Traveling the world from your living room

Not being able to travel for the past year was something I missed a lot, second only to not being with our family. Just prior to the shutdown of travel in early 2020 we had visited Portugal, New Zealand and Taiwan. We commented at the time on how much international travel we did and need to slow down, not knowing what was about to come. Coincidently, two of the three countries were among the lowest Covid-infected countries.

But confined to homebase, I discovered the wealth of travel-related programs that were available on Netflix, Amazon and HBO.  Several were the next best thing to travel. Some of the movies and series were filmed in exotic locations where I was able to experience the country, food, people, and attractions. Some shows were travel adventures in their own right, while others were stories set in destinations that I had longed to visit.

Here are my favorite ones that many of us travelers might enjoy. Some of them even beat getting on a plane for 10 hours.

Visit Japan – James May: Our Man in Japan is a terrific travel documentary hosted by British humorist James May. It can be found on Amazon Prime Video.  The six episodes are presented as a road journey traveling through Japan, beginning in the northern area of Sapporo, traveling south through Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and other areas. This is no ordinary travel documentary. May is hilarious in his encounters along the way, including visiting a piano factory, a penis festival, and a visit with the songwriter that writes the tunes played during subway announcements. I’ve been to Japan scores of times and hardly recognized what I saw.

Travel the World Somebody Feed Phil is an American television series on Netflix. Phil Rosenthal, a former TV show producer, visits cities across the world and the U.S. experiencing the cuisine of the week’s featured city. There are 22 episodes spread across four seasons. The photography is stunning, the food amazing, and the traveling through each city fascinating. Cities include Bangkok, Lisbon, Saigon, New Orleans, Mexico City, New York City, and Dublin.

Spend time in Paris – Call My Agent is a a French drama comedy series filmed in the heart of Paris. It’s about  a talent agency that represents and supports their clients – movie and film stars played by the actual stars. The four agents, Andrea, Mathias, Gabriel, and Arlette, are constantly getting their clients out of trouble or helping them through their personal challenges.  The show is filmed in central Paris where you get to experience the cafes, restaurants, parks, buildings and, most notably, their often dysfunctional French agency. The show has 4 seasons of 6 episodes each. It’s in French with English subtitles.  This was my favorite show of the past 12 months and I watched it twice.

Travel the route of the slaves – High on the Hog: How African Cuisine Transformed America is a four part series on Netflix that begins in the country of Benin in West Africa, the departure point for the Africans that were forced to come to America as slaves in the 1800’s. We learn about their lives in Benin, how they farmed and traded, and the dishes developed over the years that were brought to America, where they influenced the food we eat today, Much of it became the foundation of American cooking, especially in the South.

Visiting Italy – Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy is a six-part CNN series that follows the famous actor Stanley Tucci as he travels across Italy sampling the wide variety of cuisines in each region. In addition to showing off some of the amazing cooking, Tucci also touches upon some of the societal issues of the areas. It’s a well done series that makes me want to get on the next plane to Rome.

I’ve just scratched the list of what’s available for those of us that would like to experience distant places, but can’t yet travel there.





by Phil Baker