How to “Travel” while you’re safe at home

While we can’t physically go somewhere right now, there are lots of creative ways to travel at home. Here are some ideas & virtual experiences.

If you’re like me, wanderlust is nipping at your heels.

“Nipping” is an understatement. I want to explore museums, visit a National Park, go for a hike, talk to strangers and eat food that I didn’t prepare.

I want to hear live music and watch plays and learn something new.

The good news is, I can do all of that from home.

Is it the same as loading up the car and going on a road trip? No. Is it the same as getting so close to a Van Gogh that you can see the brush strokes and it makes you cry? No.

It’s not the same, but while we need to stay safe at home, here are ways you can still experience beauty, culture, and nature.

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How to Travel at home

Read a Travel Book

Heceta Head Lighthouse on the coast of Oregon
Heceta Head Lighthouse in Oregon, featured in Two Lane Gems, Vol. 2

As the author of two road trip epics, of course this is going to be one of my ways to virtually escape!

pssst. I’m posting a chapter a day of Two Lane Gems, Vol. 1: Turkeys are Jerks and Other Observations from an American Road Trip!

Books like Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, Kerouac’s On the Road, Twain’s The Innocents Abroad bring the authors’ experiences to life. While you’re in those pages, the stories become your reality.

Have you always wanted to follow the path of Lewis and Clark? You can read their journals, including all of their creative spelling.

I’ve gathered a few of these great travel books on Bookshop. This new online store donates a portion of its sales to independent bookstores. When you buy a book from them, you’re helping keep local stores alive, too.

Browse travel books on Bookshop

Explore Museums from Home

Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin; a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin

Would you like to see Hopper’s Nighthawks, or Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte? What about a rainy day on a Paris street, captured by Gustave Caillebotte? They’re all at the Art Institute of Chicago, displayed online along with thousands of other magnificent works of art in their collections.

Take a virtual tour of The British Museum, complete with audio and a cool interactive design that shows how various items are connected.

You can explore the collections and “climb” the Guggenheim, the concentric museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Speaking of FLW, you can take a virtual tour of Taliesin, his home and studio in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History has its entire museum available in a 360-degree, room-by-room tour. Travel into the past with The Field Museum of Natural History’s library of moving images.

For even more arts and culture, Google has thousands of images and collections.

Visit a National Park

Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park

While the National Park Service is operating on a park-by-park basis, many of them are closed, and even if the park itself isn’t closed, access to certain areas and any facilities will be. You’re advised to check on any place you want to visit individually.

Best bet, for now, is to travel virtually.

You can check the NPS website for virtual tours, videos, and webcams, as well as photo galleries. They’ve also got podcasts and audio programs.

Google Maps has brought street view to the Grand Canyon, so you can take a virtual hike.

Yellowstone National Park
Snow in Bryce Canyon

And here on TLT, we’ve got a few stories about National Parks and Monuments, with more to come:

You can also take a virtual tour of The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, California.

Take a Virtual Walking Tour

Chicago Detours is a popular company that’s moved their tours online. Now you don’t even have to travel to Chicago to experience it like a local.

They’re offering several live, virtual tours, as well as “Historic Happy Hours.”

Registration is required and the tours are free, but it would be really nice if you donated to thank them for their time and to help keep them afloat. They’re only requesting $5 to $15, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you gave more.

Prowalk Tours has 113,000 subscribers on YouTube, and you might be their next one. Their channel is all about walking tours, and it’s like you’re holding the camera as you tour the world. 4K Urban Life is another channel with virtual tours.

Order from a Local Restaurant

Orrechiete Rustica at 750 Cucina Rustica
Pasta from 750 Cucina Rustica in Cary, Illinois, one of the many restaurants I plan to visit as soon as I can!

One of the best things about traveling is trying the local cuisine. Well, why not do that at home, too?

Restaurant dining rooms may be closed right now, but many of them are offering delivery or curbside pickup. By ordering one or two meals (if not more) a week from your local restaurants, you can help keep them afloat so they’ll still be there when this is over.

Tip: When you do get carry-out or delivery, plate it up as if you were dining out. You can’t replicate the experience entirely (I mean, somebody has to do the dishes), but treating it like a special experience will make sure it is one.

How do you find restaurants that are open for carryout or delivery? Check out Dining at a Distance. This resource popped up almost immediately and now includes listings from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Boston, Massachusetts. There are even listings for Paris, London, and Prague.

If your community is not listed on the site, you can submit a request to be added.

You can also find local restaurants be checking their websites and Facebook pages. And, if you’re in the Chicago area, check our sister site Your Chicago Guide. There’s a listing of Chicagoland restaurants offering curbside service and delivery.

Experience Live Music

Chuck, Rick, and Frank playing at Chateau Thomas Winery
Seeing live music in Brown County, Indiana, in 2019

There’s nothing like live music to stir the soul, and musicians and arts organizations are being generous with their talents.

Opera Carolina is hosting live-streaming concerts on their Facebook page every Friday at 6 pm Eastern.

The Metropolitan Opera is not streaming live events, but they are sharing previously recorded performances.

Social Distancing Presents shares Facebook live concerts, and there’s often a virtual tip jar so you can thank the artist.

Nashville’s Visit Music City has a calendar of upcoming concerts. Pamela McKuen has a great post about even more music coming out of Nashville.

Billboard has a long, long, long list of previous and upcoming streaming performances.

Chicagoland Musicians Facebook Live Broadcast Calendar is posting as many as they can find.

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center has a few live streams as well as a good-sized catalog of videos.

Consequence of Sound has a list of virtual concerts, too. So does NPR. Theirs is organized by date and genre.

Talk to Strangers

One of my favorite things about travel is the people I meet along the way. Whether it’s volunteers at an out-of-the way museum, a World War II vet, or road trippers who share their stories, the people truly make these experiences special.

If we can’t travel, if bars and parks and restaurants are closed, how do we meet those strangers?

Through social media. The Local Tourist has a new but very active Facebook group. We’re sharing pictures from our travels, and each day there’s a different theme. We’re engaging, interacting, and most importantly, talking to strangers who become friends. Join us, won’t you? I’d love to meet you!

I hope this has given you some ideas that will help you indulge your wanderlust and give you a little virtual giveaway.

As I think of more ways to travel from home, I’ll add them to this list, so be sure to pin it for later!

While we can't physically go somewhere right now, there are lots of creative ways to travel from home. Here are some ideas & virtual experiences.
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