Melissa Douglas
Award-winning British Travel Writer

Armchair Travel: How to Keep Your Wanderlust Alive during a Pandemic

People around the world have seen their lives severely affected by coronavirus. One area that has been especially impacted? Travel. 

The 2020 pandemic has meant that thousands of much-anticipated travel plans have had to be canceled. Now, countries in Asia and Europe are slowly starting to reopen their borders. Travel to vacations to far-flung destinations may not be as far off as we had thought. However, now there are other caveats to travel. 

The Gradual Return to International Travel 

Experts predict that it may be as much as three years before travel returns to 2019 levels. This is not solely caused by restrictions, but also due to a lack of confidence in the safety of airline travel, an apprehension of what may happen if they get sick overseas, and a level of uncertainty with regards to precisely what travel insurance plans cover. 

The economic downturn that has stemmed from the pandemic also means that many people do not have the disposable income to think about travels right now. Covering rent, bills, and living costs is challenging enough in the current financial climate. Not to mention, those of a certain age group, those flying with a baby, or living with an existing health condition may be even more reluctant to venture overseas for fear of falling ill.  

None of this is great news for those working in the travel industry. However, for those dreaming of exotic lands and different cultures will be pleased that there are still many ways to satisfy their wanderlust during these uncertain times. 

Ways to Enjoy Armchair Travel 

There are several ways in which you can get your travel fix when you cannot travel. From the eccentric to the thought-provoking, a few ways to keep your wanderlust alive are suggested below. 

Take Virtual Tours & Attend Online Events

Virtual tours are likely to be around for a fair while, even after travel restrictions are lifted. The best virtual tours around the world enable you to wander through the exhibit halls of the Louvre, enjoy spectacular panoramas of world capitals, and tread the footpaths of the top USA National Parks by state

You don’t have to wait for your trip to Paris to experience masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa, the Galerie d’Apollon, and the Louvre’s moat. Nor do you have to wait until you travel to Italy to learn about the winemaking process from a Sommelier. 

Many online virtual tours are completely free to enjoy. Similarly, travel companies such as Airbnb are offering online classes and experiences. You can also attend online meetup events and quiz nights where you have the opportunity to speak to other travelers from across the globe. 

Recreate Your Favourite Travel Experiences at Home 

It is easy to recreate some of your favorite travel experiences at home. You may be disappointed that you cannot indulge your senses at a traditional Turkish hammam in Istanbul. However, you can easily recreate a Turkish hammam at home by steaming up your bathroom, exfoliating with a kese mitt, and pampering yourself with indulgent bath and hair products. Sure it isn’t exactly the same, but play some Sufi music in the background and you will soon feel transported to more exotic pastures. 

Similarly, you can bring the great outdoors inside. Invest in some indoor plants and elevate your mood by surrounding your home office space with hues of greens, pink and yellow. Studies have shown that house plants have a positive impact on mental health.  

Prepare for Your Trips in Advance 

Perhaps your dreams of hiking in Germany, treading the Camino de Santiago, or trekking to the sun-bleached ruins of Machu Picchu are currently on pause. That doesn’t mean that you have to quash your travel plans completely. 

Get everything ready in advance so that you can still enjoy the planning stage of your trip. Browse through travel blogs, purchase the best travel gear ready for your trip, and map out your itinerary. When restrictions lift and the pandemic situation improves, you will be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Wheelchair travel blog writer Cory Lee advises that optimism and trip-planning are a wonderful way to pass the time in lockdown. His 2020 plans may have been written off, but organising a trip to Japan, and a cross-country USA road trip for 2021 has given him something to look forward to during his self-isolation. 

Travel Podcasts & Literature 

Take the time to read books about travel and listen to podcasts when you cannot travel. Travel podcasts act to both provide inspiration for your future adventures, and to help you to become a more mindful, ethical traveler when you do. 

Holly Rubenstein’s “The Travel Diaries” is one of the most popular travel podcasts currently available for streaming. Rubenstein interviews an array of celebrities and travel professionals on their travel experiences. 

Books and memoirs of fictional and real travel experiences allow you to live vicariously through literature. Bestselling Travel Writer Bill Bryson is renowned for his comedic writing style and tales of travel mishaps. Wild by Cheryl Strayed tells one woman’s inspiring adventure of hiking the PCT to overcome grief and the loss of her mother. 

Learn New Recipes from Around the World 

International cooking at home is as easy as simply browsing food blogs and watching Youtube cooking tutorials. Recreate your favorite foodie experiences from your trips to Barcelona by browsing Spanish food blogs and preparing your own Spanish tapas food

Relive your Rome itinerary by taking an online cooking class with an Italian chef and impress your family and friends with your ability to make gnocchi Alla Romana “just like Nonna”. While you cannot dine in Tbilisi restaurants, try your hand at creating your own khachapuri. Your newly acquired cooking skills will be useful long after lockdowns end. 

Reflect on Old Adventures 

Organizing old photos, scrapbooking, blogging, and discussing previous travel experiences with friends over Zoom calls are great ways to relive your previous travel experiences. Reliving travel memories is even proven to improve mental health and to combat stress. Casting your mind back to your adventures in Nusa Lembongan and Bali is a far more exciting topic of conversation for your weekly zoom call, as opposed to dwelling on the pandemic and how you can’t stop snacking during self-isolation. 

Get Involved with Global Charities 

There are many ways in which travel enables us to make a positive impact on the world. For instance, volunteering at a Thailand Elephant Sanctuary, working at refugee camps in Greece, and getting involved with humanitarian work in our own countries. 

Offering a “hands-on” approach to helping out is a little trickier at the moment. However, there are certainly still ways to make a difference. You can still aid charities that are based on other countries or continents in inventive ways. 

Fundraise by making and selling candles, soap, or other straightforward handicrafts. This also gives you another way to pass the time while you are stuck at home. Donate money online, or use your social media platforms to educate your friends and family about causes that you are passionate about.

Explore Places Closer to Home 

Domestic travel will become accessible way before international travel does. It always seems to be the most unusual ideas and adventures that seem the most appealing. However, you will probably find that there are lots of places that are right on your doorstep just waiting to be explored. 

Drive out to a nearby town or village and enjoy a (socially distanced) walk in a place that you have never taken the time to explore. Create travel-inspired activities to do at home such as making bagels, watching broadway musicals online, and pretending you are in NYC. 

Play Travel-Themed Puzzles and Board Games

Landscape jigsaw puzzles give you the opportunity to train your brain and to recreate beautiful images and panoramas from your favorite travel destinations. There are even bespoke services online that allow you to custom-make a jigsaw puzzle of one of your favorite travel photographs. Travel and geography themed board and trivia games such as Airlines, Cities of the World, and Risk let you work on your strategy skills and learn about the world from the comfort of your living room.

The travel industry will recover and we will explore our beautiful planet again. In the short term, we may have to take precautions to make travel safer post-pandemic. However eventually, this will all be a distant memory that has taught us to better appreciate the world that we live in.

About the Author
Melissa Douglas is a professional travel writer and full-time digital nomad from the UK. She manages - a trusted solo female travel website, which she uses as a platform to encourage women to push themselves outside of their comfort zones.