By Penelope Bielckus (AKA The Flyaway Girl)
What if you could indulge your travel-loving self… even while at home? Whether during lockdown or otherwise, there are so many ways to still see the world without leaving your house.
From virtual tours of museums around the world to digital hikes in National Parks, from reading travel books and memoirs to learning a new language or watching travel videos or TV shows and films – there are so many ways to pique your travel interest from your couch!
TAKE A VIRTUAL TOUR
Since we can’t travel to go visit these places normally, many organisations and destinations have set up ways for us to digitally visit! The Google Arts & Culture project also enables virtual access to more than 2,500 art spaces from around the world (artsandculture.google.com). They also have an app for iOS and Android so you can virtually explore these places on your phone.
There are so many places that you can find on Google Arts & Culture, including but not limited to:
- Palace of Versailles, France
- Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Natural History Museum, London, UK
- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, US
- Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid, Spain
- Colosseum, Rome, Italy
- George Peabody Library, Baltimore, USA
- The Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, Russia
- Sydney Opera House, Australia
- Central Park, New York City, USA
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto, Japan
You can also visit some places that are also very tricky to visit in real life, even when travel IS possible. For example, take a virtual tour of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus or the archeological treasure of Palmyra, both located in Syria. You can also take a virtual tour of other tricky to visit places, such as historically important places in Iraq and Afghanistan. You are also able to take a virtual tour inside the Hubble Control Centre and go on a 360-degree journey through the Orion Nebula!
Here are some other examples of museums, gardens and more that you can explore virtually:
- The Louvre, Paris, France (louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne)
- Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Washington DC, USA (airandspace.si.edu)
- Vatican Museums, Vatican City (museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/tour-virtuali-elenco.html)
- NASA Glenn Research Centre, Ohio, USA (nasa.gov/glennvirtualtours)
- Taj Mahal, Agra, India (taj-mahal.net/newtaj)
- Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA (nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/virtualtours.htm)
- Yosemite National Park, California, USA (virtualyosemite.org)
- Buckingham Palace, London (royal.uk/virtual-tours-buckingham-palace)
- Great Wall of China (thechinaguide.com/destination/great-wall-of-china)
- Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Israel (p4panorama.com/panos/HOLYLAND/)
- You can also go on some digital hikes, including to Mount Everest (http://www.everest3d.de). Many of the USA’s National Parks can be found as virtual tours on Google Earth, including Arches National Park, Badlands National Park, Death Valley National Park and the Dry Tortugas National Park.
Another amazing option is the virtual tour using 360-degree photos of Machu Picchu, Peru’s most famous national wonder! This is available on the You Visit website, which also offers virtual tours of other destinations, including New York City by helicopter, Rome, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Ayutthaya Historic Temples in Thailand to name just a few (www.youvisit.com/travel).
Some of the best websites, aside from Google Arts & Culture, for viewing 360 photos and going on virtual tours, include AirPano.com (there’s a spectacular one of the Northern Lights in Iceland), 360cities.net, and Xplorit.com.
Many zoos and aquariums, as well as beautiful destinations such as Hvar Island in Croatia, are offering 24/7 live streams! These are perfect for having a relaxing view of a beautiful beach or the enjoyment of observing some adorable pandas. Webcamtaxi (webcamtaxi.com/en/croatia/split-dalmatia/hvar-seafront.html) is a great website for beautiful live views of destinations such as Hvar, Split and Bol in Croatia, as well as others around the world like Surat Thani in Thailand, Times Square in NYC or Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.
The Georgia Aquarium (georgiaaquarium.org/webcam/african-penguin-cam) offers a live stream of their aquarium, including ones of the California sea lions, sea otters and Beluga whales. The penguins and the puffins were definitely my favourites! Houston Zoo (houstonzoo.org/explore/webcams) also has live feeds of many of their enclosures, including the Gorilla Habitat and Elephant Yard. Zoo Atlanta also has a live ‘Panda Cam’ as well (zooatlanta.org/panda-cam).
Explore.org has lots of live streams, including ones of the Aurora Borealis in Manitoba, Canada, the beach of Waimea Bay in Oahu, Hawaii, pandas at the Shenshuping Gengda Panda Centre in Sichuan, China and lots more!
HAVE FUN WITH GEOGRAPHY GAMES
This is a great way of learning and brushing up on some geography knowledge! If you have kids, this is an awesome way of getting them interested in geography and, if you’re older, a great way of just brushing up on your knowledge.
Sporcle, Seterra, GeoQuizzes and PlayGeography are good options for a variety of geography quizzes, including European countries, capital cities, US states and lots more.
