posted on April 14th, 2020

Ways to quench your wanderlust while sheltering in place

The coronavirus is really throwing a wrench in the world’s travel plans. For so many of us, travel is one of life’s greatest treats; seeing the world and feeling connected to different places and people and cultures can be invigorating, empowering, humbling, and perspective-building. So the prospect of staying in place — of course, the socially responsible thing to do during this extraordinarily strange time — makes the travel-inclined feel a little extra cuckoo (as if we didn’t all already feel cuckoo enough rn, amirite?).

Luckily, thanks to the glories of the internet, we can quench that thirst for adventure and wonder and experience new things from the safety and comfort of our respective, socially distanced couches. To bide your time as you hunker down at home, here are some escapist distractions to quench your wanderlust while still sheltering in place.

Explore the world with Geoguessr

I wrote about this addictive game years ago, and TBH it’s still pretty much the best. Leveraging Google Earth interactive visuals, Geoguessr challenges gamers to explore far flung places and guess where in the world the game dropped them. Virtual explorers can cruise long stretches of the rugged red dirt of the Australian outback, traipse through the wilds of the Colombian jungles, and wind through quaint Estonian country villages. While it’s not as fulfilling as being there IRL, it’s definitely fun to see the world virtually, and compete against yourself to test your powers of observation and deduction.

Stream hella travel movies

Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Disney+ — while hunkering down and chilling at home is not the most electrifying of mandates, we are fortunate to be in a time of on-demand entertainment with the press of a button. There are some exceptional travel movies streaming right now to help fulfill your escapist yearnings — The Talented Mr. Ripley is an oldie but a goodie if you’re hankering for a fifties-Italian-riviera vibe (on Netflix), Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark is an old standby for a classic adventure tale (on Netflix), Cuarón’s Y Tu Mama También is a rich coming-of-age story that showcases beautiful scenery of the Mexican countryside (on Netflix), and Wine Country is a great proxy for going wine tasting with the girls (on Netflix, too).

Read travel books

I love to read novels by local authors when I travel, so in the absence of actual travel, perhaps we can continue to transport ourselves mentally via local literature. Pick a place to which you’ve been interested in traveling and google local authors from that locale. Daunt Books in London does a wonderful job of grouping literature by country and culture, so while their online shop is closed for the time being, you can still get ideas from their browse by country feature (includes mostly travel guides). And try to support independent booksellers versus Amazon if you can, especially during this tough time for small businesses.

Watch nature shows

According to the New York Times, nature shows are hot again. I’m not sure they ever really went cold, but apparently there’s a resurgence in popularity, which means the content producers are cranking out more of it. There’s Our Planet, a bit of a somber look at how climate change is affecting the natural world, but still visually breathtaking. There’s also Dancing with the Birds on Netflix, which looks at the mating rituals of birds of paradise. Night on Earth is a nature doc series that uses special cameras to demystify the natural world under the cloak of darkness. And who doesn’t love Planet Earth? If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely watch it. And then watch Planet Earth 2. Nature shows bring us to the far reaches of the natural world from the comfort of the couch, and David Attenborough’s voice is remarkably soothing.

Watch travel shows

Anthony Bourdain revolutionized travel shows with his rough-and-tumble yet remarkably refined, No Reservations, and later, Parts Unknown. For the adventure-seeking foodie, following him along on his charming, impish antics is a wonderful way to virtually sample foreign fares and journey into parts unknown. Though I haven’t yet watched myself, I’ve heard Dark Tourist is a good watch, about less mainstream travel destinations for travelers with an off-the-beaten-path preference. Forbes also has a list of some binge-worthy travel shows.

Tour world-class museums, virtually

While many of the world’s museums are temporarily closed to the public, thanks to Google Arts & Culture, you can still peruse the hallowed halls of some of the best art museums. From the Guggenheim in New York to the British Museum in London, the app lets you wander the corridors (albeit a little shakily) and get your daily dose of culture. The app also lets you project famed artworks into your living room, take virtual street tours, and take selfies that then liken you to famous artworks from across the globe, which is always good for a giggle.

Megan is the copywriter and content tsarina at Turo. She lives to wander near and far, never met a beach (or dog) she didn’t like, and loves to talk postmodern lit and theory to anyone who’ll listen.