People are itching to get away. According to October 2020 findings from Hilton, 95% of Americans miss traveling—in fact, it’s the activity they’ve missed most during the pandemic, an Airbnb January 2021 report revealed. But in the face of ongoing restrictions and uncertain futures, would-be travelers must get creative, and are looking to Hollywood to entertain their wanderlust fantasies. A slate of new travelogue series and films have hit screens this year, offering viewers a visual escape—as well as inspiration for where to go once bans are lifted.

Stanley Tucci hosts Searching for Italy, which premiered February 14, 2021 on CNN and has already been picked up for a second season. The docuseries follows Tucci on a food tour throughout Italy and is the network’s first original travel-food show since Anthony Bourdain’s award-winning Parts Unknown. Tucci says the timing of the release is deliberate: “During a time when everyone wishes they could travel, the series will transport you through Italy’s cultural past and present through its extraordinary cuisine.”

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Men in Kilts: A Roadtrip with Sam and Graham. Images courtesy of Starz
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Men in Kilts: A Roadtrip with Sam and Graham takes viewers on a tour of Scotland. The Starz miniseries, which also premiered on February 14, 2021, is hosted by actors Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish from the popular Outlander series, and explores the culture and history of Scottish settings for the show. McTavish hopes that “viewers will be inspired to make their own road trip” after watching the miniseries.

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Nomadland. Images courtesy of Searchlight Pictures
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Nomadland, while not a travel show, was described by Condé Nast Traveler as “a love letter to America’s wide-open spaces.” Released on February 19, 2021, the film—which won the 2021 Golden Globes’ top honor of Best Picture as well as Best Director for Chloé Zhao—spotlights quintessentially American landscapes, from sweeping plains to wild coastlines. “We hope that the film reminds people of just how beautiful this country is; and hopefully, when this is over, we can go back to the way we used to live and they’ll consider getting out there more, to see places right outside their own back door,” Zhao told the magazine in February 2021.

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Men in Kilts: A Roadtrip with Sam and Graham. Image courtesy of Starz

These new releases reflect a growing demand for travel-inspired content. While watching others travel may not be a long-term substitute for seeing the places firsthand, it does offer a momentary uplift. Just thinking about travel makes people feel significantly happier (by 18%) and more hopeful (by 9%) than they otherwise do on a typical day, Airbnb revealed. Professor Elizabeth Dunn from the University of British Columbia’s department of psychology has studied anticipation and happiness, and told the New York Times, “starting to plan a vacation feels like this active step toward hope.”

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