How To Keep Travelling When You Can't Leave Home
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (probably a smart idea right now), you know that the world has changed with COVID-19. Every country has been impacted by the pandemic and has been dealing with it in their own way. Travel isn’t exactly the smartest or accessible option at the moment, and if you’re like me, then you’re probably feeling a bit restless. I can’t remember the last time I stayed in one place for more than six months.
Quarantine, lockdown, and social distancing restrictions are making me stir crazy! I’m itching to surf in Costa Rica or eat all the food in Thailand. Rather than dwell on the fact that I can’t explore and experience foreign cultures right now, I’m inspired to get creative. I found a few ways to keep travelling without leaving home.
Curious to learn more? Here’re eight ways to get your travel fix at home.
1. Cook a meal from a country you’ve never been to
One of my favorite parts about travelling is tasting food that I never knew existed! So I started doing “International Night” with my partner — we dedicate every Thursday to cooking a different cuisine. So far, we’ve cooked khao soi from Thailand, empanadas from Colombia, and pierogies from Poland. Every International Night has its challenges, but that’s what makes it fun! We even document our cooking escapades on Instagram to inspire others to do the same!
So I encourage you to think of a place you’ve always wanted to visit, look up a few recipes (the New York Times Cooking app has a search bar specific to cuisine), read about what that dish means to that country or city, and get cooking! Play some local music if you’re feeling extra saucy. Bonus points, if you don’t eat in front of the television or your phone to make it feel like you’re at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in a faraway place with no service.
2. Learn a new language
I hate to admit that I didn’t know Spanish when I backpacked through South America. So I tried to learn as much as I could during long bus rides or local Workaways. By the end of my six-month trip, I knew Spanish at an intermediate level! But that was by the end of my trip when I was leaving South America and didn’t have to actively use my Spanish anymore.
Don’t be like me — get ahead of the game! Learn a new language while you have extra time at home. Try a few language learning apps such as Babbel, Duolingo, and Memrise to get started. You can even try watching a Netflix show in a different language or with subtitles in a different language so that you’re constantly practicing! That way, when we can travel again, you’ll be ready to show off your new language skills at a local market.
3. Connect with someone you met during your travels
Another great part about travelling is meeting people from all over the world. You never know who’s going to walk into your life and stay there forever! Reconnect with an old travel friend, bunkmate, or host! That friend you shared a scooter with in Bali is probably thinking about you too. That host you worked with on a farm in Argentina will never forget you.
Text them “hello” and possibly ask to catch up over video chat and beers! There’s nothing like reminiscing over past, shared travel experiences! Do you know what would really make them smile? Sending a postcard from your hometown so that they can catch a glimpse of where you’re from! Don’t be shy — travel friends are friends for life.
4. Create a bucket list of volunteer opportunities
Speaking of reminiscing with a host, create a bucket list of places and volunteer opportunities you want to experience. Workaway makes it easy by letting you add/favourite volunteer opportunities to your host list. That way, you’ll be ready to contact a host when you can travel again!
The beauty of volunteering is that you can use your skills to contribute to a local community. Even better, volunteering is a great place to start if you’re looking to add a new skill or experience to your (unofficial) resume. Browse through Workaway’s list of exchange possibilities to get inspired. *Warning* this may come with an extra dose of wanderlust!
5. Make arts & crafts from a different country
I love shopping in local markets when I travel to a foreign city. The arts and crafts are so creative and special that it takes a lot of willpower not to buy everything! Make your own version of your favorite arts and crafts at home! Color Day of the Dead skull masks, craft Aboriginal clapsticks, or create a Japanese hand fan.
Want more ideas? You can have fun making maracas, rainsticks, dream catchers, paper mache animal masks, or zampoñas. Arts and crafts aren’t just for kids! It’s a great way to express yourself and find happiness in a past travel experience. If anything, it will help take your mind off the pandemic. When you’re done with your masterpiece, put it on display! If you just found your new calling, sell it on Etsy to make a little extra cash!
6. Make a scrapbook of your past travels
I’m the type of traveller who collects and keeps everything — ticket stubs, tour brochures, beaded bracelets, and restaurant receipts — from my travels. I do it so that when I get home, I can make a scrapbook to remember my past experiences. Dedicate a few days to creating a scrapbook from a recent trip. Print pictures, look for old ticket stubs, and unearth those old travel bracelets to stick in an empty book. Don’t forget to write captions and stories so that you’ll always have that memory.
7. Create your own guide to visiting a country
I don’t know about you, but my friends and family always ask for travel advice before they depart to a different country.Where should they eat? What should they do? Where should they stay? How do they get from A to B? Personally, I love it! It gives me a chance to shuffle through past travel experiences to think about that awesome free walking tour in Taipei or the adventure tour company that took me white water rafting in Ecuador. This is also what I love most about being a travel writer!
While you’re social distancing at home and hoping to do something about that wanderlust, start a travel blog so you can create your own guides to visiting a country (this can be your own country or other places you've visited and loved)! Do you know the best spot for Swedish meatballs in Stockholm? Did you stay with a freaking awesome host in New Zealand? Did you rent bikes from a specific company in Amsterdam? Write an itinerary so that when friends or family ask for suggestions, you’ve got them covered. Plus, it’s fun to get creative and share your travel knowledge with others!
8. Read a book about travel
Catch up on your reading while you’re holed up in lockdown or quarantine! There’s no shortage of great travel books in the world. Here are a few suggestions for fiction and non-fiction books to inspire your next adventure:
- 10 years a Nomad by Matt Kepnes (Nomadic Matt)
- The Beach by Alex Garland
- The Tourist Attraction by Sara Morgenthaler
- Getting Stoned With Savages by J. Marteen Troost
- Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah MacDonald
- To Prussia With Love: Misadventures In Rural East Germany by Roger Boyes
When you’re done, donate the book to a local used book store so someone else can be inspired to travel. Books are a great way to travel without leaving home.
No matter where you are in the world, it’s important to stay safe and practice social distancing so we can fight the spread of the coronavirus. Bring your travels to your home and get creative with new activities. Show us how you’re travelling from home by tagging us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter!
Marina is a freelance writer from the United States. She’s written for Fodor’s, TripSavvy, TripAdvisor, and Business Insider. She loves sharing travel tips with readers.