Travel inspirations – like movies filmed in far-away places and food from foreign lands – can have multifaceted affects. A film can spark wanderlust for places you never knew existed. A book can create excitement about an upcoming trip. Feasting on cuisine from another country can quell the urge to book a trip and sipping a glass of wine can bring back memories of previous travels.
With a good travel book – or a destination cocktail – in hand, we can virtually travel to cities abroad…even if we are currently stuck at home.
Whether you are reminiscing of a trip or lamenting that you are currently at home, you can travel vicariously via inspirational travel movies, books, food and drink.
To help stir the inspiration to travel, we are sharing ways to travel virtually to countries around the world. For each destination, we are providing travel inspiration with recommended inspirational travel books or movies about (or filmed in) a specific country. Additionally, we are sharing tips for classic meals and beverages that originate from that country and you can make at home – or perhaps order from a local restaurant!
Virtual Travels: 10 Counties You Can Visit Without Leaving Home
Become a virtual traveler as we take you to countries around the world in this Travel Inspiration blog post! In addition to our recommendations for virtual travel through movies, books, food and beverages, we also provide links to our inspirational travel blog posts that relate to each country.
AUSTRALIA TRAVEL INSPIRATIONS
Australia – the Land Down Under – is a vast country with a dynamic coastline and a barren interior. Known for its natural beauty and wildlife, we think the vibrant cities – like Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane – are equally impressive.
Movies about Australia
The 2008 movie, Australia – featuring Nicole Kidman, takes place in Northern Australia at the beginning of World War II. The story is about a woman who drives cattle across the land only to arrive in Darwin during the Japanese bombing of the city.
Books about traveling in Australia
One of the best travelogues about Australia is the book, Down Under (published as In a Sunburned Country in North America) by Bill Bryson. In the book, he details his adventure through the country, the people he meets and the things he learns. However, one of our favorite Australian adventure stories is One For The Road by Tony Horwitz, where he shares his experience of hitchhiking across the country in the 1980s.
We love the savory food in Australia! Some fare that you can re-crate at home are their iconic meat pies and juicy lamb burgers topped with blue cheese, beetroot and a fried egg – trust us on this one, it’s amazing! For something a little easier, make Avocado Toast – which is said to have been ‘invented’ in Australia.
The Australian craft beer scene is one of the best in the world – but there are very few microbrewers that sell beer outside of the country. On the other hand (or rather, in the other hand), Australian wine is widely sold around the world. Recognizable labels include Yellow Tail, Penfold’s and Wynn’s.
For a non-alcoholic Australian drink, we recommend trying Bundaberg Ginger Beer. It’s fantastic on its own, but it can also be used to make a Moscow Mule…but now we are intermingling countries.
Find more Australia travel inspiration on our blog page: Australia Travel Guides.
INSPIRATION FOR TRAVEL TO FRANCE
France has long topped the list as one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. From Paris to Strasbourg to Colmar to the coastline to wine country, France attracts visitors worldwide. Fashionable and sophisticated, quaint and picturesque, France is a destination of dreams.
Movies Set in France
The famous inspirational travel quote, “Paris is always a good idea,” has motivated many people to take a trip to France. The line was said by Audrey Hepburn in the original 1954 movie, Sabrina (but I much prefer the 1995 Sabrina remake).
Before my first trip to the country, I watched several France travel inspiration movies. French Kiss, starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline, is a humorous and romantic tale that takes place in Paris, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur and Cannes.
Books set in France
There is, perhaps, no other book set in Paris more famous than The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo. The book, Chocolat, which was adapted into a film, is another popular read. Anna and the French Kiss is a good France travel inspiration book for young adults.
The cuisine of France is one of the most honored in the world. Quintessential dishes – like Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourguignon – take patience and practice to perfect. We recommend using the famous Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, for the best French recipes.
More simple French meals that can be recreated at home – and, yet, make you feel like you are in France – are French Onion Soup, Quiche Lorraine and Croque Monsieur.
