Six films. Six countries.
Six solo travel experiences.
The road movie is a genre in which the protagonist sets out on journey, faces challenges and returns home having resolved or fixed something. Usually, there are traveling companions — think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Dorothy’s sidekicks in the Wizard of Oz — but, sometimes, our hero sets out on his or her own on a life-changing solo travel adventure.
As in real life, solo travel presents an opportunity to see the world differently. Without a travel companion, the protagonist is no longer defined by who they have been in the past but by who they are in the present — how they accept and address the unexpected, how they overcome certain challenges. From a dramatic perspective, the solo travel movie explores personal change on a deep, though not necessarily serious, level.
Here’s a little trip for you. Six films. Six countries. Six unique solo travel experiences.
Canada, 2008 – One Week
This is a very satisfying film. It raises serious life questions while being lighthearted about the answers — and the backdrop of this study is a stunning solo trip across the western half of Canada. Really worth the watch.
Germany, 2003 – Schultze (Scmidt) Gets the Blues
This is a favorite film of my eldest son. A quiet, accordion playing bachelor and recently retired miner from a small town in eastern Germany hears Zydeco on the radio. His passion for the polka is replaced with Zydeco and, despite not knowing English, he travels solo to Louisiana where he is warmly welcomed.
Italy, 2000 – Pane e Tulipani (Bread & Tulips)
A mother and wife is literally forgotten at a road side cafe on a bus holiday and, instead of staying put as she is told to do, she rebels and hitchhikes to Venice where she meets a cast of characters worthy of any solo travel adventure.
Japan, 1989 – Kiki’s Delivery Service
Winner of the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize in 1989, everyone can appreciate Kiki’s accomplishments as a witch traveling solo for the first time. Personal challenges are overcome and she finds her place in the world.
United Kingdom, 1989 – Shirley Valentine
Shirley Valentine is enticed to Greece by her girlfriend who won a free trip for two. The same girlfriend promptly drops here for a man she meets on the plane. Shirley is a house-weary woman solo-traveling her way to self-actualization. Still good fun twenty years on.
United States, 2007 – Into the Wild
Based on the non-fiction book of the same name, Into the Wild features Christopher McCandless who gives up all his possessions and sets off for Alaska meeting fascinating people along the way and moments of pure joy in the wilderness.