Zac Efron’s New Netflix Travel Show Isn’t Really About Travel

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
In a turn of events no one could have seen coming back when Troy Bolton was singing cathartically on that golf course, Zac Efron is now a travel show host. The actor is hosting the new Netflix series Down to Earth with Zac Efron in which he "journeys around the world with wellness expert Darin Olien in search of healthy, sustainable ways to live." From Puerto Rico to Iceland, Zefron is setting out to make this world a better place. And to eat dung-smoked lamb bacon.
As Efron explains in the show's trailer, Down to Earth focuses on "food, water, and energy ... the main staples for modern life." Throughout the series, Efron and Olien meet people who are working to change how humans consume all three in order to be more sustainable.
Olien is an "exotic superfoods hunter." He wrote a book called SuperLife: The Five Fixes That Will Make You Healthy, Fit, and Eternally Awesome, formulates supplements, and created a 21-day "detoxification program."
Efron, on the other hand, is an actor, who is primarily known for musicals and comedies, but has gotten pretty into travel and adventure shows. In 2019, he filmed a series for Quibi titled Killing Zac Efron in which he tries to survive in a jungle. During the shoot, Efron was hospitalized after becoming sick. Before that, back in 2014, Efron filmed an episode of Running Wild with Bear Grylls.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
What sets Efron's new show apart from other travel series is that it's specifically focused on sustainability and the fight against climate change. And while it strikes a hopeful note overall, it doesn't tiptoe around things. "The Earth will always be here," Efron ends the first episode, "we just might not be able to live on it for too long." The series also stands out for being very California bro-y. Efron is "stoked" about "rad" and "sick" water turbines. You get the idea.
Here's what you'll find in each episode:

Episode 1 "Iceland"

Location: Fontana Spa, on the northern side of Iceland's famed Golden Circle; the Bridge Between Continents about an hour outside of Reykjavik; Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Station, a.k.a. the largest geothermal power plant in the world, in southern Iceland; the Hilton Reykjavik Spa; Omnom Chocolate in Reykjavik; Gullfoss Falls outside of Reykjavik; Ljósafoss Power Station; Dill restaurant in Reykjavik; Resource Park Blue Lagoon in southwest Iceland.
What It Teaches Us: Nearly 100% of Iceland's energy comes from renewable sources like geothermal power and hydropower. Efron and Olien learn about how waterfalls and volcanos become electricity that powers Iceland's homes, and tour the Blue Lagoon, which is actually runoff from a power plant. Surprisingly beneficial runoff.
Best Food Moment: Baking bread in the sand next to a hot spring. Apparently, you just bury it in the ground and 24 hours later, you've got a piping hot loaf of rye.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.

Episode 2 "France"

Location: Much of the episode sees Efron and Olien walking the streets of Paris. They also visit the Chunnel between London and Paris, this water treatment plant, and the Sanctuary of Our Lady Lourdes in Lourdes, France. We also see a little bit of West Hollywood at the beginning when Efron visits the water sommelier at the Petit Ermitage.
What It Teaches Us: This episode is all about water. Efron and Olien visit Paris to talk about its particularly good public water system with deputy mayor Célia Blauel, learn about contaminants, and warn everyone against bottled water — both because of what it may contain and to avoid single-use plastic. We also learn about the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, which ill people visit in the hopes that its water provides miraculous healing.
Best Food Moment: Well, not food this time, but water. Before heading to France, Efron and Olien do a tasting with a "water sommelier" in Los Angeles with special guest Anna Kendrick. It includes a "thick" water that's referred to as "the olive oil of waters."

Episode 3 “Costa Rica” 

Location: La Ecovilla, a community in Costa Rica; the Limón Province on the Atlantic coast, specifically a place called Punta Mona
What It Teaches Us: How a community of 44 families from 28 different countries keeps its carbon footprint very low, including by collecting solid waste — “aka poops,” as Efron puts it — in large bags and then using the methane produced for power. We also learn about how the community’s nontraditional school functions, including students learning multiple languages and building their own toys. Efron and Olien also visit an animal rescue and learn about herbal remedies. 
Best Food Moment: A huge breakfast feast in an area called Punta Mona, with pancakes, fruit, and freshly made coconut milk. 

