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Virtual Travel

April 9, 2020

Most of us are following the recommendations to stay home during these challenging times. I don’t know about you, but getting out into Nature and traveling to new and fascinating places has always been my passion. Since that is not possible for the time being, I thought I would share some suggestions for movies and books that I found online to help keep our sanity. Maybe we can’t get to these places now, but it’s great that we can – at least virtually – bring these places to us!

Stay safe, Everyone! Blessed Be.

Gaia

NOTE:

The following suggestions and synopses are from The Discoverer Blog

#1.  Ken Burns: The National Parks – America’s Best Idea

A deep-dive into the history of the United States’ National Parks. Like all Ken Burns documentaries, the cinematography is beautiful, the narration and expert commentary is insightful, and — maybe most importantly — the series is really in-depth!

Available on PBS or Amazon Video  

#2. PBS “Nature” Series

This long-running PBS series covers everything you could possibly want to know about nature, from “The Story of the Horse” to “A Squirrel’s Guide to Success.” Ten seasons are currently available for PBS members, while Amazon Prime subscribers can see one season plus several standalone feature films.

Available on PBS for PBS supporters and on Amazon Prime Video

#3. Free Solo

Being stuck on your couch with your feet firmly on the ground won’t seem so bad after watching climber Alex Honnold attempt to become the first person to free solo El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. That means climbing the 3,200-foot natural wall without assistance, ropes or other gear. The film won the 2018 Academy Award for best feature documentary.

Available on Hulu or for rent on Amazon

#4. Mountain 

The Hollywood Reporter called it “one of the most visceral essay films ever made” due to its musical score. It premiered at the Sydney Opera House in 2017. This film explores the highest peaks around the world and it is more visual art than it is a storytelling piece. 

Available on Netflix

#5. Expedition Happiness

A couple and their adorable Bernese mountain dog take you on a trip in their refurbished school bus across North America. Once you’ve seen this film, you’ll be tempted to use your extra time at home to start renovating a van or school bus to replicate their journey. Send us pictures. 

Available on Netflix

#6. Dancing with the Birds

After watching this Netflix original documentary, I have come to the conclusion that birds are severely underrated. This film takes you on a deep dive into the lives of birds, It turns out they are quite

bizarre, intelligent, and preformative. The video footage is exact and takes you into remote areas to get the most stunning shots of these underrated creatures. 

Available on Netflix

#7. Elephant

Megan Markle narrates the story of an elephant named Shani and her spirited son Jomo in the Kalahari Desert. It’s a compelling look at the dynamics of an elephant family. Spoiler alert: You’ll learn we are not too different. 

Available on Disney+ 

#8. Ice on Fire

Using beautiful camerawork and hard facts, this critically acclaimed HBO documentary reminds us what’s at stake if we don’t take aggressive action to curb climate change. Importantly, the filmmakers also offer workable solutions to help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Available on HBO, and via Amazon Prime with an HBO subscription

#9. African Cats

African Cats follows a pride of lions and a family of cheetahs across a national reserve in Kenya. It’s a stunning adventure in storytelling as you will get quite attached to the characters. 

Available on Disney+ 

#10. Jane

Most people will know exactly what this film is about when they see the title and a picture of a ‎chimpanzee. The movie pulls from more than 100 hours of unseen footage from Jane Goodall’s timing studying primates in Tanzania. Jane Goodall’s life is a great story to show your 8-year-old little explorer. You never know who will be the next great anthropologist!

Available on Disney+

#11. 180 Degrees South

If you’ve always wanted to make a trip to Patagonia, this is the film for you. 180 Degrees South follows Jeff Johnson through Chile, while he attempts to mirror Yvon Chouinard’s (founder of the company Patagonia) and Doug Tompkins’s (founder of North Face) trip down south in 1968. This is not a nail-biting documentary. Instead, you will leave with intense feelings of wanderlust. 

Available for purchase on Amazon  or YouTube

#12. Seven Worlds, One Planet

In seven episodes, this documentary series explores how the distinctive geography of Earth’s seven continents has shaped species’ evolution and animal behavior. 

Available on BBC America with a cable subscription or YouTube

#13. Honeyland 

This Oscar-nominated movie tells the story of Hatidze Muratova and her ancient bee-keeping techniques. There is a lot going on in the film so it will require your undivided attention. Between conflict with neighbors and raising seven noisy children, Muratova’s life, set against the backdrop of the Balkans in Macedonia, isn’t one to miss. 

Available on Apple TV

#14. American Experience: Into the Amazon

Not long after losing his bid for a third term as president, Teddy Roosevelt trekked into uncharted territory in the Amazon. This PBS documentary tells the story of the joint Brazilian-American expedition in 1914, led by Brazilian explorer Cândido Rondon.

Available for free at PBS.org/show/american-experience/

Netflix movies

Jack Whitehall Travels with My Father

Our Planet

Sense8

Travel Movies

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

India There’s a romance to train travel, and getting around India by train is arguably the best way to see the country. That’s exactly what three quirky siblings, played by Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson, do in Wes Anderson’s take on the family road trip. While the movie focuses on the brothers’s attempt to rekindle their relationships, it is set against a stunning backdrop of the desert vistas and hilly landscapes of Rajasthan. Visits to temples, encounters with humble villagers, and conversations with fellow train travelers offer an authentic insight into life in India.

Into the Wild (2007)

Trek to Alaska – based on a true story

Based on the real-life story of college graduate Christopher McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp), this is a bona fide get-up-and-go tale. After donating his entire savings to charity, McCandless walked and hitchhiked his way to Alaska while seeking a vagabond lifestyle, foraging and sleeping in the wilderness. Scenes shot in mesmerizingly beautiful places, such as Lake Mead, Lake Tahoe and Alaska’s Denali National Park, make the nomadic life seem an attractive one. He even found time to run with wild horses and kayak down the Colorado River. It all looks good until–spoiler alert–things take a turn for the worse.

The Way (2010)

The Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago is a rite of passage for pilgrims and backpackers alike. In this fictional drama, Martin Sheen brings its spiritual reverence to light by following the footsteps taken by his recently deceased son. Sensational footage of mountainous landscapes, green valleys, pretty villages and country roads will make you want to lace up your boots and get walking. Along the way, Sheen joins up with colorful characters such as a sensitive Irish travel writer and a bitter Canadian divorcee. Those with firsthand experience of the trail can appreciate how accurate these character portrayals are.

Tracks (2013)

The Australian Outback – based on a true story

The Camino de Santiago is a rite of passage for pilgrims and backpackers alike. In this fictional drama, Martin Sheen brings its spiritual reverence to light by following the footsteps taken by his recently deceased son. Sensational footage of mountainous landscapes, green valleys, pretty villages and country roads will make you want to lace up your boots and get walking. Along the way, Sheen joins up with colorful characters such as a sensitive Irish travel writer and a bitter Canadian divorcee. Those with firsthand experience of the trail can appreciate how accurate these character portrayals are.

Looking for a great book about nature?

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan. “The Big Burn is a really great, interesting read about the terrible forest fire that raged through the Northwest in 1910. It shows the role of President Teddy Roosevelt and Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot advancing the very idea of public forests.” 

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. “Bryson perfectly captures both the euphoria and the mundane and pain of long hikes.”

Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams. “I grew up in the intermountain west, in the shadow of the Nevada nuclear test site, just as the author did. Her beautifully haunting personal account of the consequences of radioactive fallout alongside the story of a salt-water flood in a wildlife refuge sticks with me, years after I read the book.”

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. “Ok, so Wild isn’t exactly a book about nature. But the memoir, which tracks Strayed’s solo journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, is a gorgeously written story about the healing power of solitude and wild places. And, it’s a powerful reminder of why we need to preserve special places for future generations.”

The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey. “Mr. Abbey combines a love for the outdoors with a call to action and throws in a lot of humor along the way.”

Empire of Shadows: The Epic Story of Yellowstone by George Black. “This is a fantastic deep dive into how our first national park came into existence, including the genuinely complicated conflicts that made it imperfect. It also put visiting Yellowstone incredibly high on my bucket list — hopefully it reopens soon!”

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. “My favorite book about nature changes all the time, but I keep coming back to A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold. He writes about our relationship to the natural world in a way that is deeply personal and moral, without self-righteousness or condescension, as evidenced by his first two sentences in the forward: ‘There are some people who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.’”

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner. “Cadillac Desert, a highly-entertaining history of water development in the American West. Great characters and it’s just stunning how badly we screwed up the environment and managed to do so at an economic loss. A really good cautionary tale. I basically only read non-fiction and this one is way up there on my list.”

Trampoline: An Illustrated Novel by Robert Gipe. “This book has a lot of personality, which is easy to spot in its endearing illustrations and its bold, wry main character, 15-year-old Dawn Jewell. The story is especially significant to me because it centers on Eastern Kentucky, where I was born, and the blue, rolling mountains of the region, a piece of nature that is precious to everyone from Southeast Appalachia. Dawn gets roped into her grandmother’s radical protests against mountaintop removal and finds a passion for preserving nature and protecting the unique mountaintops of her home.”

The Overstory by Richard Powers. “The Overstory is Richard Powers’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 2018 novel about trees. It’s been described as a ‘masterwork,’ a ‘visionary, accessible legend’ and a reminder that ‘we walk among gods every time we enter a forest.’ This book is like no other, and it will stick with you forever.”

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