This weekend I saw a couple of my friends comment on that new Zac Efron travel show, the one where he searches for healthier, more sustainable alternatives to our current way of living by examining what people are doing around the world. Or something. Anyway, echoing my friends, it does seem like a fucking weird time to release a show about travel (even if it is through the lens of planetary well-being) DURING A PANDEMIC. WHEN NO ONE CAN (OR SHOULD, ANYWAY) BE JET SETTING. (Also, this!)
That’s not to say that in my previous life I didn’t love me a travel program. (Sign me up for all of the Rick Steve vibes and then some.) But I have found few things more depressing to occupy my time lately than to watch shows where people cheerfully globetrot in search of sights and cuisine and culture. Traveling is one of the few things that brings me joy in life; it’s pretty much the only non-essential thing I spend money on (for myself), and the thought that I may not be able to do it for…well, I don’t even want to guesstimate, but knowing that it won’t be for a long time is just…I don’t even want to talk about it.
Enter Travel Man. The British show has been around for 5 years at this point, but I’ve never appreciated it quite like now. Host Richard Ayoade (of The IT Crowd, Gadget Man, The Mighty Boosh and loads more) takes celebrity guests (usually fellow actors and comedians) on 48-hour trips to various cities around the world, and after rapid-fire sightseeing, they try to decide whether or not it’s worth it. (In the words of Ayoade, “We’re here, but should we have come?”)
It’s mega-glib and full of dry humor, and so while the things they do and see in each city are actually cool and useful to know about for trip planning, you don’t get the same sense of wanderlust that comes with an overly sincere or starry-eyed travel show host. (Examples: Gondola rides in Venice? A bit slow and inefficient. Cava tasting in Barcelona? Meh, they all taste kind of the same. Geothermal spas in Iceland? Just looks like a bunch of white people swimming in milk.) Like, yes, I still want to go to all of these places, but when you have very funny people taking the piss (more or less respectfully) for nearly the entirety of each episode, the end verdict tends to be: “This is tight, but I can hold off for a while.”
Which is exactly what I need in this moment: a sense of non-urgency with a bonus dose of endorphin-releasing LOLs. (Because we’re going to be here a while.)
So here’s a big thank you to Richard Ayoade (who is already pretty much the best even without hosting a travel show) – you are truly saving my sanity while we are all indefinitely grounded, and I am eternally grateful.
You can watch full episodes of Travel Man on Hulu.