Follow TV Tropes


Travelogue Show

Go To

A Travelogue Show is a non-fiction work from any medium (despite the name), about traveling to various places, usually a vacation destination. In a lot of ways, it's the nonfiction, documentary version of Walking the Earth and World Tour.

The literary version of the Travelogue Show dates back at least as far as the second century and the Descriptions of Greece by Greek writer Pausanias. Muslim scholar Ibn Jubayr wrote in the 12th century about his pilgrimage from Ottoman Spain to Mecca. A milestone of medieval travel literature was The Travels of Marco Polo, about the 13th century Venetian who travelled to Russia and China, visiting places few Europeans had ever been, and eventually serving in the court of Mongol emperor Kublai Khan. Writers such as Charles Dickens (American Notes) and Mark Twain (Roughing It, Innocents Abroad) wrote popular 19th century travel narratives.

Film and television proved well-suited to the Travelogue Show genre. Short travelogue films were a common product of American film studios during The Golden Age of Hollywood, frequently appearing in theaters before features. The television Travelogue Show has been popular pretty much since the medium was invented.

Regardless of the format, the most basic travelogue shows will be a bare description of the locale being visited. The more involved Travelogue Shows will go into as much depth as they can about the local culture and "color" as possible, and may heavily showcase the local cuisine. They may also sometimes heavily showcase methods used to get there, possibly coming off as a thinly disguised commercial for an airline or cruise line. Or they may even simply be about the journey, not the destination, if the host is particularly fond of road trips across America, for example. The one thing all Travelogue Shows have in common is that the destination literally is the journey.

Not to be confused with the "ethnographic" documentary, which is at least as old as the oldest documentarynote  feature film, Nanook of the North. An ethnography will be focused on a particular place and the people within it. It may not have any travel within it at all, and may not have a narrator/host or point of view. A Travel Show, while quite likely to examine the culture and people of one or more places, will have some point A to point B element of travel within it, and will probably have a narrator/host from whose perspective the story is told.

A sub-trope of Documentary. See also Going to See the Elephant and Road Trip Plot, for fictional narratives based around travel. The Travelogue Show is rarely seen in anime or western animation, except for parodies.


    open/close all folders 

  • In The Golden Age of Hollywood live-action travelogue short films commonly ran before the feature, along with a cartoon.
    • Facing Your Danger is a 1946 film following a river-rafting expedition down the dangerous rapids of the Colorado River in Arizona. It's a rare visual record of what the Colorado looked like before the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam destroyed all those rapids.
    • 1950 Oscar winner Grandad of Races, a one-reel short about a horse race in Siena, Italy, is a common example of the format.
    • MGM had the "FitzPatrick TravelTalks", which were always in color, even when most movies were in black and white. Each one featured a different exotic locale. "We bid farewell to..."
  • "A Man Called "Bee": Studying the Yanomamo'' is fairly self-explanatory. In the early 1970s, Napoleon Chagnon is studying the Yanomamo people and region and as he travels around he uses different documentary techniques to capture his experience.
  • Cannibal Tours is a 1988 parody of several of these films, where it uses Black Humor to show a potential negative effect of tourism on small tribal communities as both causing and being caused by the growing number of travelogues.
  • The Gleaners and I is an Agnès Varda travel documentary in which she journeys around France picking up information about les glaneurs via videography, interviews, and other forms of media, making it somewhat like a magazine movie whilst also avant-garde.
  • The Endless Summer follows two Surfer Dudes as they travel around the world, heading to the Southern Hemisphere in November in search of, well, an endless summer in which to surf. Concentrating on the beach scene, of course, with stops along the way in Malibu, Hawaii, Senegal, Ghana, South Africa (they take a gondola to Table Mountain), Australia, New Zealand, and Tahiti.


