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How Netflix will influence the next wave of travel trends

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

An aqua blue ice field with a man standing in the middle and looking out over the frigid blue landscape.

Let’s get real about one thing…in the past couple of years, we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in front of the TV. How many times have you been asked “are you still watching?” only to peel yourself away from the indentation on your couch, grab the remote, and press the “yep, I’m still here and not going anywhere anytime soon” button? I’ll answer that for you: more times than we’d like to admit. But if the two years have crowned a champion outside the medical field, it would be Netflix (and yes, I'm saying that despite the fact that they're losing subscribers). They’ve made us laugh, they’ve made us cry, they’ve grossed us out…they’ve made us wonder how much we really know about our next-door neighbors. In other words, we are hopelessly devoted to them. And they're about to change the way we travel.

For as long as anyone can remember, TV has dictated pop culture trends. My own flame for travel (and quite possibly red trench coats) was fanned by my constant attempts to figure out “Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego” every Saturday morning in the 90s. Today, it’s Netflix that is influencing the next wave of tourism trends, and the mandated armchair travelers of late are all too happy to be leading the way.

High-end oceanfront villa lanai made of bamboo and driftwood designed by architects and artists overlooking a blue ocean and sky.
The Sky Villa at AZULIK in Tulum, Mexico. Photo courtesy of AZULIK.

Design Travel

What to watch on Netflix:

The World's Most Amazing Vacation Rentals

Stay Here

HOME (cheating here-this one's on Apple TV)

People with discerning tastes have always sought out aesthetically pleasing accommodations, but it’s more than just whether or not something looks good these days, it has to feel good. Architecture represents history, culture, values, quality of life and thanks to Netflix shows like “The World’s Most Amazing Vacation Rentals,” “Stay Here” and “HOME” (switch to Apple TV for that one), design is being taken to the next level. Global travelers are now seeing possibilities far beyond booking bland, cookie cutter accommodations while they’re abroad. Here’s looking at you cheap hotel carpet and Cold War-era apartment buildings. Staying in places that could literally be anywhere else in the world only robs you from the authenticity of that locale.

Thoughtful and intentional interior design amplifies your travel experience. Period. Don’t believe me? Take a look at AZULIK in Tulum, where architects have created a whimsical sensory experience at the intersection of nature and spatial artistry. Their seaside villas have not only been designed to provide the utmost relaxation but to also stir your creativity, playfulness and wonder. Built at the edge of the Mayan jungle and the seafoam and sapphire Caribbean Sea, the results are nothing short of magic. But that’s just one example. Is there a more quintessential experience than renting a houseboat in a city like Amsterdam, a Riad carefully adorned like a jewel box in Morocco, an open-air room in a bamboo resort in the Balinese jungle? The answer is no.

A wooden coffin is visible through a broken marble cover in a mausoleum in Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. The placard reads Jose F. Dias Neves, September 4, 1982, In the hearts and memories of your wife, children and grandchildren.
Cemetery tourism at Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. ©AlonzoWright

Dark Travel

What to watch on Netflix:

Dark Tourist

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel

I Am A Killer

Unsolved Mysteries

We’ve all laughed at the memes about the serial killer and true crime documentaries, but real talk, they’re sparking interests in an obscure travel trend. Dark travel has been quietly gaining steam for a while now, but most people associate it with Halloween because of its perceived morbidity. Where there is crime or tragedy, you can bet there is an alleged haunting that follows. Travelers have long sought out cities like Salem or the most haunted city in America, New Orleans, in hopes of brushing up against the supernatural. Haunted hotels like the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, where a family was found brutally hacked to death, or the grand old Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado where Stephen King wrote “The Shining” are both popular dark destinations. But even “darker” still is the funeral tourism in places like Indonesia.

In 2017, American author and mortician Caitlin Doughty published a fascinating book called “From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death.” The book recounts her experiences witnessing how cultures all over the world care for their dead, including the Torajan people in Indonesia, who welcome hundreds of tourists to join them at family funerals. Large funerals are seen as bringing honor to the deceased and can often have thousands of attendees with vendors, a DJ and ritualistic livestock slaughters. Netflix’s show “Dark Tourist” also visited the region to witness the ancient Ma'nene festival. Every August, Torajan families unearth their dead so the bodies can be lovingly cleaned, groomed, and honored again. Your first instinct may be to Google this, and I recommend you do so, but before you view the shocking images through a western lens, take a moment to realize that just because this may seem grotesque to the mainstream, the rituals are cultural celebrations of love, honor and remembrance.

This spike in dark tourism may be an indicator that we’re starting to challenge our preconceived notions of death. And anything that forces us to reflect and evaluate our internal thought processes is positive.

A flowing river in the jungle with boulders in the stream, trees surrounding the rocks and a mountain scape in the distance.
Mother Nature has long been a favorite destination to find oneself.

Spiritual Travel

What to watch on Netflix:

Surviving Death

Down to Earth

Ram Dass, Going Home

Wellness travel has become more and more popular over the years as people have noticed they need to take better care of themselves. But spiritual travel is poised to become a booming industry because Netflix shows like “Down to Earth, “Surviving Death” and “Ram Dass, Going Home” have lifted the veil on the ancient world of metaphysics and spirituality. There’s an entire shift in consciousness that’s taking place around the world. As a society, we’re seeing that if we want to cultivate a feeling of wholeness (not just wellness), we must consider the mind, body and spirit. We are attuning to our own energy, our higher selves and imbalances that cannot necessarily be realigned through traditional means. We are looking for the keys that unlock the secrets to our greatest potential and how we are all connected in the universe.

People have been trekking into the South and Central American jungles to drink Ayahuasca with shamans for hundreds of years, they just didn’t tell anyone about it. But times, they are a changin'. Now you hear folks talk about vibes and spiritual downloads, having their chakras balanced or going for a reiki session and buying crystals. It’s easier than it’s ever been to find these experiences while you travel. You can participate in nocturnal meditations and soul rebirth ceremonies in Ubud, have smoke baths to cleanse your energy in Peru like Zac Efron in “Down to Earth,” or visit the Vortex in Sedona. All of this is in an effort to gain more insight into ourselves and gather the collective wisdom of the planet and cosmos to see if there’s any truth to it all. And maybe there isn’t, but what if there is?

A mound of fresh oysters on ice, being shucked and served to customers in the French Market in New Orleans.
Fresh oysters caught by local Louisiana fisherman at the French Market in New Orleans. ©AlonzoWright

Foodie Travel

What to watch on Netflix:

Chef’s Table

Somebody Feed Phil

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat