Inclusive travel TV shows you should watch (instead of Emily in Paris).
My search for travel TV shows which showcased diversity grew out of a google search I did some time ago. Once I searched ‘travel TV shows’ a sea of faces came up on my google search… and every face was that of a white man. I scrolled down a little further in my hunt for diversity and eventually found it in the form of White Women.
In an industry that is, in its very essence, international and diverse, I was bummed to find out that even when actively searching for travel shows, diversity was hard to find.
Around this time, Emily in Paris came out. Mere weeks after the black squares and activism – some genuine, some performative, behind Black Lives Matter, white travel influencers were celebrating this TV show. Did they say it was terrible? Well, yes. But did they also say it was a guilty pleasure, in which the worst thing about it was that Emily got too many followers with very little effort? Also, yes. I found myself questioning whether the racist jokes were not that noticeable to other casual, white viewers… or whether people could so easily overlook them because racism is so systemic and ingrained into the travel industry.
A friend rolled her eyes (via an emoji – this was 2020 we’re talking about) when I mentioned that 10 minutes of Emily in Paris stressed me out. ‘Yeah I get you, but it’s just escapism.’ I have to question the use of the word ‘escapism’ here. The very people who really need to ‘escape’ from their dire situations are also most likely to be stuck in their situations BECAUSE of the white privilege Emily enjoys. The show celebrated an archaic system in which a white, incredulously wealthy adult is able to shame another culture, act unprofessionally, laugh off racist jokes, and still make it ahead in the career. Like, who is this a guilty ‘pleasure’ for exactly?
Anyways, I digress.
My next consideration in writing this post was the fact that rather than doing anything about the lack of diversity, I was just messaging a couple of friends in slight dismay. Not exactly helpful.
At the time, I typed up a short list of TV shows which DID showcase diversity… however, it was pretty short at this point, and I was too embarrassed to share it. I mean… gosh, finding English-speaking* travel media with a diverse range of writers, directors, hosts and/or characters really shouldn’t be this hard.
*I did have a few international TV shows/movies written down, but it proved too hard to fully research non-English speaking shows since not everything is available with subtitles, which made it harder to find. If you have more suggestions, I would love to hear them.
It’s also easy to point to international TV shows to excuse American or English-led media for not being diverse. Those shows do not represent the experiences of, for example, Asian Americans, Latines, and many others who deserve their own stories. This reasoning absolves us of our own lack of inclusive content.
Rather than sharing my pitiful list, I reached out to other travel bloggers to find out if THEY had more suggestions, and that’s how this list of TV shows, movies, and books which showcased diversity.
The only rules were:
- must include ‘travel’ in some form (rather than just being a story with a strong sense of location, but not actually including travel)
- a character or host who is key to the show or story is a POC, LGBTQ+, disabled, or showcases diversity in another form.
Hopefully, this list inspires you… and please provide your own recommendations below!
The majority of the below TV shows are currently available internationally on streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Prime. However, availability may vary depending on your location,
Inclusive Travel TV shows:
Recommended by Ian from barefoot-backpacker.com
“Come Again”(SABC1, South Africa) with @TheSoloWandera (Katchie Nzama), the coolest, beeriest, mermaid to have come out of South Africa (and who has backpacked around pretty much the whole of Africa). Here she’s catering more for the domestic market, showing the people of SA what their own country has to offer, from a Black perspective.
BBC Travel Show with Ade Adepitan
Recommended by Elvy from elvysblog.com
Elvy also is one of the fantastic writers who contributed to my previous Diversity in Travel post:
How to make your travel content more inclusive, conscious and accessible
(A must-read for any travel bloggers reading this!)
Ade Adepitan is a black disabled man who uses a wheelchair. He hosts the bbc travel show and has done a number of other travel shows such as Africa with Ade Adepitan and also New York: America’s busiest city The documentaries are great beacause touch on travelling with a disability. Although this isn’t always the main focus of the documentaries, he sometimes shows how he physically manoeuvres difficult terrain and access.
Also recommended by the lovely Elvy from elvysblog.com
Another fantastic programme also by the BBC is Without Limits which shows a group of 6 people with different physical disabilities and how they support each other emotionally and physically to travel around Asia. The diversity in disability is well covered and provides great insight into travelling whilst disabled.
Twogether – a new travel documentary starring Lee Seung-gi and Jasper Liu follows the two men as they travel around six Asian cities. Since Lee is South Korean and Jasper is Taiwanese, they both have unique perspectives on the countries they visit. They also meet fans and complete tasks on the road.
