What to Watch and Read Before You Visit Bali, Mexico, or the Galápagos

February 7, 2020

A good book can inspire you to take the trip of a lifetime, be your best travel companion, and —if it’s really good—be as impactful as the journey itself. Likewise, an inspiring film can spark the irresistible urge to pack your bags and set off to see the breathtaking landscapes and experience the fun-filled adventures you just witnessed on screen. Whether you’re planning an upcoming trip or just dreaming about exotic destinations, you’re likely to find some wanderlust in these pages and films.

If You're Visiting Bali

Rich in culture, spirituality, and joy, the island of Bali is ideal for travelers seeking more than just a beautiful beach. But rest assured— there are plenty of beautiful beaches. Not to mention ancient holy temples, impossibly green terraced rice paddies, active volcanoes, charming people, and delicious food. Take a look into the otherworldliness that is Bali with these recommendations.

Read Bali Daze by Cat Wheeler. Jump off the beaten tourist path with expat author Cat Wheeler as she takes you along on her journey of putting down roots in Ubud. A long-term resident, Wheeler paints a complex, beguiling, and often humorous picture of Bali that is rarely seen.

Read this if you value authentic cultural experiences.

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Read Fragrant Rice: My Continuing Love Affair with Bali by Janet De NeefeThe rich culinary experience of Bali is a main focus of this memoir of one woman’s 1974 trip to Bali that resulted in marrying a Balinese man, having four children, and running two successful restaurants in Bali. Traditional Balinese recipes are woven throughout the book, making it fun to read before, during, or even after your trip to Bali.

Read this if culinary adventures are your favorite part of traveling.

Watch Eat Pray Love. Starring Julia Roberts, this movie showcases Bali’s most amazing landscapes, from the pristine Padang Padang Beach to breathtaking rice terraces and the mystic monkey forest in Ubud. And if you’re interested in visiting a traditional healer while in Bali, this film gives some insight into that, too.

Watch this on the plane to Bali.

If You’re Visiting Central Mexico

Mexico is much more than beaches—it’s ancient archaeological gems, cobblestoned colonial towns, 16th-century cathedrals, and open-air markets. From eclectic Mexico City to magical San Miguel de Allende, the romantic highlands of central Mexico have a colorful nostalgia that has inspired many books and films into fruition.

Read The View from Casa Chepitos: A Journey Beyond the Border by Judith Gille. This real-life story of one Seattle family’s impulsive purchase of a hot-pink hacienda in San Miguel de Allende provides a compassionate look into the relationship between two country’s cultures. Gille’s account of how her family becomes part of the local community in San Miguel is filled with insight, history, and charm.

Read this if you enjoy travel memoirs.

Read Sea Monsters by Chloe Aridjis. Wander the bustling streets of Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood in the 1980s with teenage protagonist Luisa as she searches for a boy who works in the real-life bookshop Through the Looking Glass. This coming-of-age novel paints an intoxicating portrait of Mexico like you’ve never seen it.

Read this if you like coming-of-age stories.

Watch Frida. Artist Frida Kahlo remains one of Mexico City’s most loved celebrities—her lifelong home has even been converted into a museum where much of the 2002 film Frida was filmed. Depicting the painter’s bold and controversial life with husband Diego Rivera, Frida was also filmed throughout Mexico City and at the Teotihuacan pyramids, one of Kahlo’s favorite places.

Watch this if you love art history.

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If You’re Visiting the Galápagos Islands

The volcanic islands of the Galápagos are an ecological wonderland home to an array of wildlife not found anywhere else. The birthplace of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, this World Heritage Site still feels somewhat unspoiled by humans. Visiting the Galápagos is a once-in-a-lifetime experience—one that you should prep for with these recommendations.

Read My Father’s Island: A Galápagos Quest by Johanna Angermeyer. It’s hard to believe this romantic tale is a true story. Author Johanna Angermeyer originally went to the in an attempt to solve the mystery of her father’s tragic death. Her experience, though packed with danger, was so filled with joy and wonder that it led her to dream of living in the islands, just like her father.

Read this if you love memoirs, history, and mysteries.

Read Galápagos: A Novel by Kurt Vonnegut. In this zany novel set in a post-apocalyptic future, the human race has been wiped out, except for a small group of people who boarded a nature cruise in the Galápagos, where they are now stranded. Funny, dark, and satirical, this novel is really about adaptation—something the unique Galápagos ecosystem is all about.

Read this if you enjoy off-the-wall literature and irreverent humor.

Watch Galápagos TV Series. This three-part BBC nature documentary explores the natural history of the Galápagos Islands and their role in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Offering incredible footage of erupting volcanos, stunning vistas, and rare wildlife, you can observe natural selection in real-time.

Watch this if nature documentaries give you the goosebumps.