Documentaries That Inspire Travel – Volume 1

Documentaries That Inspire Travel – Volume 1

I’ll be honest. I suck at commitment.

Take for example, just recently when I vowed to do a “teatox cleanse,” which I failed at miserably. I vowed to not drink alcohol, soda or smoke cigarettes for at least two weeks. Although, I have not smoked or consumed any soda since then (high-fives!), I’m still not eating as healthy as I should, and just yesterday I split a pitcher of sangria with one of my readers who wanted advice about moving to Berlin.

Then there was January of last year when I promised to launch a new monthly series about movies that inspire travel. I never got beyond that first post even though it seemed it seeme to resonate well with people.

I’d now like to bring my series back to life and sarcastically bill it as a huge comeback for the blog. I’m going to be like Kiefer Sutherland in 24. Older, wiser and apparently not washed up.

Documentaries That Inspire Travel

Hot Docs is an annual documentary festival that takes place each spring in Toronto. During this time, you can travel the world from inside a darkened movie theatre as filmmakers from around the globe show off their best stuff.

Here are my three favorite picks from this year’s festival.

1) Stream of Love

Documentaries that Inspire Travel - Stream of Love

In a Stream of Love, a bunch of old people in an extremely remote Romanian village regale us with tales of their raunchy sexual histories. People never kissed using their tongues. You could tell if a boy liked you if he chose to roll down the hill with you. One woman confesses to experiencing the best orgasm of her life when she accidentally touched herself for the first time.

They may be old, but some of these senior citizens still got game. Some even buy new horses and ride through town, smiling at all of the ladies. As you might expect, some are sad and lonely. Others take solace in their work and friendships.

This documentary was like a cross between watching an endless stream of cute cat videos and overhearing my grandmother recalling the tales of her sexual adventures with my grandfather. There are times when you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Stream of Love offers an absolutely fascinating glimpse into life in a rural Romanian village that you’d never come to understand by just passing through on some Transylvanian holiday. I’m pretty sure this town does not attract tourists.

Although the lush green mountains that surround their community tempt me into joining the three old ladies who joyously spent an afternoon there, having a picnic … and you guessed it, taking turns rolling solo down the hill.

2) Que Caramba Es la Vida

Documentaries that Inspire Travel - Que Caramba Es la Vida

Because I obviously have a love for all things German, I bought a ticket to watch Que Caramba Es la Vida; a documentary made by a German director about Mexican women who practice mariachi. Life is hard for these ladies to try and exist in a macho world.

You meet a single mom, a tough cookie who takes constant abuse from her male counterparts as she plays each night in a central square in Mexico City. You meet a married woman who plays in a band and talks about how her career has affected her family life. You meet a group of older women, the first true female mariachis, who toured all around Mexico and even the world.

Watching this, you feel the music and want to grab the hand of the person sitting next to you just so you can sing along and dance.

Que Caramba es la Vida to buy or stream go to from Illumina Films on Vimeo.

Que Caramba Es la Vida is about 15-20 minutes longer than needed, spending a needless amount of time discussing the Day of the Dead in Mexico. That part didn’t really seem to fit somehow.

This is just one of those documentaries that inspire travel. Watch this and you’ll hear some fabulous music and learn something new about Mexican culture. You’ll find yourself longing to head to Mexico City, walking the streets with beer in hand and this music following you wherever you go.

3) The Theory of Happiness

Documentaries that Inspire Travel - The Theory of Happiness

The Theory of Happiness is all about a cult who live together on a farm in rural Ukraine. This group, founded in the 1980s, believe that they have figured out how to be happy using a simple mathematical formula:

… based on the number of good deeds a person makes during their lifetime, with the subtraction of all their mistakes.

Cult members swear off smoking, drinking, cursing and (oh my!) even sexual activity. They work a lot, read a lot and write a lot. They view others as inferior and subhuman. Leaders dole out punishment when rules aren’t being followed. Throughout the film, everyone looks anything but happy.

The director actually lived with this cult for three months (with their full permission) so he could document them and his personal experiences.

The Theory of Happiness was an extremely difficult documentary to watch, yet one that demands to be viewed again. As the film progresses and you learn more about this cult’s inner workings, you see how deeply fanatical its members are and more alarmingly, how far they live from reality.

The director, who was present at the Q & A after the documentary ended, spoke about how troubling his experience was and explained that it took months to recover.

While this piece certainly won’t inspire you to travel to the Ukraine (it’s obviously not exactly a good place to be right now), it provides a very rare and hard to come by insight into this extremely isolated group of people.

Do you have any documentary recommendations? Tips are encouraged and welcomed in the comments.

Founder of Canadian in Berlin. Frequent traveller now at 43 countries and counting.


  1. These sound great, I need some new films to watch! Not a new one, but 180 Degrees South made me cry because I wanted to get up and go somewhere new so badly when I watched it. In a good way, of course. 🙂

  2. I recommend Stream of Love over any of the others. It was so cute and funny! I’ll check out 180 Degrees South sometime. Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. Just added these to my watch list! Looking forward to checking them out and getting even more inspired to travel!!

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