how to satisfy your lockdown wanderlust

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

Woman holding an umbrella walking through a row of cherry blossom trees in full bloom

Cherry aid … blossom trees. Photograph: Kristine T Pham Photography/Getty Images

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

Couple practising yoga at home

You’re on beach, honest! A dose of home yoga. Photograph: vgajic/Getty Images

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.

Listen to podcasts

Posed by model Listening on headphones at home Shot of a young woman using headphones while relaxing on the sofa at home

For the love of podcasts … take an aural trip out of Covid restrictions. Photograph: Delmaine Donson/Getty Images

Leamy found joy in podcasts during lockdown: “Listening to a conversation on a podcast is like listening to a friend on the phone.” Her favourite travel podcasts are Books and Travel by Joanna Penn – “she interviews really interesting people and brings places to life” – and My Camino with the Sydney broadcaster Dan Mullins. “It is much deeper than just talking about walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. It is about the connections, the community and the personal changes people experience while challenging themselves.”

Read books and magazines

Sam Bruce always has an audiobook on the go – currently David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet. He says: “His passion and appreciation for our planet’s wildlife and wild places is so contagious and energising.” His other top tip is a subscription to a travel magazine; in his case, Sidetracked. “It’s packed with short stories by inspiring people of very cool adventures in far-flung places,” he says. Meanwhile, the adventurer Alastair Humphreys’ reading list is a mix of whimsical and practical books.

Make a collage or scrapbook

Sally White from Inntravel has made a collage and put it by her desk “to keep my travel dreams alive”. It includes postcards, photographs and other mementos of places she has visited. You could also organise your old travel photos, or try sketching.

Smith has been making new memories on walks with her baby and recording them in a scrapbook. “I’ve been logging the first year of his life outdoors: the first time he heard birdsong, tasted rain, felt snow on his face or saw a murmuration,” she says. “It’s made the walks really special.”

Grow your own holiday

A balcony garden

Top of the crops … balcony garden. Photograph: ibnjaafar/Getty Images

Asoni usually spends 70% of her time in Essaouira in Morocco, but has been in a flat in London since the first lockdown. To recreate a little patch of Morocco, “I’ve been cultivating an apartment garden on my balcony, growing herbs and making different tea blends”, she says. If you don’t have any outside space, you can still grow herbs and some vegetables on a windowsill.

If you do have a garden, you could always copy Bret Charman, a photographer who works for the travel company Wildlife Worldwide. He was missing his wildlife expeditions so much that he built a hide in his back garden – although so far he hasn’t snapped anything more exciting than a blackbird.

Learn some useful skills

“Lockdown is a really good time to acquire a new skill,” says Smith. For her, that means practising setting up her hammock, sleeping bag and tarp in preparation for sleeping outside in cold or rainy conditions. Leamy recommends honing your packing skills or starting to learn a language.

Go on a microadventure

Humphreys is an advocate of microadventures: “short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding”. His lockdown-friendly ideas include climbing the same tree once a month, going for a night walk under a full moon and ordering a custom-made map of your area, then exploring.

Make future travel plans

Sam Bruce and his daughter Zoe often flick through an atlas for kids called Follow Me Around the World. “She says she wants to see everything and go everywhere ‘when the germs go away’, so I’d say it’s worked on her,” he says. He has also spent a lot of time on Instagram, researching the places and things he wants to do post-lockdown. “In the first lockdown, I followed a load of accounts and hashtags related to destinations on our (long) to-go list, so my feed has been a tease of cool places. That’s been a lovely daily reminder that there is a great big world out there waiting for us when lockdown is over.”