Image Credit: Pixabay: PEXELS
From watching the northern lights to taking a trek along the Sahara desert, some of the most incredible, convenient travel experiences can be found online, and enjoyed in the comfort of your home. The third lockdown has brought nothing but more dull monotony – the same four walls, and nowhere to direct growing wanderlust. However, the internet does not disappoint, with a massive variety of experiences, landscape webcams and travel shows anywhere you can think of around the world. From more interactive and educational journeys to stress reducing, drone flyovers, once again in this pandemic, technology provides an invaluable resource. So, if we can contact friends and family many miles away, why not use the opportunity to learn about and experience a new culture? What’s more, many of the resources discussed are free; your imagination is the only limit!
In March 2020, the number of times ‘virtual tour’ was googled increased ten-fold, a trend that continued throughout the year, as people briefly tried to escape their homes. In 2021, the demand for such experiences has only continued to climb.
In response, there are thousands of easy to find online experiences in a massive range of cities and countries. Most simply, a quick search on YouTube will find free, informative and absorbing tours of cities across Europe. There are nature explorers, national park adventures and even a couple visiting every British railway station- for something closer to home. If you can catch them, there are even live tours from locals (mostly in European cities), where you may have the option to ask questions as you go, making it feel more real. For a more instantaneous experience, there are also plenty of 360° photo and video tours, most are stunning quality and offer interesting information at the click of a mouse.
Google itself offers a wide range of virtual travel features, for art fans, they have curated numerous virtual art collections from galleries such as the Tate, the Met and the Van Gogh museum. Most have the option to virtually walk around, perfect for aimless wandering and as I found out, you can easily lose just as much time. There is also the classic wandering of Google Earth, randomly placing the figure in street view is always interesting. But Google Earth also features experiences such as the earth at night, photo spheres and virtual nature treks, all accompanied by relevant information.
For a slightly more calming experience, live webcams are the way to go. If there's somewhere you’ve been before or somewhere you’d love to go, a webcam is great to get a picture of exactly what the location is like, so you can immediately start planning post lockdown trips. Some of the best are safari parks across Africa where you may catch an elephant at a waterhole. Or, if you're lucky, the Aurora Borealis from islands off Norway, although perhaps check the forecast because I have yet to see anything but an empty sky! Another great experience is Window-swap, a webpage that allows your laptop to become a completely random window with an amazing view from anywhere in the world. This is particularly good for study days, to break up staring at the same four walls, and the window effect is especially convincing. There are also relaxing lengthy videos from the window of a bus or train, if you simply miss the luxury of staring out onto ever-changing scenery on your journey. These allow you to enjoy the scenery from somewhere you may never end up in person.
A final tool for escapism is the many travel shows and documentaries available on various streaming services. One of my favourite and most entertaining is the BBC’s race around the world which has two series available on the iPlayer. Restricted to the most basic of resources and banned from flying, pairs compete with a limited budget to race from one destination to another. Despite its fast pace, the show often stops to appreciate the culture and beauty of the surroundings. For a more lengthy series there are plenty of long-term wanderers on YouTube such as Iohan who set off on a bike in 2014 from the arctic ocean in Canada and hasn't stopped yet. Even a David Attenborough documentary, of which Netflix has plenty, allows a brief, tranquil escape and an appreciation of nature thousands of miles away. You’ll never have a cheaper holiday.