Most people these days are doing whatever they can to conserve cash because of the uncertainty of the global economy. Unfortunately, one of the first 'luxuries' to be put on hold is often a vacation, because seeing the Grand Canyon isn't quite as essential as paying the electric bill. But if your money has to go to the electric bill rather than going to a vacation fund, then you should use that electricity to fire up your DVD player, and rent one of these movies that will give you the feeling of an exotic vacation without ever having to leave the house.
Out of Africa
One of the most glorious epic adventures of the '80s, this Meryl Streep / Robert Redford movie is a breathtaking experience that puts you smack dab in the middle of Africa during World War I. A wealthy woman from Denmark buys 1,000 acres of land in an English colony in Africa after her fiancée is killed in the war. To keep from becoming a spinster, she asks her fiancée's brother to marry because they have been friends for years. They decide to start a cattle farm, so she returns to Denmark to get the money, and when she returns she learns that her new husband has decided they will grow coffee instead. Although she is furious at first, she plunges into the effort wholeheartedly, learning about native customs and various tribes in the area. When a group of soldiers near the front run out of supplies, she leads a group to deliver supplies, and on the way she learns about survival and being resourceful in the wild areas of the African plains. She eventually ends up having an affair with Robert Redford's character, a pilot who lives in the wilderness and knows the land. He teaches her to shoot, and takes her on a thrilling flight over wide expanses of savannah where various herds of wildlife run free. The movie is a love story, but it is an exciting adventure that provides breathtaking views of the African landscape, native plants and animals, and immersive history lessons about the colonial English who were so out of place living in the wilds of Africa. Watching this wonderful movie is better than going on a wildlife safari in Kenya, because not only is it cheaper, you don't need a passport and you don't need to worry about getting all of your shots first.
My House in Umbria
This movie begins with a bomb destroying a train, killing people and leaving behind survivors who are injured or displaced. One of them, Mrs. Delahunty (Maggie Smith), offers to take in four of the other survivors at her Italian villa until they can recover and return to their homes. Mrs. Delahunty is a mysterious woman who writes romance novels. The complex interweaving of the relationships as the five people get to know each other is fascinating, but even more compelling is the gorgeous scenery around the villa and the small town nearby. It is easy to understand why Mrs. Delahunty's villa is a perfect place for troubled souls to rest and regain their confidence in life, and their experiences there seem timeless. If you've ever daydreamed about spending time in the real Italian countryside, this is the movie for you.
Bruges is the most well-preserved medieval city in Belgium, and a favorite destination of travelers the world over. This movie centers around two hit men, Ken and Ray, who have been sent to Bruges because they have bungled a difficult job, and their boss wants them to take a break. They arrive just before Christmas and Ray hates being there, but Ken begins to explore the city. As time goes by, Ken discovers that the beauty and serenity of Bruges can be calming to the mind and emotional for the soul, with the gothic architecture, quaint shops, cobbled streets, and picturesque canals. Although the movie is set in contemporary times, the atmosphere is one of stepping back in time. Although the plot becomes more and more surreal toward the end of the film, the sense of spending time exploring the fascinating city of Bruges will stay with you long after the movie ends.
Off the Map
For fans of the American west, as well as people who daydream about 'getting away from it all', you just can't get more of a true western immersion feel than by watching Off the Map. The title explains the entire premise in three words - this is a family that lives in a wooden house in the middle of the desert, with no telephone, no electricity, and no running water. The father, played by Sam Elliot, suffers from depression and never leaves the house. So his wife, a radiant Joan Allen, does everything for the family from gardening in the buff and canning vegetables to driving to the local dump to scavenge for useful items and treasures for daily living. This movie has no cityscapes, no fancy cars, no expensive restaurants, no busy offices, and no murders or foul language. What it does have is honest family relationships, beautiful views of the desert landscape and wildlife, and a peaceful, slow pace, that leaves you feeling as though you'd like to chuck it all yourself and have your own 'off the map' experience.
These are just a few great movies that can give you an escapist experience while treating you to the feeling of having gone on a great vacation adventure without even leaving your living room. There are many movies that can fulfill such a need for these times when vacations funds are scarce. For a New York City experience, try 'When Harry Met Sally', 'Hello Dolly!', or 'Auntie Mame'. For a trip to Vienna, check out 'Before Sunrise'. For a glimpse of snowcapped Russian landscapes, spend some time with 'Doctor Zhivago'. Turn your living room into New Zealand if you rent 'Whale Rider'. And of course, if your hankering is to explore the wilds of Australia, you need to have 'Crocodile Dundee' as your travel guide.
So what are you waiting for? All you need is enough gas to get to the movie rental shop, and you'll be on your way to the most inexpensive, enjoyable, bug-free, climate-controlled vacation of your life.