Drinks of France
We think that there is no question that if you want to bring a little bit of France into your home, it should be with a bottle of Champagne. Of course, if bubbles are not your style, you can’t go wrong with a good French wine!
Find more France travel inspiration on our blog page: France Travel Guides.
INSPIRATION TO TRAVEL TO ICELAND
Iceland is a country of mystical landscapes, unspoiled nature…and some seriously interesting food habits. We were inspired to visit Iceland in the winter – and were astounded by the beauty of the snow-covered land.
Movies Filmed in Iceland
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is one of the most inspirational travel stories recently released; the 2013 film stars Ben Stiller. When his character faces the prospect of losing his job, he embarks on an adventure that takes him to the far reaches of the earth. Many of the scenes featuring epic nature were filmed in Iceland.
Journey to the Center of the Earth is a fantasy adventure movie that is fun for the whole family and features scenes filmed in Iceland. Although this film did not inspire us to travel to Iceland specifically, it certainly stokes the desire to embark on a journey!
Travel Inspirations for Food from Iceland
The cuisine in Iceland is unique – in fact, we wrote an entire blog post about Iceland Food. Some food – like shark or goat’s head – would be pretty tough to recreate in your own kitchen (but maybe not impossible!). Something that would be relatively easy to whip up would be a savory Lamb Stew, but we think making the country’s oddly iconic hot dogs would be more fun!
While you will likely have to forego the classic Pylsur hot dog, we still think you can make a similar tasting meal using a beef hot dog. Cook the hot dog with beer, then put it in a slightly toasted bun and top it with diced raw yellow onion, grilled yellow onion, ketchup, sweet mustard and remoulade (made with mayo, relish and mustard). One bite and you will be transported to Reykjavik!
Drinking in Iceland
The most popular and potent drink in Iceland is Brennivin, which is a brand of schnapps that has been nicknamed ‘Black Death.’ We didn’t partake during our visit; instead we sipped the delicious – and oh-so-expensive – Iceland craft beers. Unfortunately, local craft beer is not widely available outside of the country. However, Einstok Olgerd craft beer and Brennivin can be found in select US markets.
Find more Iceland travel inspiration on our blog page: Iceland Travel Guides.
VIRTUAL TRAVEL TO ITALY
Italy’s beautiful architecture, iconic landmarks and delightful cuisine are a few of the best reasons to visit the country. However, travelers unable to physically go to Italy have ample ways to virtually travel there instead.
Italy Travel Movies
When it comes to travel movies about Italy, there are plenty of choices! From romantic comedies to wild adventures to thrillers, there are dozens of inspiring travel movies set in Italy.
Other movies that virtually take viewers to Italy are Under the Tuscan Sun – a second-chances movie about friendships and romance; The Tourist -a mystery thrilled set in Venice; and The Trip to Italy – a comedy culinary road trip through Italy.
Books Set in Italy
People who prefer to read about adventures in Italy have a good selection of books for travel inspirations, too! Some of the best books about traveling in Italy are the classic, A Room With A View by EM Forster, Italian Neighbors by Tim Parks and The Neapolitan Novels.
Italian cuisine is ranked as the most popular food in the world. In fact, we have been able to eat Italian food – either at local restaurants or from food found on local grocery store shelves – in every single place we have visited (even Vietnam!)
Spaghetti, lasagna and pizza are obvious choices – and eating these meals are an easy way to celebrate Italian fare. However, some of our favorite Italian food comes from Lecce, a city in the Puglia region, where they make simple farm meals that taste extraordinary.
Some of the Puglia comfort food that we enjoyed was Ciceri e Tria and platters of grilled meat. For more information, read our blog post: Lecce Food.
What To Drink in Italy
If you are wondering what to drink from Italy, the answer is wine, of course! Italy boasts more than 350 Italian wine grape varieties – and most are widely available internationally.
