Is it possible to travel without leaving your home? With a little creativity, yes it is! While there is no substitute for the real thing, there are still ways to experience the world without actually going anywhere. Being confined during lockdowns really helped us to use our imaginations to bring the wider world into our homes while dreaming and planning for the future. Welcome to the world of armchair travel! In this guide, we explore the many ways you can bring the whole wide world into the place you live.
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What is armchair travel?
The term ‘armchair travel’ has been around for a while, but its focus used to be on sensory travel experiences for elderly and physically incapacitated people. But in the post-pandemic world, the term has gained a far broader meaning.
With people travelling less for a variety of reasons – restrictions, climate change and financial challenges to name a few – many are seeking ways to have worldly experiences through other means.
Armchair travel is all about discovering the world without actually going anywhere. Whether that’s through virtual experiences, planning a future trip or bringing the world into your home, there are many ways to do it. Let’s begin.
Armchair travel: discover the world through popular culture
So much of the world’s best literature, music and cinema has been inspired by places and journeys. When real travel is not possible, there is an endless supply of books, movies, documentaries, music, podcasts and other media we can draw upon to connect ourselves with the wider world.
Art inspired by travel provides a form of escapism like no other. It can transport us out of our living rooms to anywhere in the world, and make us dream about another existence, and explore new possibilities.
Get lost in a travel book
I once heard it said that if you have enough money to pay the rent and buy books, then you are rich. It’s a comforting thought that even when you cannot actually travel, you can still experience it vicariously through the words of others.
We recently compiled 35 of the best books about travel chosen by bloggers around the world. It’s a mixture of classics and underrated gems, and stories about places and personal journeys. These are three of our favourite travel-inspired books:
I read Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia on a 24-hour bus ride into the region. The anecdotes and vivid descriptions made me hungry for exploration.
Notes from a Small Island
Bill Bryson writes about his farewell trip around the UK. Notes from a Small Island taught me so much I didn’t know about my homeland.
Lisa raved about Cheryl Strayed’s self discovery on the Pacific Crest Trail told in Wild for weeks after reading it. The movie is pretty good too.
Find travel inspiration on the screen
Reading isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but most people love a good movie every now and again. A great story set in a stunning location is the perfect recipe for firing up some wanderlust.
We’re working on a compilation of the best travel movies to share with you soon (I’ve never had more fun in researching an article), but for now, here are a couple of trailers for our favourite travel-related flicks:
I’m biased because Patagonia is my favourite place. The movie doesn’t feature the region’s prettiest parts, but has gorgeous nighttime shots, and lots of rural Wales too.
Funny, compelling, fast-paced, and beautifully shot in the medieval city of Bruges. I saw this a week after going there, and the direction really does justice to the place.
Listen to travel podcasts
Of all the advancements in media technology over the last couple of decades – and there have been many – I think the emergence of podcasts is my favourite. The freedom to dip in and out of episodes at any time has even made me enjoy doing house chores. Exercise is also a lot more fun with earphones in and a good podcast on.
There’s a lot of great innovation out there when it comes to travel podcasting. Here’s a selection of some of the very best currently available. These are three of my go-to travel podcasts:
World Nomads Travel Podcast
A travel insurance provider that runs a podcast featuring inspiring traveller interviews.
Hosts Amanda and Ryan bring you on their journey – Lisa and I featured on an episode a while back.
Travel Like A Boss
Johnny FD interviews location-independent entrepreneurs and digital nomads about their lifestyle.
Build your own travel soundtrack
Whenever we feel like reminiscing about our travels, Lisa and I open a bottle of wine and stick on some tunes that remind us of being in at a Buenos Aires asado night, an island party in the Philippines or a road trip in New Zealand.
If you’re dreaming about a future trip, do a bit of research and put together a playlist of songs that are popular in a country you want to visit. Here’s a cracking playlist I found that takes me right back to South America. The latin beats will be sure to get you fired up for future adventures (although unfortunately it does include Despacito, sorry about that…).
Alternatively, try listening to some songs with a travel-related theme, like a road trip or a particular place. Here’s a playlist of travel songs I put together with a mixture of classics and obscure belters.
Build your skills for travelling tomorrow
Travel is brilliant for learning new career skills, but there’s nothing to stop you getting started at home beforehand. If there is a particular skill you want to develop on your next trip, then why not do some groundwork ahead of time, whether by reading up or taking an online course. Here are some examples:
Learn scuba theory
Becoming qualified divers is one of the most fulfilling things we’ve done while travelling. PADI’s e-learning programme helps you start your scuba education.
Learn to blog
Blogging is a great way to record your travels, and you can also make it a source of income. Learn how to do it by taking the Blogging Fast Lane course.
Learn a language
Prepare for future travels by learning some language basics. I’m working on my Spanish, and my go-to resource is The Spanish Dude YouTube channel.
