Lifestyle West Blog

Culture from the Couch: Three Unlikely TV Shows to Get Your Traveling Fix

January 28, 2013 | by Christina Van

When you don’t have the time or money to travel overseas, there’s always TV. Heaps of travel programs are popping up on stations everywhere to cater to people who want to experience other cultures from the couch, or who want to get a taste of a place before buying their plane ticket.

Like many 'reality’' programs, however, some of these shows have a scripted feel. Real, everyday life abroad? Not exactly.

Fortunately, there are several TV shows designed for different audiences that end up offering fresh and engaging portraits of faraway places.

Here are our top picks for unlikely TV shows where you can get a true traveling fix:

1. Top Gear

Fast cars, celebrity drivers, wild dares—this incredibly popular British television show has it all. Top Gear’s three hosts (in addition to the secret pro driver, The Stig) take viewers inside some of the world’s rarest cars, often in a contest to see who or which vehicle is fastest. You’ll see everything from the BMW bobsled to the Batmobile, but that’s not all.


The BBC regularly takes Top Gear on the road, where hosts race through the Italian countryside or build boats from bikes and journey across Asia. This show offers some rare glimpses into unseen countryside and how people abroad really live.

You can see all 16 seasons of this British favourite on Netflix.

Top Gear travels the world in exotic cars. | Best Western Kelowna Hotel
The fellows from Top Gear race some of the world's rarest cars across Europe and beyond. This trip included a Lamborghini Aventodor, a McLaren MP4-12C, and a Noble M600.

(Photo supplied by BBC)


2. An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington

This is not your typical travel show. Created by British comedian Ricky Gervais, everyday ‘Joe’ Karl is forced to uphold dares that range from lunch with the Amish in America to a swim with Jessica the hippo in Uganda.

Gervais lives vicariously through the grumpy, simple and wimpy Karl’s stunts. You’ll end up laughing along with him while you watch Karl suffer and soak in the unusual occupations, dishes and hobbies of people around the world

The Discovery Channel is currently airing Season 2 of An Idiot Abroad.

The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington. | Best Western Kelowna Hotel
In An Idiot Abroad , viewers get a taste of British humour and the odd ways people pass the day around the world.

(Photo Supplied by BBC)


3. Going Tribal (AKA Tribe)

Ever wonder what the world’s secret tribes do with their days? Former marine Bruce Parry’s series Going Tribal is a touching and evocative look at life for earth’s last nomads, hunters and warriors.

This nine-episode series takes viewers into some entirely uncharted territory and dialogue with tribes ranging from a Himalayan hill tribe known as The Adi to The Sanema of the Venezuelan rainforests. Parry spends several weeks with these tribes and makes a genuine effort to understand and explain their language and way of life. The tribe also explores rare wildlife, from red pandas to white-browed gibbons.

You can see re-runs of Tribe as Discovery Channel’s Going Tribal.

Former marine Bruce Parry hosts Tribe (Going Tribal). | Best Western Kelowna Hotel
Going Tribal host Bruce Parry sports the face paint of his tribal hosts, the Sanema, in a Venezuelan rainforest.

(Photo supplied by BBC)

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