It is still more than a month until people can go on holiday in England, while foreign travel won’t be allowed until at least 17 May. So how can you get your travel fix without breaking lockdown rules? We asked some seasoned travellers how they are exploring the world from their own homes.
Take a virtual trip
Katherine Leamy, AKA the 5 Kilo Traveller, is “addicted” to Virtualtrips’ free live-streamed tours, which are led by local guides and followed in real time by armchair travellers all over the world. Her first trip was a walking tour of Gaudí buildings in Barcelona and she has since visited the night markets of Luxor and gone blossom-spotting in Tokyo – all from her home in Hamilton, New Zealand. “It is an absolutely uplifting experience,” she says. “I am on a complete high afterwards. You feel like you are right there – without the 24-hour flight!”
VisitEngland also lists virtual tours of museums, galleries and other attractions, plus online festivals, wildlife webcams, livestreamed culture and more.
Go on a neighbourhood safari
Sam Bruce is the co-founder of the adventure travel company Much Better Adventures and is used to exploring wild places around the world. During the pandemic, he has got to know his local green spaces instead. “We have two young kids and no garden, but we’re very fortunate to be surrounded by parks, waterways and forests,” he says. “A book that has helped us appreciate what’s around us is The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. It’s been really good for noticing and naming the nature around us that we might have walked right past before. My three-year-old daughter, Zoe, now points and shouts ‘Fern!’ whenever we see one.”
Phoebe Smith, an adventurer who is known for “extreme sleeping” (perched on a cliff, suspended in trees), has also turned her attention to her immediate surroundings. “I’ve invested in a macro lens for my camera, so I can capture minutiae such as flowers and insects on my daily walks,” she says. “Lichen and moss look like a miniature rainforest when you see them in closeup.”
Travel through food and drink
“Tastes and smells can instantly recreate a place,” says Smith. “Fresh mint tea takes me back to Wadi Rum in Jordan.” As a keen camper and the author of The Wilderness Cookbook, she has been cooking simple recipes on a camping stove in her garden – “hearty vegetable stews, tagines, simple campfire bread. I take lots of blankets, then sit and look up at the stars. I’d never thought to do stargazing at home until now.”
Cooking a different cuisine each week is a popular lockdown pastime, but Ingrid Asoni, the founder of Consciously Connected Travel, takes it to another level. “I have a curated day each week focusing on a different country: playing music, recreating smells with candles or incense, cooking and making cocktails,” she says. “It gives you something to look forward to. If you’ve always wanted to travel to, say, Indonesia, make a day of it. Cuba is fun because there’s always rum involved!”
If you are not a confident cook, you could try a restaurant delivery kit, such as the paella from Arros QD in London or the pizza kits from Pizzarova in Bristol.
Get into maps
The number of searches on Pinterest for “fantasy map making” have tripled as people find escapism in the worlds of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. Have a go at making your own fantasy map, or learn from the artist Fuller – who created a pandemic survival map – or the fantasy cartographer Martin Vargic.
Exploring via Google Street
View has also become more popular during the pandemic, according to the New Yorker. Not sure where you want to go? Random Street View and Map Crunch send users to randomly generated locations.
Smith has been poring over Ordnance Survey maps. “I’ve been doing map-reading in a different way, not as an orienteering exercise,” she says. “I’ve learned to really read an OS map: visualising the terrain, looking at the place names and thinking about the folklore.” For planning routes, Bruce finds Alltrails particularly helpful.
Go on a (home) retreat
Many wellness companies have moved online during the pandemic. Consciously Connected Travel runs weekly workshops on everything from shojin ryori cooking – the cuisine of Japanese Buddhist monks – to art-making and meditation. Asoni hopes the classes break the monotony of lockdown by exposing people to different destinations and cultures.
There is no shortage of home yoga retreats – try Movement for Modern Life or Adventure Yogi – while In:Spa’s seven-day virtual retreats focus on fitness and nutrition. Soul & Surf, a surfing and yoga company, has an “at home” subscription service. Yoga classes are taught by teachers in Portugal, Sri Lanka and Kerala, so you can pretend you are doing a downward dog on the beach, rather than in your bedroom.
Escape through TV and film …
Smith has missed wilder parts of the UK, such as the Highlands, Snowdonia and the Lake District. She watched the BBC’s Life of a Mountain: A Year on Helvellyn. “It made me feel like I was back in the Lake District and it was wonderful to see the mountain in all seasons,” she says. “It’s perfect slow travel TV.” Bruce got an adrenaline rush by watching these 16 “particularly beautiful” (and free to watch) short adventure films.
Rebecca Bruce (no relation) from the walking company Inntravel, by contrast, is yearning to stay in a good hotel. She has been watching the BBC series Amazing Hotels – Life Beyond the Lobby. “Some of the hotels are total fantasy destinations – the one in St Lucia was incredible – but they have also visited hotels in North Yorkshire and Scotland that are slightly more accessible to us non-millionaires,” she says. “It is wonderful travel escapism.”
… and music
Charlotte Phillips, also from Inntravel, has been inspired by Spotify playlists. “A few months ago, a really beautiful Swedish piece appeared in my playlists, called Gammal Fäbodpsalm från Dalarna (Old Summer Pasture Hymn from Dalarna).” This led her to research Dalarna in central Sweden, which is a popular holiday destination for Swedes from the south; she is planning a trip there when restrictions allow. Consciously Connected Travel creates a Spotify playlist every month, with sounds and songs from different countries and cultures.