However, wine is not the only Italian beverage. Campari is both bitter and refreshing, the Bellini is sweet and pink and of course the Aperol Sprtiz – also called the Veneziano – has a kick!
Find more Italy travel inspiration on our blog page: Italy Travel Guides.
JAPAN TRAVEL INSPIRATION
For centuries, people have been drawn to visit Japan to experience the ancient culture, colorful temples and fascinating cities. The country’s famed nature is as alluring as the exotic architecture, but the peculiar modern culture is certainly one of the country’s most intriguing aspects.
Travel Movies Set in Japan
We think it is difficult to truly capture the spirit of Japan in a film, but there are a few that stand out for trying.
A story of two lonely travelers in Tokyo, Lost in Translation is a bit heavy and slow, but features many iconic sights in the city (including Joganji Temple, Kabukicho in Shinjuku and Scramble Crossing in Shibuya.
The Ramen Girl follows the story of an American girl who ends up alone in Tokyo – and decides to become a ramen chef. The movie provides a story-line to the Japanese food culture and is truly an inspiration for travel to Japan (if for no other reason than to eat ramen!).
Mr. Baseball is a light-hearted movie (with some classic lines!) that is sure to be a hit with sports fans. Starring Tom Selleck, the 1992 movie is about a baseball player that is traded from the NY Yankees to a team in Japan.
Books about Japan
The book, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, is the most famous book set in Japan – and, for many people, it has inspired travel to Kyoto. It details the life of a Geisha during the time of World War II in Kyoto in the famous Gion district. Rice Noodle Fish is a culinary travel tale that explores the culture of food in Japan.
Japanese Food Travel Inspirations
Japanese cuisine is exquisite…but can be a bit tricky to make outside of the country. However, most cities are home to at least one Japanese restaurant and there are numerous “How To” cookbooks for those who want to attempt making the food at home.
Sushi is my favorite Japanese food – and there are At Home Sushi Kits that detail the art of making sushi. Other Japanese food that can be found pre-packaged at the grocery store is Gyoza and Ramen (but don’t expect it taste anywhere near as good as actual ramen from Japan!). For more ideas of food from Japan, read our blog post: What To Eat In Tokyo.
The most famous drink in Japan is sake – which really just translates to alcohol in Japanese, but it is known around the world as a rice wine. Sake is available at most liquor stores. However, if you can’t find sake locally, you might be able to find beers produced in Japan – such as Asahi, Kirin or Sapporo.
Find more Japan travel inspiration on our blog page: Japan Travel Guides.
VIRTUAL TRAVELS TO THE NETHERLANDS
The Netherlands is a land of windmills and canals…and so much more. Steeped in history, the country boasts a plethora of museums, a fantastic music scene, glorious cheese, delicious craft beer and a very liberal policy on pot and prostitutes. So, now that you are inspired to travel there, use our tips for vicarious travel to the Netherlands!
Movies Set in the Netherlands
The Girl with a Pearl Earring, on the other hand, is a period film drama set in Delft, Holland in the 17th century (but was mostly filmed in Amsterdam). The story is a fictional account of Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer and his maid, Griet. The movie was adapted from a book of the same name.
Books Set in the Netherlands
One of the most poignant and moving stories about the Holocaust is The Diary of Anne Frank. The book was the published diary of the young Jewish girl who was hiding in an Amsterdam house during World War II. The famous book has been made into a movie and a play, too.
Food from the Netherlands
A simple way to explore the Netherlands through your taste buds is with cheese! Gouda, Edam, Maasdam and Boerenkaas are exemplary Dutch cheeses that all provide travel inspirations to the country.
That said, there are a number of Dutch meals that can be made in your own kitchen. Two of our favorite easy-to-make meals are Pannenkoeken (Dutch Pancackes) and Stamppot. You can use our Guide to Dutch Cuisine for more information and recipes!
The Netherlands is well-known as one of the best beer producers in the world. Heineken, which has been brewed in the Netherlands since 1873, is sold around the world. (There is much better beer brewing in the Netherlands – specifically Amsterdam craft beer, but sadly it is not widely available outside of the country).
