Movies map a road to self-discovery

Nearly four decades after he straddled a Harley and headed out on the highway in Easy Rider, Jack Nicholson is back in the saddle in the box-office hit The Bucket List, a tale of two cancer patients who take a "road trip of a lifetime," including a motorcycle spin atop the Great Wall of China. With this week's 2007 Academy Award nominations as a backdrop, USA TODAY's Laura Bly spotlights four recent films that didn't get a best-picture nomination from Oscar but which all share a theme of travel as a vehicle for self-discovery.

The Bucket List

Nicholson and co-star Morgan Freeman, armed with a "bucket list" of things to do before they die, hopscotch the globe by private jet. When they're not skydiving or car racing, the duo stop at such iconic spots as Hong Kong, Tanzania's Serengeti, Egypt's Great Pyramids of Giza, the French Riviera, India's Taj Mahal and the Himalayas of Nepal.

How to hitch a ride:Alas, none of the travel segments were filmed on location. But as Nicholson and Freeman did on screen, you can mull the meaning of life from the swish Château de la Chèvre d'Or, a hotel in the hills above Nice, France. In March, a package including room, breakfast, one dinner and other extras starts at about $500 a person for two nights.

Information:011-33-04-92-10-66-66 or chevredor.com

Into the Wild

Director Sean Penn's adaptation of Jon Krakauer's best seller tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, a 24-year-old rebel whose cross-country odyssey ended with starvation in the Alaskan wilderness. Penn shot on location in eight states and Mexico, from wheat fields in South Dakota to Slab City, a former World War II base in the California desert that draws throngs of maverick RVers every winter.

How to hitch a ride:McCandless spent his last few months in an abandoned city bus along Alaska's Stampede Trail, near Denali National Park. This winter, Healy's EarthSong Lodge offers a three-day Into the Wild dog-sledding trip that includes a trail segment and a stop at the bus for $1,860 a person.

Information:907-683-2863 or earthsonglodge.com

The Darjeeling Limited

Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman star as dysfunctional brothers who try to reconnect emotionally and spiritually on a train trip across India. Though the title location never makes an appearance, director Wes Anderson shot in several locations across Rajasthan, including the Thar Desert, Udaipur and Jodhpur.

How to hitch a ride:The production team designed their own train, but Anderson was partly inspired by India's Palace on Wheels, a luxury train that makes eight-day trips from New Delhi through Rajasthan from $1,995 a person.

Information:888-463-4299 or palaceonwheels.net

Wild Hogs

Looking for some midlife adventure — and finding more than they'd bargained for — a quartet of Cincinnati suburbanites (Tim Allen, William H. Macy, Martin Lawrence and John Travolta) suit up in black leather and head for the Pacific. Much of the movie was filmed in the tiny New Mexican artist colony of Madrid (say MAD-rid) along the scenic Turquoise Trail about 25 miles south of Santa Fe.

How to hitch a ride:An attempt to re-create the film's fictional chili festival fizzled, but the resurrected ghost town pays homage to its past at the Mineshaft Tavern and Old Coal Mine Museum.

Information:888-263-0003 or turquoisetrail.org

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