Episode 4 “Sardinia”

Location: The Ecomuseo, a cemetery, various private homes; a cooking class in a kitchen (via Travel Motus tours); and a local sheep farm, all in Sardinia, Italy. 
What It Teaches Us: About how the food Sardinians eat, their environment, and their genetics affects their long lifespans. Sardinia is one of the five regions in the world with the highest concentration of centenarians. Efron and Olien speak to doctors and interview centenarians, and Efron comes to terms with his previous high-protein, low-carb diet, which is pretty much the opposite of what the Sardinians do. 
Best Food Moment: Making flatbread and ravioli stuffed with potato, sheep’s cheese, and saffron. As Efron says, “I’m so happy that I’m eating carbs again.” 

Episode 5 “Lima”

Location: Angry Orchard cidery and farm in New York; the International Potato Center; Central restaurant in Lima; Mercado de Surquillo; and Lima's Chilcas district for sand surfing. 
What It Teaches Us: At the farm, the lesson is about the history of apples and what they were first used for in America. In Lima, the focus is cryopreservation — preserving the DNA of a species in case it’s wiped out, possibly by a doomsday situation — specifically of potatoes. The hosts also learn about biopiracy, taking indigenous plants from one country or area illegally and growing them in another country. 
Best Food Moment: A meal at Central, a Michelin starred restaurant that highlights ingredients native to Peru, considering the region they are from and the elevation at which they are grown. 

Episode 6 “Puerto Rico”

Location: Old San Juan. Cantera neighborhood in San Juan; Frutos del Guacabo farm; the Caribe Hilton hotel; Casa Sol bed and breakfast; Conservación ConCiencia; and Cocina Abierta restaurant. 
What It Teaches Us: How Puerto Rico is healing after Hurricane Maria — Efron meets up with San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz — and the methods of sustainable energy that are being used and developed on the island. Efron and Olien also visit a farm supported by José Andrés’ organization World Central Kitchen.
Best Food Moment: Ceviche with fresh, spear-caught fish, after they learn about an app that connects fishers with restaurants — “Tinder for fish,” Efron says.

Episode 7 “London”

Location: The New York Hilton Midtown rooftop; The London Eye; the London School of Economics; the ArcelorMittal Orbit slide; a TreeBox project site; the River Thames with Thames 21; a pickup site for the Bamboo Bicycle Club; Deliciously Ella bakery; and Aulis restaurant. 
What It Teaches Us: First, about the importance of bees to our ecosystem. The hosts visit the rooftop of the New York Hilton Midtown, which houses 150,000 honeybees. Then, in England, they learn about the country’s efforts to reduce air and water pollution, including reducing the amount of cars driving in the city and creating green roofs and walls. 
Best Food Moment: A plant based meal at the restaurant Aulis, where the chef uses food from his own farm. 

Episode 8 “Iquitos”

Location: We spend some time "somewhere in the Jungle, Northern Peru," where Efron and Olien explore the Amazon River. Also, The Ayahuasca Foundation in Mishana, Peru; Ikiitu restaurant; and The Amazon Rescue Center in Iquitos, Peru.
What It Teaches Us: About plants that grow near the Peruvian Amazon — including camu camu, una de gato, and wasai — which gets superfood lover Olien very excited. Also about ayahuasca, an hallucinogenic plant, and ayahuasca tourism, as well as other plants that can be used as treatments in non-hallucinogenic ways. Lastly, they visit manatees at the Amazon Rescue Center. 
Best Food Moment: Grilled grubs at Ikiitu restaurant. “Tastes like teriyaki,” says Efron. 
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