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How to Use Disney Movies to Plan a Magical Gap Year

Written by: Rebecca Root

No matter your age, it’s more than likely you grew up watching the Disney movies. Set all over the world in some fascinating, bizarre, and some not-so-real locations, these films are probably responsible for a lot of the wanderlust we feel today.
It was Bert from Mary Poppins who said ‘the whole world was at our feet’. Pocahontas knew that ‘if you walked the footsteps of a stranger you’d learn things you never knew’ and Peter Pan practically put us on the plane singing ‘you can fly’.
We’re not sure he had a Boeing 737 in mind, but basically Disney was sending us a clear message, and that was to pack up our sidekicks and head to infinity and beyond. So why not use the legendary films to plan a route? It’s as good a mapping method as any, and with a bibbity bobbity boo you could be on your own magical adventure.

Be Brave in Scotland

It may not be Never Never Land, but for those wanting a getaway that isn’t too far from home The Highlands of Scotland are storybook stunners. Throw on the tartan, find your inner Viking and head to places like Dunnottar Castle and the Calanais Standing Stones that you’ll have seen in Brave.
Dunnottar Castle

Get Tangled up in France

A hop, skip and a jump to Paris, France and you can see where the Hunchback hung out in Notre Dame, go up the Eiffel Tower as seen in The Aristocats, and then visit Disneyland itself.
In Normandy you’ll find Mont Saint-Michel, a small island topped with a medieval monastery. This remote spot is ideal for hiding away a long-haired princess, which is what the creators of Tangled thought when they used it as the basis for Rapunzel’s palace.
Mont Saint-Michael, France
Further south,in Loir-et-Cher, there’s Chateau du Chambord – a royal pad fit for any Disney king, even those a little beastly – this spot was the inspiration behind the castle in Beauty and the Beast.
Both French towns let you relive classic Disney moments, minus any sword-wielding men and monsters.

Italy, no strings attached

Sprinkle on some fairy dust and continue your Eurotour by flying to Italy. The Tuscan town of Collodi is where the story of Pinocchio was written and set, and you can get a little closer to the puppet at Pinocchio Park and Garzoni Garden.
Collodi, Italy

Learn a little about mermaids and myths in Greece

Continue your quest for adventure by travelling to beachside towns in Greece like Chania or Pargia, where you can dip a toe in the same Mediterranean waters as Ariel from The Little Mermaid.
Also put Athens on the agenda. Gods, or even demi-gods like Hercules, may not be around but their beautiful legends live in the city’s ruins and artwork.
Temples ruins in Corinth, Greece

Head to Frozen Norway

From Pegasus to reindeer, Norway should be your next stop. Bergen sits on the coast in the southeast of the country and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and icy fjords fit for a snow queen. Arendelle in Frozen was based on this small town and there’s even a Disney tour you can do across the Bergen wharf.
Bergen, Norway

Get stitched up in Hawaii

If sunnier shores are more your thing then grab the floral shirts and head to Hawaii. Although a little far away and not usually a backpacker’s top pick, the surfing, music and adventures of Lilo and Stitch provide enough destination inspiration.
Kauai, Hawaii

Drive Cars through the USA

If you’re that side of the world then consider an American road trip. You could ride Route 66 through towns just like Cars’ Radiator Springs and carry on to New Orleans where the jazz scene is exactly like the one seen inThe Princess and the Frog.
Route 66, USA
Take a detour to the state of Virginia to see the land Pocahontas fought to protect, before you finish off in Florida at the fairytale mother ship, Disney World.

Float through Venezuela

Next head south to Venezuela, where you can visit Margarita Island, Caracas and Angel Falls. If you’ve seen Up you may know it better as Paradise Falls. These breath-taking backdrops were used by the film’s directors to create part of Carl’s breezy adventure.
Angel Falls, Venezuela

Keep on swimming to Oz

Make like Marlin and head to Australia. While swimming all the way Finding Nemo style isn’t recommended, once you get there sites like the Sydney Harbour and the Great Barrier Reef will make you glad you travelled the distance.
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Move like Mulan in China

From there you could travel to Beijing and master the lifestyle of Mulan. You can take a course in tai chi and dance that uses fans and swords to help embrace female power and grace.
Before you leave, stop by the Forbidden City, which you may recognise as the emperor’s palace from the movie.
The Forbidden City, China

Book into the jungles of India

When you’ve conquered China, take your own magic carpet ride to India and follow in the footsteps of The Jungle Book. You can have a Mowgli moment trekking through Madhya Pradesh’s national parks and visiting the state’s protected tiger sanctuaries.
Jungle in India

Lions are king in Kenya

If you still need a wildlife fix then Kenya might do it. While Simba’s home is purely fictional, you can see the sandy backdrops that were used to inspire those in The Lion King. Visit Masai Mara Lion and Wildlife Conservation to see real-life Simbas up close.
A tiger cub in Kenya

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