Most people want to see the world, but few do it. We all have our dream destination, but may or may not have the means or time to get there. Life has a funny way of getting in the way, and time can be scarce.
What does everyone have time for, though? Television! Yes, it’s sad but true. But why not capitalize on your need or desire to travel, while staying right in the safe, warm confines of your own home? And if you have Netflix, you can do it for free—and commercial free.
Here, dear readers, we have compiled a list of great television series you’ll enjoy that may satiate, or further deepen, your desire to see the world. There’s a lot of variety here, with subjects ranging from a British comedian traveling and exploring the United States, to a case study on different natural locales in China, to a miserable little man who doesn’t like to travel and a world-class chef going to the hidden corners of the world in search of local cuisine.
So there’s plenty to choose from, and even better, lots to be inspired by. And you know what? You should take notes, and prepare for that trip you’ve always wanted to go on. Go, see the world. You have Paste’s blessing. You deserve it.
1. Tales by Light
A photographic case study, Tales by Light seeks to find the background and settings of iconic photography. Following these photographers into their own turf is fascinating, but when we get to see the subjects in action is where this show really takes off. From swimming with whales in the ocean to studying bears in the woods, this in-depth look at the art and hardships of photography is a rarely seen, exclusive look at a beautifully difficult occupation.
2. Wild China
Wild China is the quietly pleasant cousin to BBC’s Planet Earth, with the greater distinction being a specific case study on the incredibly large country of China and its various natural locales. Aided by stellar cinematography and the narration of one Bernard Hill (Theoden from Lord of the Rings), this one isn’t the most exciting on the list. But it sure is lovely, and at the very least provides a nice atmosphere in the background.
3. People of Tomorrow
People of Tomorrow follows ten different recipients of tickets to a Belgian music festival, Tomorrowland. This series follows each person as they prepare and leave for the festival, culminating in a personal, intimate journey that unites seemingly disparate people through their love of music. The beauty here resides in the uniting power of music and the draw to live as a free spirit. Also, if you like EDM, this is for you.
4. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
Anthony Bourdain, a kind of boorish, loveable asshole, proves that exciting things can be found in the unlikeliest places. While some might travel to scenic locales to take in the cuisine, scenic vistas and local curiosities, Bourdain goes off the beaten path to explore some of the unseen vestiges of all different corners of the planet. But, save yourself for Bourdain’s euphoric first visit to Waffle House. Yes, that’s right. Waffle House.
In just the opening credits of each episode, the viewers are taken all across the world as the Wachowskis set the stage for, not only our own planet, but the world they’ve created inside of it. Around the world, a group of people are linked mentally and have to work together to stay away from those that see them as a threat. As the audience, we get gorgeous locales and stunning fight choreography in spades.
6. Stephen Fry in America
Effortlessly charming and mirthful, Stephen Fry seems to be a gentle giant. In Stephen Fry in America, he takes to the United States to discover the charms, cultures and oddities that can be found over the vast 50 States. He starts in Maine, feasting on freshly caught lobster, and ends up in Hawaii, where he partakes in an authentic luau. However, as Fry proves over and over, it’s not about the destination, but the journey.
7. I’ll Have What Phil’s Having
This show follows the excitable Phil Rosenthal, creator of Everybody Loves Raymond and self-proclaimed foodie, as he traverses the globe to find exciting new foods to eat, and in some cases, entirely new ways to eat. Each trip results in mouthwatering jealousy caused by dishes like an extra spicy bowl of ramen and freshly made gelato. Honestly, even if the food didn’t look good, Rosenthal’s utter delight at each item he’s able to try is worth the watch.
8. The Moaning of Life
Karl Pilkington might be the most delightfully miserable man on the planet. Here, he dives headfirst into some of life’s bigger issues through the approach of different cultures. Consider the episode where Karl, who doesn’t believe in marriage, meets a polygamist with five wives. He then gets to meet and “learn the advantages” (not a weird euphemism, I promise) of each wife’s strengths. His longtime-girlfriend Suzanne may see some new ladies in the mix sometime soon.
Pete Mercer writes for Paste, and hasn’t traveled nearly as much as he’d like to. Find him on Twitter and send him travel recommendations.