Jenever is a juniper liquor that hails from the Netherlands – and can be distilled as either a Young or Old Jenever. Brands, like Bols Genever, are available in some markets around the world.
Find more Netherlands travel inspiration on our blog page: Netherlands Travel Guides.
TRAVEL VICARIOUSLY TO PORTUGAL
With ancient castles, colorful towns and a stunning coastline, Portugal is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the world to visit. From the riverside cities – like Lisbon and Porto- to the vineyards to the sea, we are absolutely smitten by Portugal.
Movies about Portugal
The movie, Porto, is a drama film released in 2016 about two ex-pats living in the city of Porto. When the two strangers meet, it ignites an intimate connection that results in a one-night stand.
Books Set in Portugal
Night Train to Lisbon is a book (and also a movie!) about a man who has a chance encounter with a woman. The strange woman – and the book she led him to – encourages him to go on an adventurous journey to uncover a mystery.
Portuguese Food Travel Inspirations
Honestly, it took us awhile to develop a taste for Portuguese food, but now it is a cuisine that we crave! I cannot begin to imagine how to create a sandwich like the Francesinha, but a classic fish dish, like Bacalhau a Bras could be made (as long as you can get dried salted cod).
The Portuguese excel at sweet treats, too. The most famous Pastel de Nata – and egg custard tart – is made using basic ingredients…and a lot of time. However, they are delectable straight from the oven, so we think it is worth the effort to try to make them at home!
Drinks from Portugal
The most famous drink from Portugal is the namesake Port. The sweet, fortified wine is a popular after-dinner drink and is made in a variety of styles, including Ruby, Tawny, and Late Bottled Vintage. Port wine is now produced in many regions around the world, bottles from the Douro Valley in Portugal (like Taylor’s and Calem) and will be marked as being from Oporto, Porto or Vinho do Porto.
Use our guides for Portugal as your virtual travel planner: Portugal Travel Guides.
SINGAPORE TRAVEL INSPIRATION
A modern and dazzling destination, Singapore has a diverse culture and riveting history. While there is no true substitute for actually being there, sampling Singapore’s famous foods can nearly whisk us away to Marina Bay.
Movies about Singapore
Crazy Rich Asians is a fun, feel-good movie that is set in Singapore. The romantic comedy is about a Chinese-American woman who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family only to get there and find out they are one of the richest families in the nation.
Books about Travel in Singapore
Complete Notes from Singapore is a book written by Neil Humphreys. As an expat living in Singapore, he immersed himself in the local culture…and shares his adventurous trials and tribulations.
The food in Singapore is inspiration for traveling! One of our top reasons for visiting Singapore was to indulge in the fabulous and inexpensive Hawker Stall fare. While most of the cuisine is so fantastically foreign that we could not find the ingredients locally, other fare – like Hainanese Chicken – is concocted with items that should be available in most grocery stores. Of course, what makes Hainanese Chicken exceptional is the flavorful sauces – which can all be made in-house, too.
A classic Singapore Sling cocktail is the perfect way to virtually travel to Singapore paradise. The good news is, the Singapore Sling you make at home will almost certainly be cheaper than one from the The Raffles Hotel, where the cocktail was created (and fetches more than $20 USD per drink!).
While the sweet cocktail is a treat, if we really want to transport ourselves back to Singapore, one sip of a Tiger Beer will do the trick!
Use our guides for Singapore as your virtual travel planner: Singapore Travel Guides.
SPAIN TRAVEL INSPIRATIONS
From the north to south and east to west, Spain is an immense and immensely diverse country. Each region is unique in its customs, traditions and food, enticing travelers to make repeat trips to the country just to see what else there might be to discover. Spain has been our European travel inspiration on more than one occasion. Although we have seen Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Basque Country, we still have so much more to see of the country.
