pop culture destinations dubrovnik

When Place Meets Plot: 5 Pop Culture Travel Destinations

Dubrovnik, Croatia (real-life location of Game of Thrones‘ Kings Landing ) — example of a must-see pop culture destination. Image courtesy of Kayti Burt.

I spend a fair amount of time thinking about how my television and travel blogging identities intersect, both within the context of my career and on a more personal level.

To some, pop culture and travel might not have so much in common. The former often gets a bad rap for being mindless and lazy, while the latter can be simplified in the opposite direction as something that automatically makes one more cultured.

But, for me, engaging in travel and television are both ways of exploring the world and its many cultures, exercises in empathy and imagination that, when entered into with an open mind, allow us to imagine our lives as something other than what they are.

Last month I looked at “5 Female-Centric Travel Films That Get It Right (And How).” This month I’m approaching this identity intersection from a slightly different vector, by examining how pop culture experiences have specifically informed my travel experience. Here are five places I have traveled to — or want to travel to — particularly because of their connection to a pop culture experience.

Roswell, New Mexico (Roswell)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxuJJA4HQRk&w=560&h=315]

As an adolescent growing up in cold, rural, northern New Hampshire, the American southwest seemed like an exotic paradise. During the long winter months, I dreamed about desert expanses, open-topped Jeeps, and suntans.

And much of that had to do with one of my favorite adolescent teen dramas: Roswell. Though the show was filmed in California, it used the iconic town of Roswell, New Mexico as its setting, specifically honing in on its legacy as the site of an alleged 1947 alien crash. No doubt because of this formative pop culture experience, Roswell holds a correlation in my media-saturated brain with all things Americana camp — and I mean that in the best possible way.

Southerndown, Wales (Doctor Who)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wdj16x6LYc&w=560&h=315]

Like many of the places on the list, there are so many reasons why I want to travel to Wales, not the least of which is my Welsh ancestry. But the main reason I want to travel to Southerndown, a small town on the Welsh coast, is for its use as the location for Doctor Who’s “Bad Wolf Bay,” a fictional Norwegian bay: Dårlig Ulv Stranden.

If you’re a Whovian, this travel destination probably has some pretty heavy emotions attached to it. If you’re not, it still looks very, very beautiful!

Jodhpur, India (The Fall)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO0LYcCoeJY&w=560&h=315]

I think it may be impossible to watch the film The Fall without coming away with some serious wanderlust.

Director Tarsem Singh traveled the world to create this visual masterpiece, filming in more than 20 countries, including Cambodia, Kashmir, South Africa, Maldives, Czech Republic, the Andaman Islands, France, Romania, Namibia, China, Egypt, and the Himalayas.

I have already visited a few of the above places, including Prague’s Charles Bridge (the site of many filmic masterpieces, like Mission Impossible’s climactic sequence) and Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. But India’s Blue City (aka Jodhpur) definitely climbed to the top of my list after watching this film. (On a related note, TV crime drama The Fall has bumped Northern Ireland up my list of places to visit.)

Dubrovnik, Croatia (Game of Thrones)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGDbf-oy8Z8&w=560&h=315]

Any Game of Thrones fan worth her salt knows that Dubrovnik, Croatia doubles as Kings Landing in the epic fantasy television show.

I was lucky enough to visit the medieval city in 2008 while on spring break from my study abroad program in Prague. The thing is? Since watching Game of Thrones, I really want to go back. Don’t get me wrong: I would have been glad to revisit the city regardless, but the TV show has made me want to re-experience this place through a specific cultural context. Has this ever happened to you?

Austin, Texas (Friday Night Lights)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG37AylK1_s&w=560&h=315]

Friday Night Lights is one of the best American dramas of all time: an optimistic-yet-critical look at what it means to grow up in small-town America. It’s noted by many for its authenticity in depicting Texan culture and much of that no doubt has to do with its filming in and around Austin.

Last year I was lucky enough to visit the city for the ATX Television Festival and explore many of the locations used in the filming of the show. It was suitably awesome, made more awesome for the time I had spent “visiting” the city through five seasons of this amazing show. (In an Oscar-related bonus, Best Picture nominee Boyhood also uses Austin as one of its filming locations.)

Are there any places you saw in a film or TV show — or read about in a book — that you’ve been dying to visit? Have you ever been lucky enough to visit them? Share some of your pop culture places in the comments below!

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