Initially, I wasn’t sure how to begin this post. The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting us all, and these feel like very scary times indeed.
For my part, I’m staying indoors. Unless it’s a necessity (grocery run, trip to the pharmacy), I’m social distancing.
I did have a trip planned for Easter weekend within the continental U.S. that I’m keeping an eye on. I’m fortunate that I booked both my flight and hotel through companies that are now offering 100% refunds should I need to cancel. My window of time to cancel is 24 hours before departure. I’m cautiously optimistic, but won’t hesitate to ditch my plans if need be. (March 20 update: plans have been successfully ditched.)
I’ve seen a number of posts on my feed and stories on the news about vacation cancellations. Now, is this the most pressing issue regarding COVID-19? Of course not, and it would be disingenuous to pretend like it is.
I think we can all agree that it isn’t fun to completely cancel a major vacation that you had likely been looking forward to for a long time. Even less fun to practice social distancing, when all you want is to be on the beach like you had planned.
Still, if you cancelled a trip you were very much looking forward to this month, I think you did the right thing. (March 20 update: you definitely did the right thing.) There are far too many immunocompromised people who are relying on us healthy individuals to make smart choices and provide herd immunity from the virus.
So in this post, I’m going to offer some alternatives to in-person travel. It won’t be exactly the same as taking that vacation you were dying to do (really, what is?). But I hope it’ll relieve a bit of stress in these uncertain times and alleviate the cabin fever that comes with staying indoors.
COVID-19: How You Can Travel Virtually
1. Take a Virtual Tour of a Famous Museum
Travel and Leisure recently compiled a list of 12 famous museums that you can tour virtually. I’ve started working my way through the Louvre’s virtual tours, and it’s been a delight. Not to mention, no one can judge you for “visiting” a museum in your sweatpants.
2. Use Google Street View
For example, here I am visiting a bucket list destination; the Boulder Beach Penguin Colony in Cape Town, South Africa!
3. Get Lost in TV’s Travel Episodes
What got me into travel in the first place were travel show hosts like Rick Steve’s and Samantha Brown showcasing the most beautiful destinations in the most intimate ways. Below, I’ve listed some Netflix picks and YouTube finds with hosts that have an uncanny ability to make it feel like you’re right alongside them.
- Monty Don’s Italian Gardens
- Street Food
- Tales by Light
- Our Planet
4. Plan a Dream Vacation
Half the fun of travel is the planning, right? Okay, maybe not half, but it does feel exciting to think about all of the things you can do.
You can go a couple of different ways with this exercise. Maybe you’ll plan the ultimate bucket list vacation, assuming money and time are no object. What would you do if you had all the vacation days and cash to spare? I’d probably visit every corner of South America, or take an African safari through Namibia and South Africa.
Or, you can take on a challenge. How can you get the most out of your dream vacation if you only have, say, $800 to spare? Where would you go and how would you make each penny count? Eastern Europe would be calling my name here. I’m still amazed at all I did in Budapest and how little it cost me.
I tend to do this when I need to clear my head. Maybe I’ve been buried in my work and need a breather. I might use my lunch break to plan an eventual trip to New Zealand. Or maybe I’ve got writer’s block. I might switch gears and put together a road trip itinerary in Arizona.
Whatever you do, it can be a fun break from reality and even expose you to some new places to add to your bucket list.
5. Relive past vacations
Dig out your photos and travel diaries and take a trip down memory lane. One of my most memorable adventures was when I took a day trip to St. Moritz, Switzerland. I couldn’t believe how beautiful and picturesque the town was. It was the off season, so walking down empty streets felt surreal. I was taking as many pictures as possible so I wouldn’t forget it. What a trip.
6. Create your own luxurious escape
Part of the point of traveling is to unwind and recharge. Take those ideas and create ways to relax in your own space. Maybe run a warm bath, light a candle, put on some music and read a book. Or set the scene for a homemade feast. My dad loves to cook, so he’s been putting together intricate dishes for my brother and I. With a nicely set table and music playing in the background, it’s almost like you’re at a fancy restaurant in another country!
7. Learn a new language
Most local libraries offer services like DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone free if you have a library card. Take this time indoors to learn a language for your next trip, or polish up on one you’ve already been studying.
No matter where you are, the most important thing you can do during these uncertain times is stay safe. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face and practice social distancing. We’re in this together, everyone!
Pin this guide on how to travel virtually during COVID-19!
Safe (virtual) travels!