There are some films that make you just want to be there, even though you know rationally that it was only a movie, not real life (and even if it was real life, by the time the film comes out the original event is long-gone). There is something exciting about standing on a street corner that you have visited in film-inspired dreams. Films immortalize locations even as they mess with local geography; they give us a glimpse into an incredible range of places and possibilities.
Music, too, takes you on a journey. Sometimes you are drawn to a city for the music scene, or the narrative of a particular location told in a favorite song. Emotional landscapes are explored in the way music accompanies you on a long road trip, gives solace in a dark midnight hour, or keeps you dancing around in the house in the disco between kitchen and living room.
And then there are books, which allow you to create such a strong inner world that can seduce you to try and translate this into your physical experience, and give access to another level of perception in your travels through their depth and complexity. So in that spirit, here are my top five literary-, film-, and music-inspired travel destinations.
As a child, I was enchanted by the series of Moomintroll  stories by Tove Janssen. Such a beautiful magical world, with the fillyjonk who believed in disasters, the hermit Hemulen, and Snufkin whose appearance on the bridge signalled the end of winter hibernation. It’s best taken with a dose of pine-needle cordial, which I was charmed to find actually exists. It’s a land where the whole world is frozen under a blanket of snow, and the comet that mysteriously lands in a cave, where a magician’s hat turns eggshells into clouds you can float on. Then there is Moominmamma and her pancakes with strawberry jam, which I finally tasted at the Seahorse restaurant in Helsinki , where they came piled in an enormous stack, with lashings of whipped cream.
I still feel something of this enchantment in the place, every time I visit Finland  it feels like there is a magic veil drawn over me, and the world takes on a more wondrous hue. There is the landscape, a silent wildness in the archipelago and the incredible quality of the light. Not to mention rituals of sauna, a lively electronic arts scene, and the endlessly charming and unexpected quiet humor of the Finnish people. This is beautifully depicted in the films of Aki Kaurismaki, although I have only watched them since going to the country. Still, his vision of the world in The Man Without a Past  would be enough to inspire me to visit.
It was 1980 and the Sleaze Sisters showed me a life I had never imagined could exist. The movie is Times Square , and it tells the story of two girls from different backgrounds who meet in a mental hospital, and run away together seeking a way to live their dreams—a life of stardom for Nicky, and understanding for Pamela. Tim Curry plays the radio DJ who supports their aspirations. The soundtrack is fantastic, Patti Smith Group, Gary Numan, Talking Heads, The Ramones; the film is a punk-rock love letter to New York and outcasts everywhere.
Desperately Seeking Susan , released in 1985, also made an impact. There was Madonna being mysterious and messed-up in her rhinestone boots, Egyptian jacket, and a seedy underground world of bizarre dance and magic club. Rosanna Arquette as the housewife dreaming of a more exciting life, who eavesdrops on an ongoing mystery through the personals ads in the newspaper. She is fascinated by the person ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’, and their paths cross through a series of misadventures and coincidences in this wondrous cityscape. New York  was a frizzling, popping, buzzing place to be, anyone craving adventures and possibilities would make their way there eventually
Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are jointly responsible for my fascination with the Chelsea Hotel. I found my own version in the late 80s, at the mythical establishment The Carlton Arms, where a painter friend was living as one of the artists decorating each room in their own style with murals covering every wall. Leaning out over the fire escape, watching a couple arguing on the street, jumping in and out of their taxi as they screamed at each other made me feel part of the city with its constant drama and fascination.
Paul Auster in The New York Trilogy  gives the city another spin, making a secret code of the streets and creating endlessly intriguing characters and situations. It wasn’t until I found myself on a rooftop in Brooklyn that I really felt I was in New York. There’s something about the power of music that imprint your perception and consciousness in a certain way, so that a song can make a place come alive or bring back the memory of it with stunning clarity and emotion. This was a self-conscious indulgence in recreating the mental imagery of my favorite PJ Harvey song: “You said something” on Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea—her voice holds such yearning and resigned wisdom, for the never-forgotten love affair that wasn’t to be. It always makes me wonder, who was the person, which railing, and where can you see all five bridges from the rooftop?
I managed to avoid Paris  for many years, on the grounds that—unless I was deeply in love—there was no point going to the “most romantic city on earth.” I also still can’t drive a car, because I’m waiting until I have a Jaguar. It’s a strange attitude, I know.
Of course, there are a million sparks of inspiration for you to delve into this city, but the reason I eventually succumbed has something to do with these films, both love stories set on bridges. The outcasts living on the decaying stone curves of the film Les Amants du Pont Neuf , one of them a blind and truly beautiful Juliette Binoche, and the unlikely angelic rescue (in homage to It’s a Wonderful Life), which begins Girl on the Bridge, where Daniel Auteuil dives into the river in order to stop Vanessa Paradis from jumping, both inspired the crumbling of my resistance. I wanted to experience that passion, although maybe without the knife throwing and heavy drinking. Then again … the French are so romantic; in Paris it seems that for love, anything is worthwhile.
Musically, I longed to feel the intensity and heartache that Edith Piaf transmits so vividly, and visit the glamorous smoky bars where I imagined she would have played. Or the wonderful Eartha Kitt, whose husky crooning “I love men” speaks of voluptuous love affairs and decadence. On the literary side, both Simone de Beauvoir and Anaïs Nin promised a seductive world of philosophical and visceral pleasures, and created an imaginary city peopled with artists, cabaret performers and writers, where anything was possible and indeed likely to happen. Once you let go of inhibitions and take a trip to the cafe or an artist friends’ studio, drinking and debauchery would surely ensue, along with deeply philosophical dialogue. I’m sorry to say I can neither confirm nor deny the veracity of this dream!
I’ve always been fascinated with whirling dervishes, I would love to travel to Istanbul  just to hear the sound of the music played while the dancers spin with that incredible poise and devotion. The book of poetry by the Persian philosopher Rumi gives wonderful insights and poetic inspiration, as Rumi “believed passionately in the use of music, poetry, and dance as a path for reaching God.” Afterwards, I would walk out into the evening twilight and hear random music playing from the shops, and perhaps a musician busking on the street, and be slowly transported back into the everyday.
The movie Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul  explores the music you can find in this energetic and chaotic city, from rap to Turkish classical, Kurdish songs to Roma jazz musicians, and street buskers. Featuring Baba Zulu, Müzeyyen Senar and Sezen Aksu singing “Memory of Istanbul.” This film will certainly give you a taste for Istanbul, until you can make it there in person.
Although I am a native of Australia, there are still parts of the country that are unknown territory to me: the interior, the far north, the desert. These have been made a little more familiar through films such as Ten Canoes  and Rabbit Proof Fence , which evoke a longing to experience the intensity of that wilderness and space.
The Tale of Ruby Rose  was in mind when I climbed the Walls of Jerusalem in Tasmania , and found the hut where the heroine lived while her trapper husband went out hunting. Dogs in Space , a ramshackle bohemian tale of a musician’s life (Michael Hutchence) inspired a trip to Melbourne  in the 80s. Images of the desert came from the futuristic dystopian visions of the Mad Max trilogy and the Wim Wenders film Until the End of the World , where the characters become addicted to viewing the recordings of their own dreams.
Robyn Davidson riding her camel across the desert in Tracks is indelibly printed into the memory of many Australians, although I don’t know of anyone who followed in her footsteps. All of these books and films remind me of the vastness of the sunburnt country, how many diverse worlds and landscapes are contained within her “sweeping plains.” One day when I return home, I will explore these mysteries in full, but first I still have to make it to Istanbul.
By Jodi Rose of Viator