Travelling From the Safety of Your Couch With a Little Imagination

I think it’s safe to say that we’re all experiencing some form of cabin fever during quarantine. The novelty of being at home and wearing pyjamas all day is wearing off, the motivation to do anything other than sit around is waning, and the once comforting walls of your home may start to feel more and more claustrophobic with every passing day.

Being stuck inside isn’t always easy when you start to think of the wide world beyond your door. If you’re like me, you might be thinking up a list of all the fabulous places you’d like to visit when we can travel safely once again. But for now, let me offer you a short list of movies and books that can transport you around the world from the safety of your couch, and further fuel your budding wanderlust.

Movies: 

Call Me By Your Name (2017) Directed by Luca Guadagnino

If you’re itching to get to Italy and you’re down for a nostalgic summer romance, this stunning film is sure to help you mentally escape the confines of your room for its two-hour run time. Beautifully shot around Lombardy, Italy, you’ll walk around with hearts in your eyes for days. Be sure to read the book the film is based on by André Aciman too!

Cléo de 5 à 7 (Cléo From 5 to 7) (1962) Directed by Agnès Varda

Yes, it has subtitles. Yes it is black and white. But PLEASE do not let that deter you from watching this wonderful film dripping in vintage Parisian charm and whimsical cinematography. As a young woman awaits a medical prognosis, the viewer follows her life for a couple of hours through the magical streets of Paris in the 1960s.

Boy (2010) Directed by Taika Waititi

You may know Taika Waititi from 2019’s phenomenal Jojo Rabbit or from 2017’s Thor: Ragnarokbut his second feature film Boy is not one to miss. Taking place in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand, Boy follows the story of a Māori family when a long absentee father returns for the first time in years. The shots of New Zealand beaches and countryside alone makes the film worth watching, but the skillful story telling and Waititi’s signature wit really sticks with you.

Other gems to watch:

Roman Holiday movie posterRoman Holiday (1953) Directed by William Wyler

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) Directed by Jacques Demy

Orlando (1992) Directed by Sally Potter

Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), Before Midnight (2013) Directed by Richard Linklater

In the Mood for Love (2000) Directed by Wong Kar-wai

Lost in Translation (2003) Directed by Sofia Coppola

Roma (2018) Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

The Farewell (2019) Directed by Lulu Wang

*Fun fact! Did you know you can access the free streaming service Kanopy through the UVic libraries? Just register with your student number on the Kanopy website and open up a whole other world of documentaries, beautiful art house classics, and some great Canadian content.

Books

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zola Neale Hurston

Their eyes were watching God book coverA landmark American novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God follows Janie, a young African-American woman navigating the perils of stifling marriages, prejudice, and coming-of-age in 1930s Florida. You’ll lose yourself in Janie’s story and Hurston’s beautiful descriptions of the Floridian Everglades, a region of the States that is a character all of its own.

Dubliners by James Joyce

A series of short stories, Dubliners gives the reader an intimate snapshot of turn of the century Ireland. Joyce’s affectionate attention to detail in his descriptions of Dublin, places readers right into the heart of competing traditions and social change of the period. Reading Joyce is like going for a guided tour of Dublin, with each story building a more complete image of the city in your mind’s eye.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

A personal favourite of mine, Like Water for Chocolate chronicles the epic love story between Tita and Pedro in a small Mexican town near the US border. Each section of the book opens with a traditional Mexican recipe, and Esquivel’s descriptions of life in a small border town are simultaneously magical and heartbreaking. When reading, you can feel the dust settling on your skin and almost taste the delicious meals that Tita so carefully creates.

Other great reads:

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Love in a Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Brothers by You Hua

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

*Bonus!*

If these films and books don’t quite give you the imaginary travelling experience you were hoping for, you could always take up my favourite past time: virtual travel via Google Maps.

Just punch in any city or country, and drag the little yellow guy from the side of the screen and plop him anywhere in the desired location for “street view”. Now you can see the world through your screen until you’re able to get there in person. Make notes about places that particularly spark your interest so you have a comprehensive travel list to pick from in the future!

This is by no means an exhaustive list, just some of my personal recommendations to get your mind out of the four corners of your room. The beauty of literature and cinema is that there is always something new to discover from all reaches of the world! If you’re finding yourself getting bored or in a need of a distraction, now is as good a time as any to seek out and enjoy a small taste of other cultures and countries from the comfort of your couch.

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