During normal years, there are always times when you’re stuck at home when you’d rather be traveling. After all, we all need to build up our travel savings again after a trip or put in some time at the office to accrue more vacation days.
2020, however, was anything but normal.
Coronavirus has impacted every single facet of our lives—including curtailing our ability to travel. And even as we begin to get back out there, we may still experience times when we can't travel as much as wanderlust would like.
To that end, we’ve put together this list of 23 ways to incorporate travel into your life even when you have to stay put.
1. Read Adventure Stories
Pick up a book that’ll transport you elsewhere and engage in some good old-fashioned armchair travel. Travel memoirs are great candidates, of course, but don’t overlook the fiction sections. From historical fiction set in far-off places (think Irving Stone’s “The Agony and the Ecstasy” or Arthur Golden’s “Memoirs of a Geisha”) to fantasies set in other worlds (“The Lord of the Rings” and “The Once and Future King” are classics for good reason), there are adventures aplenty to keep any bookworm happy. And don’t forget, you can access your library through audiobook/ebook apps, making it even easier to indulge in a good book.
2. Watch an International Film
One of the easiest ways to add a little travel spice to your life is to watch a movie from another country. You’ve got lots of options to tap into without leaving your house. Browse the listings on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime to find your next adventure flick.
>> Check out our list of the best travel movies ever made.
3. Subscribe to a Snacks of the World Box
If you love trying new foods when you travel, get tasty treats from around the world delivered to your door. Companies like SnackCrate, Universal Yums, and MunchPak curate boxes of snacks from a different country every month. You’ll learn a little bit about what other cultures like in their snack foods, from salty to sweet to umami, plus you’ll get information packets about the country and its cuisine.
4. Learn a New Language
You may be stuck at home, but if you’ve already got your next destination in mind, why not learn the language to keep you busy? Language apps and websites abound, both free and paid, so you can pick the one that suits your learning style best. And if you’re looking for ways to keep your language skills fresh in between trips, find an online group (such as international friends you already know or a group you join on social media) where you can practice through video chats.
>> Get tips on traveling to a place where you aren't fluent
5. Check Out Worldwide Webcams
Sometimes it’s nice to just watch the world go by, even if you can’t be out there right now. Luckily, we live in the age of the webcam. EarthCam has links to webcams in major cities all over the world as well as a camera trained on Niagara Falls. The Skyline Webcams have views overlooking Europe’s main squares, Explore’s webcams include options in African wildlife parks, and there are virtual tours in some of the United States’ National Parks, like Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Bryce Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, and the famous Katmai Bear Cams.
6. Cook a Favorite Foreign Dish
New flavors are such an important part of travel for many, so bring the world into your kitchen. Pick a favorite meal you’ve enjoyed on your travels to see if you can make it at home, or get really adventurous by trying out a brand-new recipe you’ve never tasted before. Try David Lebovitz’s “My Paris Kitchen,” Katie Parla’s “Tasting Rome,” Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s “Jerusalem: A Cookbook,” or Maori Murota’s “Tokyo Cult Recipes” for country-specific dishes. More general international cookbooks include “Near and Far” by Heidi Swanson and Samin Nosrat’s “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” (an excellent companion to the Netflix miniseries of the same name). Online cooking inspiration and lessons abound, too, like the international flavors of Green Kitchen Stories, What Katie Ate, Foodie Quine, and Lavender and Lovage.
>> For a limited time while we’re all staying close to home, The Milk Street Kitchen’s online cooking classes (lots of great, general cooking tips and recipes) are all free of charge.
7. Shop in an International Market
Another way to incorporate foreign flavors into your everyday life at home is to shop at an international market near you. Look for Asian or Mexican grocery stores, for instance, and you’ll find shelves stocked with both the staples you might need to prepare Asian or Mexican dishes and fun snacks and treats you’ve never had before.
8. Go on a New-to-You Hike or Walk
Weather permitting, find a hike near you that you’ve never done before and hit the trail. Even a long walk through a part of town you don’t know well can add an element of adventure to your day (just keep those recommended distances between other people in mind).
9. Go on VR Tours of Museums and Famous Attractions
Lots of major museums and attractions around the globe have virtual reality tours these days, and there’s no better time to check them out than when you’re not able to travel. Travel + Leisure has a list of some museum heavyweights, including London’s British Museum, Florence’s Uffizi, and New York’s Guggenheim. There are also HD images of masterpieces that offer far better views of the art than you could ever have even if you were standing right in front of them. HaltaDefenizione is an Italian project (the name means “high definition”) whose library includes Botticelli’s “Primavera,” Caravaggio’s “The Calling of Saint Matthew,” and even Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.”
10. Watch Travel TV Shows
Do some research for future travel by watching travel shows. Look for titles by everyone’s favorite travel nerd, Rick Steves, as well as Rudy Maxa, Globe Trekker, and Anthony Bourdain. Hit pause regularly so you can take notes on anything you might want to replicate someday.