GeoGuessr is a website where you get dropped in a random spot on Google Street View. This could be in a city, on a road in the countryside or even at the location of a famous landmark. The free version is quite limited, but the paid version ($1.99 a month) has lots of options, including ones on Famous Places, “Where’s That McDonald’s” and more. You can also create your own map with specific locations for others to play!
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN A DESTINATION
Travel books, movies and TV shows are a great way of immersing yourself in a destination. You can also enjoy travel vlogs on Youtube for free and experience tours of cities and lots more.
You can read a travel novel to experience fiction based in real-life places or you can enjoy a travel memoir and learn about the author’s experiences and their journey. Some great travel books include:
- Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (fiction set in Mumbai, India)
- World Walk by Steven Newman (memoir set across 22 countries)
- In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson (memoir set in Australia)
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed (memoir where she walks the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican to Canadian borders)
- My 1001 Nights by Alice Morrison (memoir set in Morocco)
Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris (memoir set on the Silk Road).
Some great travel movies include The White Maasai (set in Kenya), The Motorcycle Diaries (based on Che Guevara’s road trip across Latin America) and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (set in India).
You can also watch travel TV shows on Netflix (and use the Chrome extension ‘Netflix Party’ to watch the shows with friends or family, and chat about the show in real-time!). Some of the best travel shows include Dark Tourist, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, Conan Without Borders and Our Planet.
YouTube also has some episodes of many of Michael Palin’s shows, such as Michael Palin in North Korea, Around the World in 80 Days, Sahara, and Himalaya. You can also find many episodes of Simon Reeve’s shows, including Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve, The Americas with Simon Reeve and many, many more.
YouTube is also a great place for watching travel vlogs. Some of my favourite creators including PsychoTraveller, Eva zu Beck, Migrationology, SandyMakesSense and Abroad in Japan.
LEARN A NEW TRAVEL-RELATED SKILL
It’s not quite travelling, but you can still learn a language and prepare yourself for future travels! Some of the best language-learning apps are Busuu, Duolingo, Drops, Mondly, and Lingvist. They have so many language options including the more popular French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Dutch and less ‘classic’ options such as Afrikaans, Lithuanian, Bengali, Swahili and Hawaiian.
[Ed: A local option is to sign up for classes with the Little English language school. English, Spanish, and French for all ages and levels from the comfort of your own home! (littleenglish.eu/virtualclassroom)]
You can also combine your language learning by watching TV shows or films in your target language, with subtitles either in English or the target language, depending on how advanced you are!
Another option for learning a new skill is Airbnb Experiences. Airbnb has launched the new ‘Online Experiences’ option, which include unique activities you can enjoy online. It’s a great way for people in the tourism industry to still make some money, since many have lost a huge amount of their income over the past few weeks or months.
Airbnb Online Experiences include meditation with a Japanese Buddhist monk (from £8pp per hour), Making homemade pasta with Opera in the Kitchen (from £23 per person), Cooking with a Moroccan family (from £11 per person), Making Swedish pastries with a professional Swedish baker (from £8 per person) and even an Irish Dance Masterclass with a professional Irish dancer in Galway (from £9 per person).
Another great resource for classes and courses is Skillshare (which is currently offering two months free). Workshops like Travel Sketchbook Illustration with professional illustrator Mike Lowery are perfect for getting creative and learning a new skill while at home. Udemy is another course website, with options including travel writing classes, travel journaling, and painting landscapes in watercolour.
There are so many ways to get creative and feel like you’re travelling, even while at home. Learning to create a tasty dish from a country you’ve been to (or even one you haven’t) is a great way of ‘travelling without leaving home’. My favourite international dishes to make include chilaquiles (Mexico), baleadas (Honduras), Rösti (Switzerland) and the classic Spanish revuelto con chorizo.
You can also go through your previous adventures and create a travel scrapbook or photo album with images and souvenirs (such as boarding passes or attraction tickets).
A particularly great option if you have children is to try arts and crafts from different cultures and countries around the world. For example, you could learn how to make Japanese origami, Aboriginal Dot Painting from Australia or a Native American rain stick. The website ‘FreeKidsCrafts’ has a variety of tutorials on how to do these projects with kids, as does ‘KinderArt’. YouTube is, again, another great resource for tutorials (especially for origami).
Traditional arts and crafts are also great for adults, including origami, Chinese or Japanese calligraphy, or even some Cinco de Mayo crafts such as papel picado, piñatas, fiesta flowers or a Frida Kahlo-inspired floral headband.
There are so many ways to travel the world without leaving your house, whether it’s by getting creative and tasting the world (easily one of my personal favourites), getting immersed in a TV show or film about a destination, or simply by watching some awesome live feeds from places around the world.
Where will you (virtually) travel to next?