Inspiration for wanderlust can come from anywhere. I have found places for my bucket list in books and movies, falling in love with travel all over again with books like What Was Doing While You Were Breeding or movies like Under the Tuscan Sun.
My favorite television shows for travel inspiration are the Bachelor and its sister show The Bachelorette. They are two of the most famous reality shows, with incredibly simple concepts: thirty contestants vie for the heart of the lead, with the ultimate intention of getting engaged at the end of their whirlwind courtship. Although the show’s format is very rigid, it does prove there is some sort of braindead pleasure in the reality television genre.
The first three weeks of the show are centered around activities that take place in Los Angeles County, where the famous Bachelor mansion is located. The next two weeks follow the contestants across the United States. Then, they go abroad for the next four weeks, with a quick break within the midst of that to visit the contestants’ hometowns. The show engages in a lot of travel, often emphasizing exciting experiences.
I say that using the Bachelor and the Bachelorette as travel inspiration comes with the huge caveat that the show is relatively stupid. That stupidity comes through its entire being: it indulges in stereotypes and a thorough ignorance of the World outside of the United States. It is quite unashamed in its stupidity. Production will even make up cultural traditions to push their storylines forward; in the most recent season of the Bachelorette, the show tried to pass off naked bungee jumping as a sacred Latvian courting ritual. Contestants will often be forced into uncomfortable scenarios, so they will be more likely to expose vulnerabilities to make for a more interesting show.
It’s not all bad. In the same season as the naked bungee jumping, Hannah, the series lead, showed a distinct interest in engaging with the culture around her. She became very emotional while at the Maritshuis in the Hague crying in front of Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” precipitating a breakup with contestant Mike.
Arie Leuyendyk’s season had some of the best locations I’ve ever seen. He had a goofy fun hiking excursion in Lake Tahoe that depicted the cast getting lost in the woods. He also traveled to Tuscany, where he and a contestant went truffle hunting with a farmer and his dog in a beautiful sequence in the Tuscan hills. The contestants and the lead bond over their shared experiences and spoke to locals about thoughts on love.
The show can be goofy and off-putting, but it can sometimes hit on that sublime feeling of discovery and the beauty of traveling with a new friend.