With a vaccine rollout underway, it’s finally feeling like the days of being stuck at home could be drawing to a close. People are dreaming of (and booking) summer travel; airlines are adding exciting new routes instead of having to cut them. But before we had hope, we had travel television shows that kept us fantasizing about all the places we couldn’t go.
For some people, travel shows are a way to adventurously explore or culturally immerse ourselves without leaving the house. For others, they’re a planning resource for future trips. The travel TV that debuted during the pandemic enabled us to do all of that and more.
Here are five fan favorites, and what they meant to homebound travelers.
• “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. “ Stanley Tucci. Where do we even begin. Former model, Oscar-nominated and Emmy Award-winning actor, viral cocktailian. America’s favorite supporting actor finally has his time to shine in his CNN series, “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.” In this role, Tucci gets to bon vivant his way around Italy, sampling prosciutto di Parma in Emilia Romagna, eating his favorite pasta on the Amalfi Coast and drinking from the country’s centuries-old wine windows.
From her home in Washington D.C., Savannah Wormley has been watching Tucci’s show since its premiere in February. It fit in with the other travel and food shows she has been drawn to this year, like “Chef’s Table” and “Foodie Love.” So far, Wormley has loved the show’s cinematography, and she didn’t expect Tucci to be such a suave travel TV natural.
• “Men in Kilts.” For a spotlight on Scottish culture and landscapes, there’s “Men in Kilts” on Starz. The show follows “Outlander” actors Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish as they dive into the food, drinks and traditions of their native land. It’s a love letter to Scotland told through banter-filled road trips.
For Angel Lunsford in Salem, Ala., “Men in Kilts” has felt both helpful and hilarious. Since before the pandemic, Lunsford and a friend have been planning a trip to Scotland for 2022. They’ve both been watching “Men in Kilts,” as a way to discover more points of interest to see and cultural experiences to try. They have also found new restaurants and types of food they’ll seek out on their trip.
• “Taste the Nation.” On Hulu, “Taste the Nation” follows award-winning cookbook author and longtime “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi as she travels around the United States telling the country’s food stories. The show, which stops in places like El Paso, Milwaukee, Las Vegas and Honolulu, is a celebration of the immigrant communities that shape American culture.
Andrea Alexander started watching the show in May 2020 at a time when travel seemed far, far away. She loved learning about food and the people who make it, as well as the show’s focus on their struggle with marginalization. While staying at home with her family, Alexander says, Lakshmi’s show helped her travel vicariously in a way other television shows couldn’t.
• “Down to Earth with Zac Efron.” People familiar with Zac Efron may know him as Troy Bolton from the “High School Musical” trilogy. But with his Netflix show, “Down to Earth with Zac Efron,” the actor has reintroduced himself as a champion for the natural world. Efron travels to places such as Costa Rica, Sardinia and the Amazon rainforest to bring awareness to environmental issues, and he dives into unique experiences — like ayahuasca tourism — along the way.
At home in Santa Barbara, Calif., where she raises her young family and a brood of chickens in the backyard, Katherine Guzman Sanders and her husband got into Efron’s show after watching the trailer by mistake.
• “Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi.” PBS debuted a two-part special of “Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi” in February highlighting Carnival in a year without Carnival. Host Mickela Mallozzi traveled to the French Caribbean to showcase the holiday in the Guadeloupe islands, exploring the music, dance and Guadeloupean Black identity.
Jason Watson, a self-proclaimed “PBS geek” in New Hyde Park on Long Island, was already a fan of the station’s food and travel shows, such as Eating In with Lidia. When “Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi” came on, he loved the show’s travel, music and dance concept, which reminded him of Anthony Bourdain’s work.
Carnival fans can find the episodes on local PBS stations, Create TV, PBS.org and the PBS app, as well as the show’s older seasons on Amazon Prime Video.