These are trying times for travelers. Being home-bound is a most unnatural state for globetrotters. We will be able to travel again. But for now, we must stay at home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. As we all do our part to flatten the curve we can transport ourselves to faraway locales thanks to these virtual experiences that will help you get away from the safety of your own home.
1. Learn a new language
Should you feel motivated to learn a new skill while you're grounded, opt to study a language you’ve always wanted to learn. Being bilingual can help you achieve greater mental clarity and improve cultural understanding. Perhaps you want to focus on a language that is spoken in many countries such as Spanish, French, or Portuguese. Or, select a language from a country you’re eager to visit. Either way, improving your linguistic skills will help you communicate once you are able to visit and help pass the time at home. Language app Babbel was created by a team of more than 150 linguists and teachers.
2. Take virtual tours of museums
Keep your sense of wanderlust alive by bringing the world to you by taking virtual tours of museums in your hometown and far off locations. Google Arts & Culture can transport you to over 1,200 museums from 80 countries. If you love art, transport yourself to some of the best art museums on the planet with virtual tours from Google Arts & Culture of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles or the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk. You can even hold a private audience with Botticelli’s Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Galleries. Go overseas by taking a tour of the Israel Museum. Develop a new artistic obsession by touring niche galleries such as the Corning Museum of Glass.
3. Lose yourself in music
Music heals and in these uncertain times, artists around the globe are offering their gifts. The Metropolitan Opera in New York City is offering a free stream of its most celebrated shows. The Philharmonie Berlin opened its digital library of performances of over 600 shows to enjoy by using the code BERLINPHIL by March 31 for a 30-day access. OperaVision is showing free recorded performances from all over the world including the Royal Swedish Opera and the Polish National Opera. YouTube is a free resource to find free music from all over the world such as Calypso from the Caribbean, Flamenco from Spain, and Candombe from Uruguay.
4. Be mesmerized by wildlife
Ethical animal encounters are a major motivator for travel. These nine wildlife webcams offer access to your favorite animals. You can watch giant pandas at the China Conservation & Research Center or go on a virtual safari at Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa. Watch rescued bears at the Arosa Bear Sanctuary on the bear-cam.
If you don’t want to try your chances and wait to see if wildlife comes into view in the lens, watch wildlife documentaries from the countries you hope to visit in the future. Virunga will teach you about the gorillas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Untamed Romania will introduce you to the bears of the region, and Pacificum takes you into Peru’s oceans. For pure sweetness check out the 24/7 Farmer John baby goat cam.
5. Have virtual bucket-list experiences
Virtual reality can help you reach destinations you’ve always dreamed of seeing. You can reach the summit of Matterhorn Mountain in the Swiss Alps and fly over the Duomo in Florence through Google Earth's virtual reality offerings. Surround yourself with nature through the live stream of the first National Park in the U.S., Yellowstone and the live feed of the Upper Yosemite Falls. Hike the Great Wall of China from the Jinshanling to Simatai sections without breaking a sweat. Take a virtual tour via webcams of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and watch Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
6. Travel through your taste buds
Many cooking classes are being offered digitally from the homes of chefs around the world and through food tours. In Florence, Italy, Il Salviatino’s Executive Chef, Silvia Grossi, is leading cooking lessons on Instagram from her home kitchen with easy recipes using ingredients you likely already have at home. Iberostar’s Honest Food how-to recipe videos offer healthy multicultural fare that you can whip up at home to travel the world through flavors including Yucca and Chicken Tamales and Vegan Tiramisu. Find inspiration by watching My World Kitchen where children show you how to make traditional dishes from their countries or binge-watch Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown (Netflix) and Emeril's Eat the World (Amazon Prime).
7. Have a video date with a foreigner
There’s no time like the present to give love a chance. Fairytrail is a dating app for travelers and focuses on video chats. Connect with someone who interests you and learn about their culture and customs through their own experience, and share yours. If love sparks you’ll have a romantic trip to look forward to after society has healed from COVID-19
It’s no secret that movies are the best distraction. Find titles from countries you want to visit or re-watch old favorites and be transported to your dream destinations. Check out our reader-recommended list of travel movies. If you like rom-coms, watch Under the Tuscan Sun (Hulu) or Mamma Mia (Netflix). For drama and vistas of European mountains watch The Grand Budapest Hotel (Amazon Prime). If you’re craving the beautiful beaches of Southeast Asia watch The Beach (Amazon Prime). Or catch up on travel documentaries for a bit more of a realistic take on the destinations you’re dreaming of such as Encounters at the End of the World (Amazon Prime) filmed in Antarctica and Under An Arctic Sky (Amazon Prime) to see people surf under the Northern Lights.
9. Pick up a travel-centric book
From true-adventure non-fiction travel novels to travel guides about the destination you're yearning to visit, now is a great time dive into some travel literature. Read guide books from our sister site, Lonely Planet. For inspiration, check out our list of 10 books every traveler should read. We won’t judge you if you want to re-read Eat, Pray, Love in these uncertain times and get swept away by intoxicating destinations, food, and passion.
10. Plan your dream trip
There’s so much uncertainty around the world right now but one thing we’re confident about is that travel will make a comeback. After being cooped on for what seems like the indefinite future, we will once again explore the globe. COVID-19 has stalled travel plans but that doesn’t mean you can’t seek inspiration for your future adventures. Prepare for when future dream travels are made possible again by browsing Lonely Planet's destination guides for ideas when creating your itinerary. Read about the history of the destination, research which sites you want to visit, where you want to have your morning coffee, and locate boutiques for finding the perfect keepsake.
Lola Méndez is an Uruguayan-American freelance journalist. She writes about sustainability, travel, culture, and wellness for many print and digital publications in addition to her responsible travel blog, MissFilatelista.com. She's a full-time globetrotter who travels to develop her own worldview and has explored over 60 countries. Passionate about sustainable travel, she seeks out ethical experiences that benefit local communities. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.