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How to travel without leaving home

Updated: Jan 5

You can still get away, even when you can't go anywhere.

Imagine walking along the beach in Hawaii
Imagine walking along the beach in Hawaii

The coronavirus state of the world is a constant reminder of how crucial it is to do the things that are important to us while we still can. For those of us who aren't ready to travel too far just yet, I've been considering all the ways we can still get away without leaving home. After all, travel is so wonderful because it opens up the world to us and inspires us to be better humans by exploring other ways of life. It turns out, we don’t necessarily need to leave our living rooms to experience the world like this. So, what can we do when traveling is not an option? Surprisingly, quite a lot! I’ve been compiling an ever-growing collection of resources and ideas that transport us to another place from the comfort of our couches. The best part is, many of these resources are free (or, at least, free for now). Ready? Let’s go!

1. Go for a virtual walk

Visit the Great Pyramid of Giza
Visit the Great Pyramid of Giza

You’re probably familiar with Google Maps, but have you tried Google Earth lately? It’s freaking amazing. Want to stroll through the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, scope out the Pyramids, or walk across the Great Wall of China?

Just open the website, type in where you want to go, click on the little dude in the corner to enter Street View, and just like that - you’re there. If you’re “feeling lucky”, roll the dice from the main menu and let Google decide where to send you next.

2. Stream something travel-ly

A search for “travel shows” on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and others will undoubtedly return many results. Here are my favorites for when I want to get away without packing a bag:

Look over Manhattan
Soar over Manhattan
  • BBC's Planet Earth and its many iterations (The Blue Planet, Planet Earth II, etc.) is bound to leave you awestruck with stunning scenery and curious details about life in the animal kingdom.

  • The Smithsonian Channel's Aerial America makes you feel like you're flying in a private plane over all the sights across the U.S.A.

  • If you'd like to indulge your inner-scientist, watch an episode or two of Nat Geo's One Strange Rock.

  • Explore all the corners of the globe through the eyes of the people who live there while enjoying yummy-looking meals with Anthony Bourdain on Parts Unknown or No Reservations. It's likely there won't be a dull moment during each ~43-minute episode.

  • If you haven't watched Three Sheets, now is the time. See the world one, two, five drinks at a time with the always-entertaining Zane Lamprey.

  • Scan this list of travel shows on YouTube or these live streams of beautiful places around the world for more inspiration.

3. Get lost in someone else's story

Sometimes the best way to get away is through the pages of a book. Or the glow of a tablet. Find whichever way works for you and go on a much-needed journey as a visitor in someone else's world for a little while.

4. Indulge your wild side

Watch koalas at Brisbane's Lone Pine Sanctuary
Watch koalas at Brisbane's Lone Pine Sanctuary

Have you seen the live feeds from animal sanctuaries all over the world? Penguins roaming the zoo, panda bears playing on swings, jellyfish swirling through the water, koalas lounging in the trees, and many, many more.

EarthCam and are excellent resources for live streams and highlights from zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries - even watering holes in Africa. Elephants, zebras, and lions, oh my!

If you grow tired of watching all the animals play, swim, and scamper without a care in the world, don’t forget about the wildlife in your own backyard. Bird watching, anyone?

5. Wander through a museum

Museums can be tricky to visit when traveling. I’ve enjoyed meandering through many of them on a rainy day while missing others completely because I didn’t budget enough time to stand in line. But now, you can visit all the museums you've ever wanted to see at your own pace, in your bunny slippers. Explore Google Arts & Culture for over 2,500 collections and a variety of ways to experience them. Or head straight to one of your must-see museum's websites and see what you can see.

Explore the Vatican without the crowds
Explore the Vatican without the crowds

6. Get carried away with music

Rock out in your living room
Rock out in your living room

Music has always been an escape for me. Here are a few ways to bring more music into your life without even changing out of your pajamas:

  • Travel nonstop to Austin by tuning in to some of the coolest concerts from Austin City Limits.

  • Peruse this list of resources for streaming broadway shows, operas, and symphonies. Black tie optional. (Heck, pants are even optional at this point.)

  • Check Billboard for more live stream events.

7. Have a destination-themed night

Toast to a tropical staycation
Toast to a tropical staycation

Indulge your inner chef and try one of these 99 tropical recipes, queue up a Bob Marley playlist and you'll practically feel the sand in your toes already.

Or head to Italy with a bowl of pasta, freshly baked garlic bread, and a glass (or two) of wine. Treat yourself to tiramisu and watch To Rome with Love to set the mood. Or head to Paris, London, or Morocco.

Get creative and enjoy!

8. Re-live your travels

One of the best parts about traveling is that once we have traveled somewhere, it becomes a part of who we are, in our memories and in the stories we tell. What are your favorite travel memories? Now is the time to flip through all those photos on your phone. Call up a friend or family member who was there with you. It’s funny how simply remembering and talking about our experiences has a way of making us feel them all over again. One final piece of advice: if your eyes are burning from staring at screens all day, then just close them. Let yourself daydream. It never hurts to start thinking about where to go next.

Until next time, happy (virtual) travels!


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