I like travel. I like documentaries. I like independence. Put those all together and I love independent travel documentaries. Not the cliche filled crap-tastic travel movies, but something smarter that makes you appreciate being able to travel, as we do.
You may have heard of all of these movies, and if not then you should get on the band wagon because they are inspirational and belong in your travel repertoire. So without further ado, here are a few of the best travel documentaries to get your mind racing.
180 Degrees South is a fantastic documentary that follows a traveler from California to Patagonia. He crews a sailboat down to South America. On the way he faces tough winds, a broken mast and even finds love. Sound cheesy? Well, it's not.
This movie is great for a couple reasons, not the least of which because the 180 South Sound track is awesome. I bought it off iTunes after I saw the movie. It includes original tracks from the lead singer of Modest Mouse and a track from Jack Johnson.
One message of this movie is all about environmental conservation and they do a great job showing what is happening to the forests of South America as well as what is being done to protect them. This is ideal for those heading down to South America.
180 Degrees South is worth buying with the soundtrack. Like the story? Maybe you should consider crewing onboard sailboat.
This is a cool and quirky movie made by some guys who had a very simple idea: drive a segway across country and film the whole thing. Not exactly the smartest when it comes to road safety, but it had to be done sooner or later.
In 10 mph the crew has left their jobs in Seattle and made a beeline to New Jersey, a very slow beeline, as the title would suggest. The mission was to ride a Segway for every mile of the trip.
The movie introduces you to the hardships they faced trying to get a nod of approval from the Segway company, as well as getting funding to help subsidize the trip. In 10 mph the crew travels through about a dozen states and meets plenty of people who help them on their way.
Throughout this documentary, the journey seems like it is meant to fail as they had one partner pull out, no help from Segway and costs for the trip were mounting.
I like 10 MPH because it is encouraging to see people who are already successful in their own right, as they leave everything and take off on a journey not knowing what will happen. This movie is worth checking out, especially for those who want to pursue their own travel dreams one day.
For anyone not into the Dixie and bluegrass music scene, Béla Fleck is only the most amazing banjo player in the world and in Throw Down Your Heart he takes his banjo back to its roots: Africa. In this film, he journeys to Gambia, Mali, Uganda, and Tanzania to play his banjo in its motherland with tribes who have been playing the native equivalent for centuries.
He brings with him decades of knowledge of how to manipulate the instrument into these truly awesome jams with local tribes. As locals watch in amazement, Béla works his banjo magic with village elders.
I like Throw Down Your Heart because it isn't arrogant. Béla Fleck at no point steps across his boundary from host to become the star of a movie. He is so laid back and such an amazing musician, you can't help but love it. I don't think Béla says more than a dozen sentences in this movie because Throw Down Your Heart is all about the music.
This travel doc should be watched by everyone including musicians, students and travelers. He also has a CD called Throw Down Your Heart, Tales from the Acoustic Planet which he made while shooting this documentary.
A Map for Saturday was originally made as an indie film, as the host/director, Brook Silva-Braga, backpacks across the world. Starting in the USA, he makes his way to Australia, Southeast Asia and South America. He meets people from all over the world who are traveling just like he is.
The movie is really about the lifestyle of a backpacker and long term traveler. It is about how easy it is to travel the world and why it is important as a person to experience this. It goes into the deep seeded difference between how Americans and Europeans travel.
This movie also shows you don't have to be young to backpack around the world, just make a decision and go with it.
A full on recommendation for you to watch a Map For Saturday if you have any inkling to travel as this might be the fuel you need to quit your job and explore the world. This movie is also great for the experienced traveler who will find themselves nodding their head in agreement as Brook experiences all the things we know so well. From lost love to hung over hostel mornings. A Map for Saturday is a great refresher to reminisce about the good old days.
If you don't yet have NetFlix, get it. If you don't have a TV steal one. Watching these three movies really should make everyone want to quit their job tomorrow and buy a flight out of your comfort zone and into the travel lifestyle. If not, then at least it will allow you to appreciate some things you may have known about previously.
If you know of any other independent travel documentaries worth watching/buying/downloading, please let me know the name and why it's good, and I will add it.
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