Armchair Travel - 5 ways you can travel when you can't actually travel

Armchair travel - 5 ways you can travel when you can't actually travel

"It’s important to remember that travel is also a state of mind, and that you don’t necessarily have to go far away to feel far away. And no matter what you do right now, don’t forget to dream about that next big trip, because the time will come when the answers are clearer and the future more knowable, and when it does, travel will be what helps us start moving forward again." Jesse Ashlock, US Editor, Conde Nast Traveler 

Around the middle of February 2020, my husband and I were considering booking a trip to Netherlands and France, for the school holidays at the end of March 2020. Our Schengen visas from our trip to Spain and Portugal in December were valid till May - and since they were such a schlep to apply for – I thought that we should use them again before they expired. At the time, we reluctantly decided against it because the school holidays were too short (only 10 days), and the weather in Europe would still be too cold. Little did I know then that there would be something positive in not going ahead with the booking.

Fast-forward a month later, and the world was in turmoil. Corona virus had gripped the world in fear. Many countries around the world were in a state of lockdown including South Africa. As at 26 March 2020, over 470000 people had been infected worldwide and over 21000 thousand had died. In our lifetime, we had never seen a worldwide pandemic on such a widespread scale. Schools, universities, businesses, museums and even parks were closed. Religious pilgrimages, sporting events, travel conferences and major festivals were cancelled. People were stockpiling - and toilet paper shelves were empty. (I’m still trying to understand this last one).

I was concerned about our country and its citizens, especially those who live from hand to mouth. This period was a serious survival test for many.

I was grateful that:

- I have a roof over my head

- Food to eat

- A family to be with during the lockdown

- Internet to keep me connected with the world and allow me to work online.

I kept myself productive during this period, with a lengthy to-do list.

Travelling is probably the least of our worries during times like this, but I prefer not to dwell on the doom and gloom that surrounds us. So, on a lighter note, if you’re a travel addict like me - who feels incomplete without their travel fix - then armchair travel is better than no travel. It also allows you to escape reality for a while.

Here are 5 ways to armchair travel from your home

1. Virtual Experiences

British Museum

British Museum

Google Arts & Culture has partnered with over 500 museums, galleries and other attractions from across the globe. These include international favourites like the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the British Museum in London, and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, as well as local attractions like Robben Island Prison and the Johannesburg Art Gallery.

More virtual experiences: 

Explore destinations around the world virtually 

Experience Dubai virtually

Stream the Northern Lights from Canada

Learn how to make pasta from an Italian Nonna


Sanparks Live Webcams

2. Read travel books

Armchair travel

Book Shop

Now would be a good time to catch up on reading. I’ve written about my favourite books on Africa and India and my favourite books for safari lovers but not about my favourite travel books. Here are some highly recommended travel reads that I’m adding to my reading list.

  • Elsewhere: One Woman, One Rucksack, One Lifetime of Travel
    Intrepid traveller, Rosita Boland writes about nine memorable moments she experienced during her 30 years of traveling, including some near-death encounters.
  • Wanderlust- A Travelers Guide to the Globe – this book will inspire you to dream about your next great adventure with its lists of ancient cities, mythic locations, most incredible destinations and bucket-list experiences around the world.
  • World Walk - is about journalist Steven Newman who at the age of 28 packed his bags and began a 4-year long journey around the world on foot. He walked across 20 countries in 5 continents covering fifteen thousand miles, and shares his stories and adventures in this book.
  • Dark Star Safari – is about Paul Theroux’s journey from Cape to Cairo. He travels the hard way across bushes and deserts, crossing rivers and lakes, from country to country and faces many challenges.
  • Around the World in 80 Trades - is about economist Conor Woodman, who leaves his job and sells his house in order to test his negotiating skills in some of the world's oldest trading cultures while bartering in camels, coffee, carpets and more. There are some trades in South Africa too.
  • If you prefer old school, humorous travel writing then read Bill Bryson’s books.

3. Read travel blogs

If you find book-reading to be a tedious task because books take too long to read, then read travel blogs, where you can read about travel adventures and experiences in short bite-sized pieces. Most travel bloggers could do with your support right now.

4. Watch travel movies

Here are some movies through which you can travel

  • Eat, Pray, Love – is based on the book about Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey across the world in an attempt to rediscover her true self.
  • Into the wild - tells the story of Christopher McCandless, a man who leaves everything behind and hikes across North America into the Alaskan wilderness in the early 1990s.
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is about an introverted day-dreamer who escapes his monotonous life by disappearing into his fantasy world, until he gets the opportunity to embark on a real-world adventure.
  • Out of Africa - is an old classic about Danish author, Karen Blixen’s adventures in Africa. This multiple Oscar-winning movie will definitely get you dreaming about Africa.

If you have time to watch a longer series, then I recommend The Amazing Race. It was my favourite show on TV, when it was playing in South Africa. Unfortunately, it’s not available on Netflix.

Or you can always watch travel clips and documentaries on Youtube and Netflix.

5. Follow travel accounts on Instagram

Although most travel instagrammers will be posting photos from their archives during this period, you can live vicariously through their past experiences. Many are also sharing motivational posts on how to stay sane during this period. If you fancy following me, you can find me at In Africa and Beyond.

In Africa and Beyond

Do you have any more suggestions on how to armchair travel ? Any favourite travel movies or books that I haven’t mentioned. Please comment below.

Read the World Health Organisation's guidelines on how to protect yourself from Coronavirus.

If you are in South Africa, visit Corona Virus SA , or join the Whatsapp support group by sending "Hi" to 0600 123 456.

I wish you strength, good health and safety.

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Armchair Travel

7 comments on “Armchair Travel - 5 ways you can travel when you can't actually travel”

  1. Another diversion is to try to build relationships with people in other parts of the world. Video chat allows more connectivity. So do comments!

    Greetings from North Carolina on the United States.

  2. Love the quote you opened this blog with - it really reminded me that one can focus on getting your mindset to match what it could be when you are relaxed and on holiday even when your world seems to be in turmoil. Just by giving it an escape through these great suggestions for books to read and the other wonderful tips you've shared here. Love it thanks!

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