Watch for: Alaskan wilderness
Leaving behind one’s worldly possessions and hitchhiking across the country seems like a story fit for dreamers. Christopher McCandless was a dreamer that brought that story into reality. Based on the travels of a 20-year-old Emory University graduate, Into the Wild follows his unflinching journey across the U.S.A. After donating his entire $24,000 law school savings to charity in 1992, McCandless hitchhikes to a remote part of Alaska determined to live in the wilderness (taking only his backpack, journal, and books). With each encounter on his trip the audience sees McCandless change, and maybe a little bit of them changes with him.
– Pooja Naik
Watch for: rustic Italian countryside
American writer Frances Mayes struggles with the aftermath of a messy divorce, when a series of serendipitous events leads her to buy a beautiful, crumbling villa in faraway Tuscany. As the Czeslaw Milosz-loving Frances resurrects the house and her own life, Tuscany teaches her to cherish the “ding-ding-dong” of church bells and bustling piazzas that peddle fat red chillies, mushrooms, tangerines, and purple grapes. Of course, it helps that the handsome Marcello is around. But true to the tenets of solo travel, Mayes’s self-discovery is defined by colourful local characters, friends old and new, and the Italian countryside—perfumed with faith and olives.
– Sohini Dasgupta
Watch for: sandy Thai beaches and wild hippies
Danny Boyle’s vision for The Beach stands the test of time. When a young, bratty American tourist, Richard, played by our favourite Leo DiCaprio, travels halfway across the world to ‘find himself”, he and his backpack land up in a seedy Bangkok hostel. It’s here he meets the loony Daffy, who fills his mind with stories of a secret island utopia and leaves behind a map detailing its location. The map leads him to Thailand’s sandy beaches, where Richard is joined by two fellow backpackers keen on discovering this hidden paradise. Yet, once they reach the island, they are in for a surprise beyond their wildest imagination.
– Sanjana Ray
Watch for: a first-time backpacker’s trail in Paris and Amsterdam
Taking the first step towards solo travel is the hardest; in Queen, Rani, the lead character, takes that lonely step on her would-be honeymoon. From living with, and befriending, three male roommates in an Amsterdam hostel, to visiting her first sex shop, Rani comes a long way. She slowly breaks away from years of patriarchal conditioning while dancing her woes away in Paris, wowing foreigners with her pani puris, and learning to trust herself with the help of her indomitable new friend Vijayalakshmi. Watch this film and you will soon ditch your suitcase in favour of a backpack for your next Euro trip.
– Lubna Amir
Read for: New York’s eclectic art scene
There’s a peculiar feeling to being lonely in a city like New York, like being perpetually hungry, walled up in hives of glass and bright lights where no one knows your name. Author Olivia Laing felt this way, “shamefully”, in her mid-thirties, and begun exploring the city through art, moving between works of Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Henry Darger (a Chicago-based janitor whose hermitage of a home yielded exquisite, disturbing artwork after his death), and photographer David Wojnarowicz. The book is a pilgrimage into Laing’s daily haunts—a park in Brooklyn, areas around her cheap sublets in the East Village—and the multitudes of worlds contained by the art she turns to in a quest to redeem her solitude.
– Kareena Gianani
Read for: the underbelly of homelessness and poverty in 1930s Paris and London
George Orwell’s autobiographical (considered semi-autobiographical by some) account of living and travelling alone in Paris and England for a span of over two years might make you think twice before following in his footsteps. He is robbed, loses his tutoring gig, lives in a bug-infested room for sometime, the streets for sometime, and later tours the spikes (homeless shelters) of England. Back in Paris he fails at a cocaine deal, works as a plonger (dishwasher) in a disgusting Russian-run restaurant, as well as a fancy French hotel, so utterly foul that the reader may never want to eat out again.
– Julian Manning
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