    Live-Action TV 
  • There is an entire network dedicated to this called, naturally, the Travel Channel, though they seem to want to turn themselves into a Food Network clone. Specific examples include:
    • Celeb Chef Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations - naturally, being a chef, local cuisine tends to be a focus
    • Celeb Chef Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods - you can probably guess what the focus is from the title, though the focus is shared with the cultures that produce them.
    • Samantha Brown (those stuck with broadcast will know her as the Champion Windows lady) is a common host of vacation travelogues on the Travel Channel, probably for a few good reasons [1].
    • Adam Richman with Man v. Food and his spin-off Man v. Food Nation. Though this is less about the travel and more about the food the city's known for and the food challenges at the end of the episode.
  • Speaking of Food Network, and not to be outdone by Travel Channel's food shows or Network Decay, they also have a parade of Travelogue Shows. They sometimes want to be the Travel Channel more than the Travel Channel wants to be the Food Network:
    • Perhaps the most memorable is Alton Brown's Feasting on Asphalt series, a slickly-produced road trip with tons of footage of Alton Brown cooking and eating stuff while giving history lessons along the way. The third installment Feasting on Waves, has Alton island-hopping by boat in the Caribbean Islands.
    • Anthony Bourdain had A Cook's Tour on FN before No Reservations.
    • Food Network also has the Road Tasted series, formerly Road Tasted with the Dean Boys hosted by the sons of celeb chef Paula Deen, now Road Tasted with the Neeleys hosted by the Neeley family who also have their own cooking show. As you probably have guessed, it's little more than the hosts traveling around and eating stuff.
    • Then there is of course Rachael Ray. What started with 40 Dollars a Day now fills up half the Food Network schedule with memorable trips to world-renowned cultural centers.
    • And of course, Food Network responds to Samantha Brown with Giada De Laurentiis (yes, the granddaughter of that De Laurentiis for those astute Tropers) who has an occasional travelogue show every now and then, though sometimes it's not clear that travel really is the main focus.
    • And let's not forget Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
    • Expired travelogue shows include Al Roker on the Road, Food Finds, The Best Of and Bobby Flay's Food Nation.
  • BBC gave Terry Wogan, a renowned Big Eater, his dream TV series in 2015. Terry and Mason's Great Food Trip saw Wogan travel the length and breadth of Great Britain for two months, in the company of cheerful Cockney taxi driver Mason McQueen, stopping in at least thirty locations, presenting a show from each, and allowed to sample the local delicacies, drinks and provender.
  • After Monty Python, Michael Palin is now perhaps best known for his series of travelogues, starting with a real life re-enactment of the classic Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eighty Days.
  • Stephen Fry recently completed one of these where he visited every state of the US. Worth watching just to see how the locals respond to the extreme Englishness of Fry.
  • Britain's favourite black American, Reginald D Hunter, was sent back to his homeland by the BBC to present a series making sense of the Deep South states for British viewers. Reginald, from Georgia, accomplished this with style and insight in Reginald D. Hunter's Songs of the South.
  • GlobeTrekker, originally the TV version of LonelyPlanet.
  • MTV's Trippin' is what happens when a Hollywood celebrity with enough money to reserve an entire cruise ship for himself goes to Ruritania, Qurac or some Banana Republic to make a travelogue, with the sole purpose of pretending to look less concerned about material possessions, after spending Los Angeles's entire GDP on diamonds and cigars.
  • During the 1970s, Telly Savalas narrated a series of unintentionally hilarious travelogues about various British cities, extolling the virtues of places not normally considered as tourist destinations. Savalas had never visited any of them, and it shows. The best known of these is Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham, a triumph of cheesy puns and ugly architecture. It also features what could well be the finest footage of concrete multi-storey car parks in British cinematic history.
  • Oz and James' Big Wine Adventure and Drink to Britain journeyed through France, California, and the UK for three seasons of drinking holidays thinly disguised as an educational travelogue.
  • Insomniac with Dave Attell where the host would hang out at various all-night spots in cities where he was performing. He ended every episode with the Catchphrase "Now get some sleep!"
  • Departures, where the hosts embrace the oft-expressed idea of just dropping everything and travel for a year.
  • An Idiot Abroad records the travels of Karl Pilkington, formerly known as the addle-minded butt of jokes by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. The hook for this one is that Pilkington is "the stereotypical Little Englander" who hates going anywhere else and hardly ever enjoys the adventures that Gervais and Merchant arrange for him. Gervais and Merchant help this by making them as unpleasant as possible (Pilkington has stayed in some seriously run-down hotels).
  • Ewan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman have made a trilogy of long-distance motorbike travel series: Long Way Round, in which they travel from London to New York by riding their motorbikes east (that is, all the way across Europe, Asia, and North America), Long Way Down, in which they motorbike from John O'Groats at the northern tip of Britain all the way down to Cape Town, South Africa, and Long Way Up in which they travel by electric motorbike from the southern tip of South America to Los Angeles.
  • Played for Laughs in the mock-memoir Alan Partridge: Nomad, a parody of gimmicky celebrity travelogues. In this case, failed chat-show host/low-market radio DJ/all-round gormless twerp and loser Alan Partridge undertakes a (rather contrived) walk from Norfolk to Kent in order to recreate the journey that his father once took for a job interview, with the thinly-veiled hope that he can somehow spin it into a lucrative TV series. As is common for Partridge, Hilarity Ensues.
  • Rick Steves' Europe is a ubiquitous PBS travelogue show. In each episode of the show, Rick Steve travels to a different region of Europe, visits the main sites, and samples the local food. The show is tailored towards inspiring viewers for their own vacations, and is almost a travel guide (like a Lonely Planet or Fodor's) in television form.
  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on CNN is a Spiritual Successor to No Reservations, with a bit more focus on political subjects.
  • Race Across the World is a BBC show that sees five pairs of contestants do Exactly What It Saysonthe Tin and race through a number of checkpoints and countries without flying or mobile phones, for just the price of the air fare, to try and win £20,000. The first season had contestants race 12,000 miles from London to Singapore, while the second season started at Mexico City and after over 15,000 miles finished in Ushuaia.
  • Hamish and Andy’s Gap Year is a Nine Network series documenting the titular radio duo’s journey across the world, with an unsurprisingly bigger focus on strange discoveries they find while travelling.
  • ASY TV has I Love This $#!t and IVELISSE VELEZ, two travel shows hosted respectively by Mike Bennett and... Ivelisse Vélez.

