There’s something inherently wonderful about being able to sit on your sofa watching other travelers get themselves into strange and unpredictable situations. So put your feet up and join us for this installment of our couch potato series featuring some of our travel television favorites.
House Hunters International
Despite the recent controversy that House Hunters is staged, I still love this show. The show follows people buying (and sometimes renting) a house in various exotic locales. The budget tends to the high, making it frustrating for someone like me trying to get ideas for affordable housing. That said, it’s a fun, vicarious look at starting a life in another country.
This episode features travel blogger Matt Gibson hunting for a bargain apartment in Taiwan.
The Amazing Race
The Amazing Race follows teams competing for a million dollar prize on a race around the world. The show gives some great snapshots of people and places, but contestants don’t spend long in each country, so you won’t get an in depth look of any of the places they visit. That said, TAR is entertaining and inspiring, despite a recent tendency to feature celebrity contestants instead of everyday people.
The Amazing Race is hosted by likable New Zealander Phil Keoghan, author of No Opportunity Wasted: Creating a Life List, a book on inspiring you to create the life you want.
Departures chronicles the adventures of Scott Wilson and Justin Lukach as they trek across the globe. Departures is beautifully shot and produced, and shows the two travelers pushing themselves to their physical and emotional limits.
Check out the trailer to get a feel for the show’s great cinematography.
Canadians can view some full episodes online on OLN. Departures airs worldwide on the National Geographic Adventure Channel.
Rick Steves Europe on PBS
No list of travel TV is complete without a shout out to Rick Steves, who’s seemingly been on television forever. Not knowing much about the man, I’d always assumed Rick Steves was a generic talking head TV host. Turns Steves is entirely self made. In an interview with Green Global Travel, Steves says he loved travel so much that he made and distributed his first videos to PBS for free. Personally, Steves is a bit dry for my taste, but his shows are always informative.
Check out this clip of Steves inflicting his nerdy charm on Barcelona’s hip waterfront and old town center.
When Oprah raved about it, this show’s popularity soared, and rightly so. Planet Earth isn’t a traditional travel show, but the images it’s famous for are stunning. Well worth checking out.
Check out the original trailer in HD.
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
I love to watch Bourdain’s genuine interest and compassion for the people and places he visits juxtaposed against his smart ass, snarky demeanor. Bourdain takes his viewers to some off beat and interesting places, all the while checking out the local cuisine and culture.
The man’s been known to eat some pretty crazy things (from bull testicles to insects) so his show isn’t for the faint of heart. No Reservations, which just finished its final season, airs on the Travel Channel.
Check out Bourdain’s take on a Pho noodle shop in Vietnam.
A little more Bourdain, this time on vegetarianism. The video quality is terrible, but the discussion is funny.
Globe Trekker (sometimes called Pilot Guides) was originally broadcast as Lonely Planet. You’ll recognize a Globe Trekker show the minute it’s on by the music and feel. The show’s signature is all about independent travel with hosts integrating themselves into local life.
If you’re planning on catching up on this series, set aside a good block of time. Globe Trekker first aired in 1994.
Here’s Globe Trekker in Morocco, featuring Ian Wright, my favorite host of the Globe Trekker bunch.
Tropic of Capricorn with Simon Reeve on the BBC
The series follows Simon on his journey along the Tropic of Capricorn, which runs through South America, Africa and Australia, and crosses some of the most remote areas in the world. The series is beautiful, inspiring and thoroughly fun to watch.
It’s much more satisfying than your usual travel porn, as the show doesn’t shy away from tough environmental and political issues. If only all TV was like this.
You can pick up the book that chronicles Reeve’s adventures, Tropic of Capricorn: A Remarkable Journey to the Forgotten Corners of the World, on Amazon.
In this clip, Simon looks at the impact of Apartheid in South Africa.
In the mood for something a little quirkier?
Check out our first couch potato roundup of Offbeat Travel TV Shows.