the hosts of other shows, as well as seeking out more outdoorsy adventures, like camping and horseback riding. Wilson and Lukach are goofy hosts, which is sometimes endearing but often irritating, and their destinations are certainly quirkier than most—for example, they visit a water bottle factory in North Korea. They also aren’t afraid to admit that travel isn’t pleasant 100% of the time while still retaining a sense of wonder at the adventures they go on. All three seasons are available on Netflix, so go watch a few episodes if you like a less-filtered view of traveling.

Stephen Fry in America

This show is a bit different—instead of traveling to places that seem far away and exotic to American viewers, British comedian Stephen Fry travels around the USA, visiting each and every state in a London cab. I found it very entertaining to see a fresh perspective on things familiar to us here in New England, like the Salem Witch Trials or Maine lobsters. It might also introduce you to some neat landmarks that aren’t so far away from home, teach you a bit of US history, and give you some ideas for cool places you can visit without booking a plane ticket. It’s also definitely the funniest of the travel shows I saw (after all, Fry is a comedian). The first season is available on Netflix.

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