Travel withdrawal. We feel it now more than ever. With pangs of nostalgia for yesteryear’s adventures we find ourselves pining for the intoxicating first moments of stepping onto unknown soil, for the near-forgotten thrill of unexpected connections forged between strangers, for the psychedelic self-discovery that only culture shock can catalyze, and even for the residual perspective shift – both liberating and destabilizing – that inevitably lasts much longer than the trip.
For those of us with voracious wanderlust, navigating the travel limitations of 2020 feels especially confining. In much of the USA, it feels unsafe to board a crowded bus, let alone travel by plane. To roam freely and fearlessly, and to mingle with intriguing strangers in unfamiliar places sounds more like a pipe dream than a possibility these days. So if this “new normal” persists, how can travel junkies to get their fix without actually going anywhere?
Fortunately, necessity breeds invention, and thanks to the recent emergence of virtual travel options, it has become increasingly possible to explore the world from our own homes. Harnessing the power of the internet via Youtube, webcams, google earth, virtual reality, and more, we can safely “go” almost anywhere.
Virtual travel is also an intrinsically sustainable pastime. In the immediate sense, it supports the public health and environmental concerns of today by limiting the spread of Covid-19, and ostensibly eliminating the CO2 emissions otherwise unavoidable via physical transit. It also provides teachers with an array of virtual “field trips” to enhance online learning while schools remain closed. Finally, the burgeoning technology of virtual reality promises sustainable, accessible opportunities for those who lack the ability or resources to travel physically.
In the long term, virtual travel promises even more than a convenient, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly escape for homebound wayfarers: it has the potential to become a useful planning tool. Post-pandemic, conscious travelers can virtually “preview” destinations and experiences before they embark. Well informed travelers are better equipped to make wise decisions and avoid common pitfalls that have expensive, unethical, and environmentally destructive outcomes. So theoretically, integrating virtual experiences into our education and planning may help us travel more sustainably down the road.
It goes without saying that virtual travel pales in comparison to the “real” thing, and to view it as a substitute would likely diminish the experience. Instead, we can look to it for inspiration, for a window into places unknown.
Whether you fancy yourself a history buff, a foodie, an adrenaline junkie, a nature lover, or all of the above, the budding landscape of virtual travel offers something to pique a variety of interests. For help navigating this new world, we offer you Hidden Lemur’s Virtual Travel Guidebook.
Nothing compares to the euphoria of getting barreled by a glassy wave, or to the singular satisfaction of cutting into a fresh blanket of powder. Even so, adrenaline junkies can still get some action from home, and perhaps even whet their appetites for limits they have never explored without going “all in.” For now, adventure aficionados and novices alike can safely pursue their curiosities and save the broken ribs for next year.
For some gnarly inspiration, check out GoPro’s youtube channel where they feature top GoPro footage moments in surfing, winter sports and an hour long epic highlight reel of mindblowing footage from people around the world.
If hiking is more your speed and you have yet to check Yosemite National park off of your bucket list, consider a virtual foray into this breathtaking natural wonder with an interactive, high-def tour.
For an otherworldly escape, you can become a virtual space cadet with this app from the Houston Space Center, which offers augmented reality. You can also use the virtual gallery to get a 360-degree view of the galaxy!
For those more drawn to the humanities than peak human performance, art museums, historic landmarks, performance venues, and more now offer virtual experiences for those that cannot physically attend.
Don’t know where to begin? Do a virtual museum crawl and take a gander at your own pace! The Louvre, The Boston Museum of Fine arts, and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History are offering interactive virtual tours and up-close online exhibits for free.
After a heady afternoon of highbrow learning, what better way to decompress than to take in a Broadway Show? Playbill.com, the most trusted name in showbiz, has curated an impressive list of the best filmed Broadway Plays and Musicals, and here is where to find them.
Food is the heart of culture and its universal language. For travelers, the memories we make over shared meals and spontaneous drinks with locals are often our most lasting and vivid. But we don’t necessarily need to cross borders to appreciate exotic fare from home. Until we can safely connect in person, go ahead and indulge your hedonistic desires virtually with cuisine a la quarantine.
Sharpen your knife skills and beef up your at-home cooking repertoire with online classes. Airbnb now showcases a variety of virtual classes hosted by enthusiasts worldwide, creating opportunities for those who work in the tourism and dining industries to earn money in this difficult time.
Here, you can travel to Mexico City and learn to make authentic Mexican street food with Graziela, an expert chef. If you prefer Italian, check out this pasta making class from Luca and Lorenzo of @lovexfooditaly. Always wondered what makes Indian food so freaking delectable? You can visit Chhotaram & Mamata in Rajasthan to find out.
Once you’ve mastered some new recipes, why not please your palate even more with a great wine pairing?
Chateau Feely is a family-owned, biodynamic vineyard in the Dordogne of France. Owners Caro and Sean have earned worldwide recognition for their excellence in wine education and organic winemaking. In light of the covid pandemic, they now offer an impressive menu of virtual events from wine parties to in-depth educational experiences.
For more fun from vineyards worldwide, use this guide for bringing wine country into your living room.
Several breweries have also hopped on the virtual bandwagon. For example, Big Sky Brewing in Montana offers an extensive 3-D tour, and the Glenturret Whiskey distillery of Scotland has created a VR compatible 3D walkthrough of its 250 year old facility.
Sometimes we travel just to feel rejuvenated, and we think most people would agree that no matter where you reside, 2020 has been a helluva ride. In this category, those who need to recharge or momentarily escape the stressors of quarantine life can find a peaceful virtual oasis.
If you missed your annual vacation this year, make yourself a Daiquiri and imagine lounging on your favorite beach with the help of daily webcam footage. Here you can scroll through the top fifty beach live cams in the USA. If you have an at home projector, even better – you can turn the entire room into a tropical paradise!
Perhaps you’d rather enjoy a metaphorical cocktail of dopamine and oxytocin, live footage of adorable animals should do the trick. The San Diego Zoo set up live cams that allow virtual visitors to check in on the animals at any time, while the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden hosts Home Safari Facebook Lives daily at 3 p.m. EDT. Their youtube channel is also full of amazing and current videos in case you can’t make the facebook live events.
What if you just need to hit the proverbial reset button but don’t know where to start? The Art Of Meditation now offers an eight week online meditation retreat with a structured yet flexible schedule designed for absolute beginners and seasoned practitioners alike. Take a look at their youtube channel for a sense of the teacher, Burgs, and his style. With some expert guidance, you can now virtually embark on a journey toward inner peace.