>> Check out our 50 favorite travel tv shows
11. Challenge Friends to a Virtual Travel Trivia Game
Organize some of your travel-loving friends for a video chat with a pub quiz element. Maybe you or one of your friends already has Trivial Pursuit’s Travel Edition (or can find it for sale online), in which case you’ve got a ready source of hundreds of questions. Otherwise, the internet is full of travel quizzes to keep you entertained and (who knows?) educated. Condé Nast Traveller’s “Ultimate Travel Quiz” has 100 questions, Lonely Planet has its own travel quiz, GeoGuessr offers daily travel game challenges, and quiz site Sporcle has a variety of travel- and destination-related quizzes to choose from.
12. Ask Older Family Members About Their Travel Memories
If your parents, grandparents, or any other family members love travel as much as you do, call them up and ask about their favorite travel memories. Whether you’re sharing experiences of seeing the same place in different eras or hearing about trips they went on to places you’ve never been, you’re sure to learn something new about the world and your family.
13. Join (or Start) a Virtual Club with Fellow Travel Enthusiasts
Another way to share travel adventures with others without leaving home is to swap stories. Think of it like a book club, only for travel. Check out our very own Travel Community to talk travel with members around the world, or set up a weekly video chat with a group of friends, taking turns to share photos and stories from previous trips.
14. Do a Puzzle of a Travel Photo
Get yourself a puzzle or two depicting beautiful locations around the world and you’ll always have something on hand to keep yourself occupied for a few days. Or you can take puzzles into another dimension with a 3D puzzle of, say, the Eiffel Tower to get a whole new perspective on famous monuments.
15. Get Crafty
That between-trips time might just be the excuse you need to finally put together a photo album or scrapbook from your last trip, whether it’s a book you create online with digital photos or an old-school scrapbook full of ticket stubs and other memorabilia. If photo albums aren’t your cup of tea, you could turn some of your travel photos into greeting cards to send to your friends and family. Or, perhaps you’d like to learn another culture’s arts and crafts traditions? Try your hand at origami, for instance—all you need is paper.
16. Stream International Radio Stations
Tuning into radio stations broadcasting all over the world is both easy and fun, especially if you’re working on learning the language. If you already use TuneIn Radio, browse their “World” section to find radio stations both located in other countries and those playing world music. Or simply spin the globe on Radio Garden to tune into frequencies in just about every country, save your favorites, and you’ve got a ready supply of international music and entertainment.
17. Zoom in on Your Favorite Places
Google’s Street View allows you to walk around almost anywhere on earth these days. Revisit the streets of your youth (Does your high school still look the same? Is your childhood home the same color?), places you’ve loved on your travels (Remember that cafe you went to every day when you were in Paris last year?), or go exploring to discover something new in a city you haven’t been to (yet).
18. Create a Travel Playlist
Music can be soothing and inspiring, and it can also remind us of trips we’ve taken. Look up the songs that were radio hits when you studied abroad in college and put them into a Spotify playlist. Create “top 10” lists by country, depending on what’s on the charts in each. (Sure, you may find that many countries have American or British bands on their lists, but you’re also likely to find local artists you’ve never heard of.) Find all the songs you can with cities or countries in the names, or all the songs that are about road trips or train rides. Do some crowd-sourcing of song ideas for added variety.
>> Check out our ultimate travel playlist of 100 songs.
19. Take an Online Class
Learning something new is always a good idea, and when it’s a topic that either hearkens back to a trip you once took or helps prepare you for the next one, that’s even better. Check out Khan Academy (completely free!) or The Great Courses to learn about art, architecture, or world history, for example—or even something like photography fundamentals to take better pictures on your next trip.
20. Do a Fun Research Project
Did you know that cats speak different languages, too? We might call a cat’s cry a “meow,” but in Indonesia it’s “meong,” and in Turkey it’s “miyav.” Words meant to mimic the sounds they describe (such as “meow”) are known as onomatopoeias, and they can vary dramatically depending on the language. Research your favorite onomatopoeias in different languages around the world—or whatever topic interests you.
21. Put Together a Travel-Themed Picnic
Just because you can’t hop on a plane doesn’t mean you can’t explore. Once you’ve whipped up a fun foreign treat or two, pack a picnic basket and find a scenic spot in which to eat it. Note: If you’re feeling especially isolated, make arrangements with friends to meet them for a joint picnic at the park—just be sure you’re maintaining the recommended space between people and not sharing picnic blankets, food, or utensils.
22. Travel Cosplay
Sometimes a little levity goes a long way. Perhaps you’ve seen the images of people who don’t want to give up the routine of a subway commute even though they can’t leave home right now? Well, maybe it’s time for you to get creative with some travel-related dress-up, too. Put on a bathrobe, pour a glass of bubbly, and chill out in beach chairs…that you’ve set up on your porch or balcony or back yard. Bonus points if you do so while listening to an ocean soundtrack or watching old episodes of “The Love Boat.”
23. Live the Hotel or Spa Life at Home
Pretend you’re enjoying the hotel life for a day by treating yourself to breakfast in bed or getting every meal delivered like it’s room service. Or, pamper yourself with an in-home spa day.