Updated: Oct 7, 2021
You can still get away, even when you can't go anywhere.
2019 was an unforgettable year of travel for me and I'm so glad I took the opportunity to travel when I did. The current 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. Clearly, that can't include traveling the world right now. As we wonder when we’ll be able to visit our favorite neighborhood bar in a "normal" way again, let alone board a flight, I've been considering all the ways we can still get away, while remaining safely at 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. No reservations required. The best part is, many of these resources are free (or, at least, free for now). Ready? Let’s go!
1. Take a walk on Google Earth
You’re probably familiar with Google Maps and many other Google things, 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
How many video streaming services do you have right now? I’m guessing more than one. 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:
Probably the most relaxing series of them all, 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, narrated by astronauts and former zombie-slaying-apocalypse-survivor, Will Smith.
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. If you're stuck in a one-person quarantine right now, he'll be your drinking buddy. If you're self-isolating with others, he'll still be your drinking buddy.
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.
For a quick read, Lonely Planet has an extensive collection of short story travel narratives that range from the unexpected to the downright strange, such as The Kindness of Strangers or An Innocent Abroad.
Browse Condé Nast Traveler's list of the greatest travel books of all time.
Travel magazines are always offering deals for new subscribers and since your first issue won't arrive for awhile, it's a great way to surprise yourself in 6-8 weeks. My favorites are Condé Nast Traveler and Afar.
4. Indulge your wild side
Have you seen the live feeds from animal sanctuaries all over the world? I can’t believe it took a pandemic for me to discover these moments of child-like goodness. Penguins roaming around the zoo, panda bears playing on swings, jellyfish swirling through the water, koalas lounging in the trees, and many, many more. EarthCam and Explore.org are excellent resources for live streams and highlights from zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries - even watering holes in Africa. Elephants, zebras, and lions, oh my! And if you somehow 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 the world’s greatest art exhibits
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.
Get away to Italy and tour the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel.
The Louvre offers select online tours, such as a walk through their Egyptian Antiquities collection.
The Met 360 Project allows you to view the museum like never before with a collection on videos on YouTube.
6. Get carried away with music
Music has always been an escape for me. It has the power to move us through time and space if we let it. 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.
Fancy catching a musical or a classical music performance? Peruse this list of resources for streaming broadway shows, operas, and symphonies. Black tie optional. (Heck, pants are even optional at this point.)
Dance the night away with DJ D-Nice’s #ClubQuarantine live sets on Instagram and you may find yourself in the company of Jimmy Fallon and Oprah, among 100,000+ other fans. Check @dnice for details on the next event.
Check Billboard for an ever-updating list of live stream music events.
7. Pretend you're there with a destination-themed night
Why not indulge your inner chef and try one of these 99 tropical recipes, throw on something summery, queue up a Bob Marley playlist, whip up a margarita, 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. Maybe even treat yourself to some tiramisu and To Rome with Love to really set the mood. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself dropping words like ciao and that’s amore throughout the evening. Or head to Paris, London, Morocco - get creative - and enjoy!
8. Relive your travels
One of the best parts about traveling is that once we have traveled, 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. Try to relax. Let yourself daydream. It never hurts to start thinking about where to go next when this is all over.
Until next time, happy (virtual) travels!