Lost Cities with Albert Lin
recommended by Olivia from girlwithbluesails.com/
The National Geographic TV series Lost Cities with Albert Lin combines archeological mystery solving with ground breaking technology. Award winning scientist and TV host, Albert Lin, guides viewers on a new journey with each episode, from Machu Picchu to Stonehenge. He uses ground penetrating LIDAR technology to unearth miraculous archaeological finds that have been hidden for centuries.
As a person who uses a prosthetic leg as a result of an accident causing him to lose his limb, Albert Lin inspires his audience as he continues to trek jungles and climb the highest peaks, showing how one can overcome any set back with enough passion and determination.
recommended by Disha from Disha Discovers
Netflix’s Ugly Delicious, featuring David Chang, is one of several fascinating and inclusive travel TV shows. Chang is a first-generation Korean-American restauranteur and the founder of the Momofuku restaurant group. In the show, Chang travels around the world and within the United States with a team of various chefs, activists, and writers. They use culinary experiences and food as a means to discuss misunderstandings and cultural impediments about that particular location and the people who live there.
One of the most profound things that happen during each episode is that Chang asks the locals questions about racial barriers, prejudices, and oppression. He does this so that viewers will better understand these minority groups and shatter any stereotypes that they might have of them.
Oneika Raymond on Travel Channel – you may have heard of Oneika the Traveller… I remember watching her YouTube channel before I’d even begun travelling, where she inspires and advises solo travelling women and people of colour to get out and explore the world! She’s now a regular host on the Travel Channel, where you can see her shows such as ‘Big City, Little Budget’ and ‘One Bag and You’re Out.’
Salt Fat Acid Heat
Recommended by Rose from wheregoesrose.com
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat on Netflix is a fantastic show for foodies presented by American-Iranian TV chef, Samin Nosrat. Samin’s parents emigrated to the US due to persecution at home and she grew up eating mainly Iranian food.
As a trained chef and food writer, she’s the perfect presenter as the show explores cultures such as Japan and Mexico and discovers their signature dishes and the stories behind those who make them.
Recommended by Shelley from travelmexicosolo.com
There’s no word more synonymous with Mexico than tacos, but what most don’t know is there are numerous different types of tacos throughout Mexico. The Netflix show Taco Chronicles will take you on a culinary journey, to hear from Mexican taco chefs all over the country, and from all walks of life.
Check out Season 1, Episode 3, “Tacos de Canasta,” to meet Lady Tacos de Canasta, Mexico City’s most beloved trans taco chef. Tacos de canasta means “basket tacos,” and these are one of the quintessential types of tacos in Mexico City that all visitors must try.
Eddie Huang’s series focuses on ‘exploring identity using food as an equalizer’. Huang himself is an American chef and son of Taiwanese immigrants, and in this series travels around the world experiencing local cultures and learning about the political and economic struggles which affect local people.
More great foodie travel shows:
- Breakfast, Lunch and coffee
- Street Food
- Midnight Diner
- The Chronicles of Nadiya
Mysterious Islands with Kellee Edwards (recommended by teetravelswithwiz.com) – Kellee is an adventure and travel expert who doubles as a licensed pilot and advanced open water scuba diver, meaning she really gets stuck in during her travel documentaries! She is respecful to native cultures, a champion for ocstracised communities, and an inspiration to Black female travellers around the world. In this series, she uncovers the secrets of islands while listening to the stories of the local people too.
Gaycation is a documentary travel series presented by Elliot Page and his personal friend Ian Daniel as they explore LGBTQ+ cultures around the world. The host, Elliot Page, is himself a trans man, and although at the time of filming Elliot had not publicly come out as trans, he has always been an open and supportive member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Elliot and Ian travel to different cultures and countries, such as Japan, Brazil, and Jamaica, and speak to locals about their experiences of local issues. This travel series highlights everything from political setbacks, the potentially deadly impact of homophobia, and positive movements and activists pushing towards diversity and a safer world.
Fictional TV series featuring travel and diverse casts:
– KILLING EVE
– CARMEN SANDIEGO
There are many, many TV shows featuring breathtaking locations, particularly historical TV shows such as Kingdom or Marco Polo, but I think I’d be hard-pressed to really describe them as Travel shows. This is why I mostly stuck to travel docs on this list! After all, I wouldn’t call a regency period drama a ‘British travel show’ (even if, like many films, books and TV shows, it could potentially inspire someone to travel)! What do you think?