One of the very few blessings of the last year is the rise of new and unexpected ways to see the world. Though we might not be able to get out there and explore, it’s comforting to know we can still get our travel fix from home.
It’s no secret that travel restrictions have limited access to some of our favorite destinations. Whether it be limited hours at national parks or temporary closures of beloved spots, the travel industry is undoubtedly suffering.
To keep the safety of guests in mind, tour companies have evolved to meet people no matter where they are. That means all things are going virtual: tours, experiences, and access to just about anywhere in the world, all through a webcam! Even though we’re still confined to the comfort of our bubbles right now, tech devices grant us authentic access to new global connections. People are eager to share their culture and history with willing virtual travelers.
Until we can safely get back out in the world again, a virtual tour can do the trick. I tried two virtual tours, both offered by EF Go Ahead Tours, and was delighted by how immersed I was even through a computer screen.
Why I Loved Both Virtual Tours
EF Go Ahead Tours offers a new category of tours -- their Online Escapes. Anywhere you want to go, it’s likely an online escape is offered there. Foodies like myself will love their food- and spirits-themed excursions such as a virtual Oktoberfest, a Costa Rican coffee-making masterclass, an Italian Cooking 101 class, and a behind-the-scenes peek in a chocolate maker’s kitchen. History buffs will delight in World War II stories in Italy and a Spanish art history escape. A nature photography class is suited well for creative people, and the best part is, all you need is a smartphone and a positive attitude.
At their generosity, I joined two online escapes: The Art of Flamenco and Master the Art of the Japanese Tea Ceremony. All opinions are my own.
The Art Of Flamenco
I was curious about the flamenco online escape because I knew nothing about it. I had a general understanding that flamenco is a type of dance, but my knowledge ended there. Through the passion and expertise of the host, a Madrid-native and flamenco dancer since 2007, I learned that flamenco is more than a dance -- it’s an art form.
The virtual guide provided a history of flamenco dating back to its most obscure origins in the 15th century. She used an assortment of tools, including maps, art, handwritten notes and lyrics, and YouTube videos to structure the online escape. In addition to visual assistance, she shared her love of flamenco and her personal attachment to the art form.
I learned that flamenco is a practice of pure, devoted emotion. Flamenco consists of singers, guitars, and dancers. Each song is like words from a poem passed down orally from singer to singer.
In times where we might feel ourselves lacking connection with the outside world, learning about an art form deeply rooted in connection gave me great comfort and joy. The guide ensured the online escape was interactive by allowing virtual tourists to share a little about ourselves, ask questions, and even clap our hands and stomp our feet to the melody of a beautiful song. I had the privilege of reading a gorgeous poem translated from Spanish at the end.
If your heart is in Spain, this online escape is for you. If you’re captivated by flamenco, specifically, read up on five reasons to visit the unique Sacromonte area of Granada, Spain, where Roma residents developed a style of flamenco called zambra that’s still performed in Sacromonte’s cave homes and tablaos today.
The Japanese Tea Ceremony
This escape began with the guide showing us a tour of her backyard. As sunlight streamed through the garden illuminating the lawn and Japanese hibiscus, I instantly felt enamored by the guide’s passion and the relative stillness of life in Japan.
Similar to the flamenco online escape, the guide was passionate, knowledgeable, and approachable too. The purpose of the online escape was to share how tea is an everyday part of life in Japan. Through a brief description of the philosophy of tea and a brief history of its origins and rituals throughout the years, virtual tourists were granted access to the inner world of tea in Japan.
The majority of the online escape was an actual tea ceremony. Guests were fully immersed in the experience. Even through my laptop’s average-quality speakers, I could hear every sound of the process. The group shared comfortable silence.
She encouraged us to let go of our habit to multitask and instead be present and grounded in the moment. Before and after the tea ceremony, each virtual tourist had an opportunity to share with the group, which created a much-needed sense of community and belonging, even amongst strangers. She built in time to answer our questions about the history of tea and our curiosities about the tea ceremony’s unique ritual.
Though the subject matter at hand was vastly different for both hour-long online escapes, both guides did everything in their power to share their passion with us. I was pleasantly surprised by how engaged I felt through it all.
Other Tour Companies Who Are Doing Virtual Right
Intrepid Urban Adventures is offering at-home experiences the whole family will appreciate. Artists will love the Mandala Art and Meditation Class based in Dehli as well as a watercolor painting class set in Mexico. A traditional pierogi cooking class, vegetarian Indian food tutorial, and home-cooking in Moscow will tickle the fancy of foodies around the world. For a more culture-based experience, a How to Become Polish in an Hour adventure set in Krakow, Poland, will do the trick.
Another tour company, G Adventures, offers virtual walking tours hosted by their CEOs (Chief Experience Officers). The locations vary, but past tours have included the Inca Trail in Peru, Cape Town in South Africa, the Galapagos Islands, and even Antarctica.
Until we can experience new places with all five senses, a virtual experience is an excellent substitution. Virtual tours are in abundance right now, so enjoy one while you can!
Here are a few other virtual experiences we recommend!
- For the curious: 9 Fascinating Virtual Tours For History Lovers
- For big-city fans: The Best Virtual Museum Experiences In The 10 Most-Visited Countries
- For the cooped-up sightseer: 11 Fantastic Virtual Visits To The World’s Most Famous Landmarks