    Theme Parks 
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom has a lot of areas that are user-interactive versions of a travel adventure, including the Kilimanjaro Safari ride (through a savannah experiencing poaching and preventing it), Expedition Everest (up and through Everest, eventually being chased by a yeti, Dinosaur (through prehistoric lands by time machine-thing, accidentally arriving right at the time of the K-T meteor, and Wildlife Express train, as well as the new world of Pandora – The World of Avatar. Other parks also feature many 4D and IMAX movie locations, several of which exploit the technology by immersing the audience in Disney Nature films that also incorporate the audience as the adventurer of the journey.

    Web Video 
  • The Wonderful Adventure Now Korea WANK episodes of Eat Your Kimchi explore different areas in South Korea.
  • Noah Caldwell-Gervais, who runs a video game Analysis Channel, began experimenting with the travelogue format in 2017, after Noah's success at crowdfunding allowed him to give up his daily job and start touring the continental US (or, as he calls it, "playtesting adventure"). He was particularly inspired by William Least Heat-Moon's books, and draws intentional parallels between Least Heat-Moon's concept of quoz (basically, any unexpected interesting things one discovers off the beaten path while traveling) and the way Wide-Open Sandbox games like The Elder Scrolls structure their content. In "The Desert Bus", he brings up many quoz from his own travels that were functionally identical to encounters in Skyrim and concludes that the infamous joke game Desert Bus had been fundamentally wrong in its conception of Real Life travel as a boring chore and that realistic travel is much more akin to a densely-packed open world game instead.

    Western Animation 
  • Tex Avery made various travelogue parodies at Warner Bros., like "Detouring America" or "The Isle of Pingo Pongo".
  • Saludos Amigos is partially a travelogue chronicling the Disney Studios goodwill trip to South America, intersecting home video footage of the trip with animated segments inspired by their travels.