Nomadland

Travel, Uncategorized

Sometimes you watch a film or read a book and every scene makes you want to hop off your couch, get in the car, and go. Watching Chloe Zhao’s film Nomadland was that kind of experience. The film follows a woman learning the ins and outs of being a nomad in the American West. With stunning visuals and superb acting from Frances McDormand and David Strathairn, the film is a wonderful exploration of solo van travel and the emotions that drive people to want to see the world this way.

Nomadland shows the beauty of the American landscape right next to the reality of living in a van. It’s the juxtaposition of the beauty and the mud that makes this film so appealing. Sometimes with the multitude of travel choices, it is hard to remember that the United States has just as much variety in its travel options as international travel might provide. You can be on the windy coast of Oregon and then the desert landscape of the Southwest and then the Redwood forests of California. With international travel grounded for the moment, the lingering landscape shots used throughout the film serve as a reminder of just how much America has to offer to those looking to find themselves in nature.

But the reality of living and traveling in a van isn’t always gorgeous landscapes – the film features the main character sleeping in Walmart parking lots and at gas stations; it features the need to downsize your belongings to just the essentials; it features the moment when your van is dying (as a vehicle will do at some point) and the realization that it isn’t just your transportation in trouble, but your home as well.

What I loved about the film in particular is the way it showcased the solitude of solo travel. Some days you’re surrounded by friends and noise and chaos, and the next day you’re alone. You are the driver, the navigator, the entertainment. Some people thrive on the solitude and others don’t, but you never really know until you test it out for yourself.

Watching this film reminded me of all the travel I want to do in my lifetime and how much I enjoy the freedom of minimal possessions and maximum portability. It served to scratch the itch of wanting to get moving, while also inspiring me to look a little closer to home for my next adventure.

Overall, Nomadland is a wonderful watch and I highly recommend it.

Screen Inspired Travel

Travel

I’ve been making my way through the Oscar Best Picture nominees and they’ve got me thinking about places a lot. For instance, Parasite (which is so good you should go see it right now!) relies on the set and location to tell stories – the rich live above ground, the poor live below with just a slim window to show them what could be. The film is in no way a tourism advertisement for visiting Korea, but the story reflects heavily on Korea (and as an American I made connections between the US and the world portrayed in the film). You find yourself dreaming of the gorgeous house and haunted by the way that image is maintained.

Both Marriage Story and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood show Los Angeles as if they are a snapshot of a memory – familiar and yet deeply personal to whoever is sharing their LA. Marriage Story sees LA and New York as homes to be lived in, while Tarantino’s film idolizes a Hollywood on the verge of change. I have zero interest in packing up my bags to live in these worlds and these films did nothing to encourage me to book a trip, but in the same way La La Land made folks dreamy about LA, these films capture a particular energy that few other cities exude. It made me want to find a place that makes me feel that connection, that energy.

While I’m not immediately influenced to go to LA or Korea by these films, Little Women made me want to throw my hair into braids, put on a hoop skirt, and make my way up to New England to see the leaves change color. Despite the significant time difference between Jo March’s world and the present, there’s a draw to living in a house in the woods and spending one’s day reading.

Little Women isn’t the first time a film has made me want to travel. When I was younger, I watched the Lord of the Rings series on repeat, dreaming of escaping into this gorgeous new land of adventure. The closest I could get to living in those stories was a trip to New Zealand. My bucket list was one bullet point: New Zealand.My parents and I were able to visit Hobbiton while I was studying abroad in Australia. I, and I’m sure many others, could have spent hours exploring each hobbit-hole and imagining myself in the world I watched so intently on the screen. Each hill was an adventure, and each road led to a new story. New Zealand is a magical place that I’m so desperate to go back to, and so much of that connection is due to what I saw on a screen.

(Maybe the Lord of the Rings isn’t for you, but Croatia and Iceland have both received tourism booms thanks to folks wanting to visit the world shown in Game of Thrones. And Hogwarts lives on in a thousand different places throughout the UK, Outlander is bringing folks to Scotland. Downtown Abbey, Star Wars, you name it, you can visit just a glimmer of the world on your screen.)

It’s not always quite the same in real life, but it’ll work. And not every Oscar nominated film will inspire the same sense of wanderlust – I personally don’t fancy reliving the trenches of 1917 or exploring the Nazi Germany of Jojo Rabbit. (you should still watch them too!)

But maybe a trip to France or Germany or a long journey to New Zealand is in my future…