Ways to see the world from home
It’s true that there’s nothing like the real thing, but today it’s easier than ever to bring travel experiences into the place you live. The growing popularity of armchair travel has led many major attractions around the world to create simulations and replications that can be digested through a computer screen or television.
If you fire up YouTube and simply search for “360 virtual travel tours” you will find an extensive supply of panoramic videos to explore landmarks and cities around the world. Below I’ve picked out four of my favourite virtual tours in South America, three of which are places Lisa and I have been, along with another we hope to visit soon:
Patagonia, Argentina and Chile
This creation by The Guardian gives an insight into Patagonia, the most incredible place we’ve seen. Check our Patagonia itinerary to plan your own trip.
Machu Picchu, Peru
One of the Seven New Wonders of the World, this virtual tour explores the legend of Machu Picchu. Here’s our beginners’ guide to hiking the Inca Trail.
Angel Falls, Venezuela
Deep in the Venezuelan jungle, Angel Falls is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall. This 360 depiction shows why it’s high on our bucket list.
Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro
We preferred the view from Sugarloaf Mountain on our two days in Rio, but this 360 video shows the breathtaking landscape around the iconic statue.
Virtual museums and art galleries
Google Arts & Culture has partnered with museums around the world to make their displays accessible through virtual tours and exhibitions. Meanwhile, a growing number of museums and galleries are creating online experiences. Below we’ve picked out three cultural hubs we’ve visited on our travels that you can explore through Google’s project.
MASP, São Paulo
This art museum was a highlight of our time in the southern hemisphere’s biggest city. The virtual tour gives you a peek at the latest exhibits.
Maritime Museum, Sydney
We paid a trip to the Australian National Maritime Museum when we were in Sydney. Now we can revisit the stories of the sea online.
Doge’s Palace, Venice
We began our two days in Venice by perusing the fabled Doge’s Palace. The virtual tour enables you to see the highlights without all the crowds.
Take a random journey on Google Earth
Remember that “I’m feeling lucky” button under the Google search bar? Well, they’ve introduced it to the Google Earth interface, allowing you to pay a random virtual visit to places of interest around the world.
I just gave it a test ride, and in the space of a few seconds it took me to the San Miguel stratovolcano in El Salvador, Palmerstone Island in the Cook Islands and the Wat Traimit buddhist temple in Thailand (which we actually visited in real life during our week in Bangkok). Give Google Earth a whirl and see where it takes you.
Channel your creative spirit
Digesting virtual experiences is one way to feed your travel bug at home, but an alternative that can be even more rewarding is to create worldly experiences of your own. A few months after we returned home from a round-the-world world trip, Lisa wrote about ways to keep your travel passion alive at home, with a strong focus on creativity.
Here are six ways you can channel your creative spirit at home to bring travel vibes into your everyday life:
Travel-inspired home decor
Bring the world into your surroundings at home by decorating with a travel-inspired twist. Here are some ideas for travel-themed home decor.
Try photography at home
Another great skill to build that will come in handy when you travel. Get the camera out and practice with rooms, objects, pets and people.
Take photos of the stars
If you have a garden or outdoor space, head out at night and try your hand at astrophotography. Our guide to the Elqui Valley explains the basics.
Write world-inspired poetry
Put pen to paper and write some poems inspired by places you’ve been or dreams of future travel. You could even write a travel-themed novel.
Do a worldly jigsaw puzzle
There is an almost hypnotically therapeutic quality to jigsaw puzzles. We love spending an afternoon solving one with a travel-related image.
Create a travel mood board
Get yourself a pinboard (I have one with a world map on it) and fill it with images and tokens that make you think about places you’ve been.
Dream and plan a future trip
If there is no travel on your immediate horizon, it could be the perfect time to dream up a future trip. Our 101 guide to planning a round-the-world trip walks through the vital steps, beginning with the dreaming stage. Reach out to friends who have travelled, immerse yourself in travel-themed popular culture, and write down some ideas.
With more time on your hands, you could go a step further and use the chance to start planning a travel career break.
Bring the world into your kitchen
Discovering new tastes and cooking traditions is one of the things we love most about travel, and thankfully it’s a joy that’s easy to take home. Cook up some international cuisine and it will bring the flavour of your travels into everyday life.
Here are three of our favourite cuisines to cook at home – enjoy with an exotic beer or a suitable bottle of wine:
We took a cooking class in Vietnam and loved it. At home we turn to My Vietnamese Kitchen to make our favourites like pho and bun cha.
After gorging on ceviche, causa and other Peruvian cuisine for a month we bought Andina to try and recreate some of the recipes at home.
Lisa has become a pro with Italian cooking since our tour of wineries in Umbria. To get on top of the basics, get a copy of Mastering Pasta.
Have you found any more ways to feed your love of travel while at home? Let us know in the comments below.
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