The first trip I had to cancel was to Singapore. Then my husband and I decided that traveling to Japan and South Korea was unwise, so that had to be canceled as well. Pretty soon all the travel I had planned for 2020 was on hold. As time went on, it became glaringly obvious that the coronavirus pandemic was going to have a major impact on travel, and the end is nowhere in sight.
This is a frustrating time for travel lovers like me. I’ve always had a serious case of wanderlust, so I’m finding this time to be difficult, and I imagine many others are as well. Like many people around the world who’ve been told to stay home, I’m searching for ways to make the most of each day. But I’ve decided that I don’t have to suppress my love of travel. Instead, I can channel it into at-home activities that will allow me to appreciate what the world has to offer.
1. Start Training For That Epic Adventure
Last year my brother Erik and I set out for three days of walking through the Cotswolds in England. We spent almost six months training for this adventure, which would take us through several charming villages and 35 miles of scenic countryside. After that trip, we were eager to plan another, so we set a goal of walking the Camino in 2021. We haven’t set a date, but I’ve decided to use this time to start training because it keeps my spirits lifted. Whether you’re able to get outside to walk or opt to train on a treadmill, having a goal can be a tremendous motivator.
So what adventure have you always wanted to tackle? Some people dream of hiking the Inca Trail in Peru while others hope to trek the Dingle Way in Ireland. The world is full of epic hikes, and the one thing they all have in common is the need for preparation. To earn the official completion certificate for the Camino, Erik and I will need to walk 100 kilometers (or 62 miles) -- almost double what we walked in the Cotswolds. So we have many months of training ahead of us. I plan to use this time of social distancing to start that process.
2. Get Those Vacation Pictures Into Photo Books
Digital cameras and cell phones have made it easy to take hundreds, even thousands, of photos when we travel. Some get shared on social media, but most remain on our devices never to be seen again. Now’s the time to create photo books that can be shared with friends and family. I’ve found that creating these books is also a fun way to relive my favorite travel experiences.
Fortunately, there are several online companies that can help. My sister Beth introduced me to a company, Chatbooks, that allows you to create a book quickly. Less than two weeks after returning from Prague, Beth presented me with a Chatbook full of pictures from our trip. Just upload your photos and they will be automatically arranged one per page in chronological order. Photos can be rearranged and captions added if you so choose.
If you have more time and want to add more personal touches, try a company like Shutterfly or Mixbook. Once again, you’ll upload your photos, but this time you can choose a theme, arrange photos in a variety of layouts, and add all kinds of decorative touches.
3. Start Planning Your Next Trip
If you love researching travel as much as I do, then get started planning your next trip, even if you can’t set a date yet.
First, select your destination. Maybe you’ve always wanted to visit Iceland. Where will you stay, what will you see, and how will you get around? I spent hours researching Iceland before our trip there in 2017 and am glad I did. There is always so much more to do than time allows, so thorough research can help you make smart decisions in advance.
Or maybe you’re dreaming of an epic road trip, like Route 66. This journey will take you through eight U.S. states, so you’ll definitely want to spend time researching accommodations and roadside attractions.
If you’re looking for a way to organize your travel research, consider using TripAdvisor, which offers a feature that allows users to save things to do, hotels, and restaurants of interest. Or create a Google Doc with links to helpful blog posts and websites about your future destination.
4. Read About Your Next Destination
While preparing for a trip to Beijing in 2015, a friend recommended I read the book Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos. She felt this would help me better understand China, a country that I was visiting for the first time. It was a great suggestion, and now whenever I’m visiting a new country, I try to read a relevant book.
While guidebooks can certainly be helpful to read as well, what I like to do is find a nonfiction read that helps me understand the politics, art, or culture of a country. Sometimes I read the book after returning home because I’ve become fascinated with a particular topic. During a visit to Florence last year, I was intrigued by the Medici family and decided to read The House of Medici by Christopher Hibbert.
So think about your future travel plans -- or even your past ones -- and start looking for books that will help you better understand the destination. You’ll find this increases your appreciation of another country and its culture.
5. Watch Your Favorite Travel Movies, TV Shows, And YouTube Videos
I love to travel vicariously through my favorite movies, television shows, and YouTube videos. And fortunately, there are many great options. I’ll just share a few in each category that I really enjoy.
I love to hike and am fascinated with movies like Wild starring Reese Witherspoon. Based on a true story, the movie follows the experiences of Cheryl Strayed along the Pacific Coast Trail. And it was after watching Under The Tuscan Sun that I first became interested in visiting Tuscany. This film starring Diane Lane follows the adventures of a couple that moves to Italy and purchases a home in much need of repair.
If a movie sounds like a good idea, don’t miss our article on the perfect cocktail pairing for your favorite travel movie.
Netflix is full of great travel series, and my favorites are those featuring food. I fell in love with the Street Food series, which features restaurants and food markets around the world and the men and women who work tirelessly to serve delicious, local cuisine. I was very excited when David Chang’s Ugly Delicious returned for a second season. Each episode features either a country or type of food and includes writers, artists, and other chefs learning about a particular cuisine.
If you’re looking for something shorter than a movie or television show, check out some of the great offerings on YouTube. One of my favorite vlog series is Kara and Nate. This young couple from Tennessee has been traveling around the world full-time for four years and has had endless adventures. For food-focused travel, watch Mark Wien’s channel, Migrationology. Mark was born and raised in the U.S. but now resides in Thailand and is one of the happiest and most enthusiastic eaters you’ll ever meet.
These six podcasts to keep travel lovers company this spring are also excellent forms of entertainment for when you’re cooking, cleaning, and beyond.
6. Cook The Food From Your Favorite Country
During a family vacation to Costa Rica, we discovered a dish called casado, a meal of rice, beans, and meat or fish. It’s not fancy, but we always found it satisfying. In fact, we returned home and made casado a regular in our rotation of our family meals. Every time we enjoy this Costa Rican classic, we are transported back to our lovely time there.
Now that we all have more time at home, it’s time to relive our favorite travel experiences through food. I started with a Spanish omelette, a classic Spanish dish often served as a tapas. During our trip to Madrid last year, our food tour guide, Jorge, was kind enough to share an authentic recipe with us. Eating it brought back fun memories of sampling so many types of Spanish cuisine. My next cooking project is homemade pasta!
7. Take A Virtual Tour Of A Museum
My travel always includes the local museums, and specifically the art museums. But with all museums closed during this period, it’s not possible to visit in person. Fortunately, dozens of the world’s top museums offer virtual tours, many of them made possible through Google Arts and Culture. At first I was sceptical, but I’ll admit that it’s nice to appreciate the world’s greatest art without the crowds.
One of my favorite virtual tours is of the British Museum. Instead of offering a “street view” where viewers can browse through the galleries, this museum has laid out part of its collection on a timeline. Click on an item of interest, and audio of the curator discussing the object’s history and relevance becomes available, too.
Want more? If you’d like to visit more museums, escape to the beach, take a nature walk, visit a winery, or witness adorable animals in real time, check out these 38 virtual tours and webcams you can enjoy from home any time.
We don’t know how long we’ll all be quarantined at home, but we can make the most of this time with what we choose to do. This is a great time to learn about the world, plan future travel, and relive past trips through food and photos. Travel will eventually resume, and when it does, we will appreciate it more than ever.