Not being able to travel for the past year was something I missed a lot, second only to not being with our family. Just prior to the shutdown of travel in early 2020 we had visited Portugal, New Zealand and Taiwan. We commented at the time on how much international travel we did and need to slow down, not knowing what was about to come.

But confined at home, I discovered the wealth of travel-related programs that were available on Netflix, Amazon and HBO.  A few were almost the next best thing to travel. Some of these movies and series were filmed in exotic locations where I was able to get a good sense of the country, their food, the people, and the attractions. Some shows were searching for food, others were stories that took place in distant locations, and some were travel adventures that experienced a country in a strange way. Here are my favorite ones that many of us travelers might enjoy. Some of them even beat getting on a plane for 10 hours.

Visit Japan – James May: Our Man in Japan is a terrific travel documentary hosted by British humorist James May. It can be found on Amazon Prime Video.  The six episodes are presented as a journey traveling through Japan, beginning at the north in Sapporo, then visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and other areas. This is no ordinary travel documentary. May is hilarious in his encounters along the way, including visiting a piano factory, a penis festival, and a visit with the songwriter for their subway announcements. I’ve been to Japan scores of times and hardly recognized what I saw.

Travel the World Somebody Feed Phil is an American television series on Netflix. Phil Rosenthal, a former TV show producer, visits cities across the world and the U.S. to experience the cuisine of the week’s featured city. There are 22 episodes spread across four seasons. The photography is stunning, the food amazing, and the traveling through each city fascinating. Cities include Bangkok, Lisbon, Saigon, New Orleans, Mexico City, New York City, Dublin, plus many more.

Spend time in Paris – Call My Agent is a a French drama comedy series filmed in the heart of Paris. It’s about  a talent agency that represents and supports their clients, movie and film stars played by the actual stars. The four agents, Andrea, Mathias, Gabriel, and Arlette, are constantly getting their clients out of trouble or helping them get their next part. The show is filmed in central Paris where you get to experience the cafes, restaurants, parks, buildings and most notably, a hectic French business. The show is 4 seasons of 6 episodes each. It’s in French with English subtitles.  My favorite show of the past 12 months.

Travel the route of the slaves – High on the Hog: How African Cuisine Transformed America is a four part series on Netflix that begins in the country of Benin in West Africa, the departure point for the Africans that were forced to come to America as slaves. We learn about their lives in Benin, how they farmed and traded, and the dishes developed over the years and that were brought to America where they influenced the food we eat today, Much of it is the foundation of American cooking, especially in the South.

Visit Italy – Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy is a six-part CNN series that follows the famous actor Stanley Tucci as he travels across Italy sampling the wide variety of cuisines in each region. In addition to showing off some of the amazing cooking, Tucci also touches upon some of the societal issues of the areas. It’s a well done series that makes me want to get on the next plane to Rome.

I’ve just scratched the list of what’s available for those of us that would like to experience distant places, but can’t yet travel there.