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9 Fascinating Travel Documentaries You Can Stream Right Now

Photo by Glenn Carstens-PetersonUnsplash

The next best thing to traveling is living vicariously through those who have. With the proliferation of streaming services, there’s no shortage of great travel documentaries and shows to choose from if you’re stuck on your couch. You could fall down a rabbit hole on YouTube to uncover some gems—Jacques Cousteau’s exploration of a Caribbean mystery, anyone? Or pull up Netflix, Hulu, or another favorite to go on a culinary adventure on the other side of the world.

Each of the nine documentaries and series on this list offer different views of what travel means, but they all find the heart in each. It's not about where we go when we hit the road. It's about what we learn and what we feel on the journey.

1. They Call It Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain

Southeast Asia continues to grow as a popular tourist destination, especially Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. These nations promise balance for travelers: Spiritual sanctuaries and bustling city streets, thick jungles and serene beaches. The cuisine is second to none as well. But one country that remains a mystery in the region is Myanmar. Now, in the midst of an ongoing, decades-long conflict that has ravaged the former British colony, filmmaker Robert H. Lieberman "lifts the curtain," showcasing everyday life there. The images, footage, and interviews are enlightening.

Where you can watch it: VUDU Free (with ads)

2. Jiro Dreams of Sushi

One of the most popular—and famous—documentaries of the 2010s, Jiro Dreams of Sushi lives up to the hype. The protagonist, 85-year-old Jiro Ono, dedicates his life to perfecting sushi in his modest, 10-seat restaurant. The simplicity of the dish belies the emotional heft of the documentary and his establishment’s reputation as a worldwide destination. “Beautiful, thoughtful, and engrossing,” raves Rotten Tomatoes, with a 99% on its Tomatometer. “Jiro Dreams of Sushi should prove satisfying even for filmgoers who don’t care for the cuisine.” It remains a fascinating insight into the culture of food and the world of culinary tourism.

Where you can watch it: Netflix

3. Street Food

If you’ll allow the pun, Street Food is a highly digestible documentary series from Netflix. Season 1 takes viewers to nine countries across Asia to provide a close-up look into the place food holds in their respective cultures. The show is illuminating, entertaining, and, as with Jiro Dreams of Sushi, about so much more than good bites.

Where you can watch it: Netflix

4. National Parks Adventure

Academy Award winner Robert Redford lends his dulcet tones to this sweeping feature that covers the history and allure of America’s national parks through the experience of three travelers: mountaineer Conrad Anker, photographer Max Lowe, and artist Rachel Pohl. The trio explores the most famous wildernesses in America, from Yellowstone and Yosemite to Glacier National Park and the Everglades, shining new light on familiar haunts. Travel envy is real.

Where you can watch it: Netflix

5. Taco Chronicles

The ubiquitousness of tacos makes them all the more mysterious. We have a general understanding of where they come from, but what exactly inspired the dish? Taco Chronicles seeks the answer to that question. Each episode focuses on a particular type of taco: pastor, carnitas, canasta, asada, barbacoa, and guisado. The series is as much a celebration of Mexican cuisine and culture as it is about the deliciousness of the tacos themselves.

Where you can watch it: Netflix (English subtitles)

6. A Map For Saturday

In 90 minutes, you’ll follow Brook Silva-Braga around the world through 26 countries on four continents. It’s an adventurist’s dream, as Silva-Braga takes a minimal approach to his journey, while interacting with dozens of other solo travelers along the way. Each brings a unique story to the experience. If you’ve ever wanted to ditch your day job for a month and backpack nation to nation, A Map For Saturday is for you.

Where you can watch it: Rent on Amazon Prime

7. Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations

The late Anthony Bourdain was perhaps most famous for his Parts Unknown series, but it sadly remains in streaming limbo (you can watch with a Hulu Live TV subscription). That said, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations isn’t a bad alternative. Seasons 7 and 8 are available on Hulu, and the episodes give viewers the full Bourdain experience as he pushes boundaries in places familiar (Boston and Brazil) and foreign (Mozambique and Macau).

Where you can watch it: Hulu (Seasons 7-8)

8. The Living Desert

The emergence of Disney+ in 2019 proved to be a godsend as the calendar turned over to 2020. The platform delivers all of the classic Disney features, from animated favorites to live-action nostalgia trips. There are also forgotten gems, like the True Life Adventure series. Now, The Living Desert isn’t a travel documentary per se, but it did introduce a relatively unexplored region to eager viewers way back in 1953. The film is campy at times, but it’s also innovative. Much of the tension in modern masterpieces like Planet Earth can be traced back to here, where nature’s battles take center stage.

Where you can watch it: Disney+

9. Leaning Into The Wind

This list is populated with travel documentaries that double as foodie fodder. So why not introduce something a little different? Leaning Into The Wind is travel through art. Andy Goldsworthy uses Earth as his canvas, exploring the relationships humans have with the world around them. The British sculptor, photographer, and environmentalist traverses from urban centers to caves, cliffs, creeks, and woods, all in pursuit of art and education.

Where you can watch it: Hulu

I personally can watch the late Anthony Bourdain shows all day.

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