Movies About Traveling in Spain
The Way is a movie set in Spain that has encouraged many travelers to lace up their walking shoes and walk the famous pilgrimage path, the Camino de Santiago. The movie features the gorgeous landscapes – and trials – of the long walk to Santiago de Compostela along The Way of St. James.
The romantic comedy-slash-drama, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, is a film written and directed by Woody Allen. The story is about two American girls who travel to Barcelona for the summer. When they meet a man, a local artist, they become tangled in a love triangle.
Food from Spain Travel Inspirations
One way to pretend you’re eating an amazing meal in Spain would be to push off dining until 10:00pm, the typical hour most Spaniards eat dinner. However, on our trips to Spain, we never acclimated to the late dining hours and simply ate whenever we were hungry.
Seafood and Sausage Paella is one of the most popular foods in Spain – and it can be made outside of the country with little effort. However, for a truly delightful way to appreciate Spanish dining, we prefer making tapas. We most enjoy the tapas from San Sebastian (but the ones in Seville and Barcelona are excellent, too!) However, a simple platter of Jamon Iberico, chorizo, Manchego cheese with sliced baguettes is perfect!
For drinks from Spain, we also like to keep it simple with a bottle of Spanish wine (which pairs well with the tapas!). However, on summer afternoons, sangria hits the spot. Cava – Spanish sparkling wine – and Vermouth are other popular drinks from Spain.
Use our guides for Spain as your virtual travel planner: Spain Travel Guides.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA VIRTUAL TRAVELS
As you travel the world virtually, don’t forget to explore regions of your own country; for us, that’s the U S of A. We have had the great fortune of traveling to many top destinations in the United States (but there is always so much more to see!) and love to relive the trips we have taken through movies, food and drinks. Because our nation is so colossal and each city SO unique, we are highlighting two of our favorite cities: New York City and San Francisco.
The buzzing city of New York is a mesmerizing city – one that can be visited time and again. The city is iconic and, in our opinion, completely worthy of the hype.
Movies Set in New York City
Hollywood may be the capital of the film industry, but New York is next in line. There are hundreds of movies based and filmed in NYC. A few of our all-time favorites are The Godfather, Ghostbusters, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and When Harry Met Sally. But, really, there are too many to list!
Food in NYC
New York Style Pizza is – by far – one meal that reminds of NYC and all the slices I have devoured on my many trips to the city. A New York Style Bagel also ranks high, but, honestly, they only really taste right when they are baked fresh in the city (locals say it is because of the water!). A piled-high pastrami sandwich – like the ones from Katz’s Delicatessen – is worth trying to make at home…you can even get a prepared packaged delivered direct from the restaurant!
The posh New York City bar scene is credited with creating numerous classic cocktails. The Martini, Cosmopolitan and Old Fashioned are all excellent, but a Manhattan is the quintessential NYC drink for us.
Seemingly a world away from New York, San Francisco has an undeniable distinct vibe about it. Despite it being seldom sunny and crazy expensive, we love the laid-back atmosphere.
Movies Set in SF
Food in San Francisco
One of the best meals to eat in San Francisco is Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl…and it’s a meal that can easily be made at home! A sweet way to reminisce about SF is with a chocolate from Ghirardelli.
San Francisco Drinks
One way to stay warm in the cool San Francisco summers is with a hot Irish Coffee from the iconic Buena Vista Cafe. The creamy cocktail can be recreated at home with just a few ingredients; with the right glasses, it can even look like a cocktails served at the bar!
More Food Travel Inspirations
We think food is a fabulous way to experience other cultures…but it is not always easy to recreate foreign meals in your own kitchen. A fun way to experience a culture of cuisines is with monthly gift packs from Universal Yums. Each month they package a variety of snacks from a specific country – and deliver it direct to your door! Additionally, each delivery comes with a booklet of facts, recipes and trivia about the country, so it’s a fun way to learn about the place, too!
For more Travel Inspirations, go to our featured Travel Inspiration Page!
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