The term “writer’s block” has taken on a whole new meaning for me this last fortnight. Let’s face it, there are no words to sum up what is going on in the world right now. It’s scary, relentless, and heartbreaking, and the strangeness of this world we suddenly find ourselves in still hasn’t quite sunk in.
Yet here we all are, adjusting to the new normal – which for most of us means self-isolating, social distancing, and lockdown (three phrases I didn’t even know the meaning of a month ago), while coronavirus continues to spread. As someone who thrives on being out and about and gets claustrophobic at the very thought of being stuck indoors for long periods of time, the prospect is daunting to say the least.
But staying home is what we must all do to win this war. So I wanted to share some of the ways I’m planning to get through these coming days and weeks (and even have some fun while I’m at it!) Travel has always been a great escape for me and while we may be housebound right now, there’s still a whole world out there to explore, right from the comfort of our own sofas. So here it is, the ultimate guide to self-isolation escapism.
Take a virtual tour of some of the world’s best museums and attractions
Fancy visiting the Louvre on your lunch break, or popping to Yellowstone National Park after work? Well now you can, as hundreds of world-famous sites and attractions are opening up their doors for visitors to explore virtually.
Google Arts & Culture is a great place to start. From here, you can explore iconic wonders of the world, from Machu Picchu to the Taj Mahal, tour America’s beautiful national parks, or step inside Italy’s world-famous museums. The power of digital means you can even livestream some of the world’s most magnificent natural phenomena. Check out Explore.org for your chance to catch the Northern Lights, as they happen, or watch live as wild animals congregate at a watering hole in Kenya!
Finally, be sure to check out what your home-town has to offer – GoBathBristol have just published a great blog of all the attractions in Bristol and Bath that you can enjoy from your sofa, from the famous Roman Baths to the historic SS Great Britain.
Get your culture fix without leaving the sofa
“The show must go on”, as they say, and sure enough arts venues all around the world are finding new and innovative ways to entertain audiences, even while the curtains are down.
The Royal Opera House in London is screening a free series of ballets and operas in the coming weeks, while The Met is streaming a different opera each day to keep arts lovers entertained during the Covid-19 crisis. You can even stream your favourite Broadway shows, straight from New York, with a free 7-day trial at Broadway HD.
Check out The Stage for a full list of online shows. And remember, although many of these arts organisations are offering live-streams for free, they rely on donations so do give what you can if you enjoy the show.
Dream up your next adventure
Just because you can’t jump on a plane right now, doesn’t mean you can’t start dreaming about your next adventure. And sketching out your future travel plans is a surefire way to keep you feeling positive and motivated during this uncertain time. Browsing travel blogs is a great way to find some travel inspiration and to help you come up with some fun itineraries for your next trip. Just be sure to check the latest government travel advice and your insurance policies, before you rush to book anything up!
Make a travel wish-list for your own country
I’m a firm believer that travel starts right on your doorstep, so as well as daydreaming about your next foreign adventure, why not use this time to come up with a wish-list of places you want to visit in your own country, once coronavirus is a distant memory? It’s very possible that domestic travel could open up long before global travel gets back to normal, so it’s a great time to start thinking about your options.
Start with your local area – all those parks, museums, and attractions you’ve been meaning to get to – then make a list of adventures a little further afield that you can plan in, just as soon as it’s safe to travel again.
Personally, my U.K. bucket list is growing longer by the day – from seeing wild puffins at Skomer Island and road-tripping around the Scottish Highlands to finally visiting the Tower of London! What will be on yours?
Indulge in some local foodie experiences
Although many restaurants, bars, and cafes around the world have shut up shop temporarily, depending on where you live you may still be able to enjoy some unique foodie experiences, delivered straight to your door. And the best part is you can support local independent businesses while you’re at it.
Bristol has a thriving independent culture and the IndieMap has been set up to help locals search for their favourite delivery options during the Covid-19 crisis. There are some amazing food and drinks experiences to choose from; from wine and cheese pairings and even virtual group wine-tastings thanks to Kask organic wine bar; through to fresh breakfast hampers delivered to your doorstep, courtesy of local favourites Poco.
Even better if you can video-call a friend and enjoy a virtual meal or glass of vino together!
Learn a new language
In preparation for your next trip (it WILL happen, just hang in there), how about using some of this rare down-time to learn a new language? Duolingo is a brilliant free mobile app with 36 different languages to choose from. You’ll receive daily reminders to brush up on your skills, through a series of short quizzes and tutorials.
Babbel is another handy tool that offers 12-week language classes for beginners and is an excellent way to add some structure and routine to your days at home. Babbel is currently offering free starter lessons and after that, it’s £12.99 a month to subscribe.
The Open University also run an excellent series of free language courses, for beginners to the more advanced linguists out there. I’d recommend checking out some of their other free courses, while you have some time on your hands – there’s so many great ones to choose from!
Get lost in a good travel-themed book
Reading is one of the greatest forms of escapism – and even better if it’s a travel-themed book that transports you far, far away. Goodreads is one of my favourite apps for finding book recommendations – you can search specifically for travel books and also see what your friends are reading. Or if audio-books are more your thing, sign up for a 30-day free trial with Audible.
You might also enjoy: Around the world in 7 books: must-reads from each continent
Be sure to support your local bookstore where possible, as no doubt they will need some love during this difficult time. Storysmith in Bristol are a wonderful, independent bookstore who ship worldwide and provide a trusted recommendation service online, if you’re in need of some inspiration.
Escape to the Caribbean through the power of digital
I LOVE seeing all the creative ways that tourism boards are managing to quench our wanderlust right now. I, for one, have been listening non-stop to Visit Jamaica’s epic quarantine playlist on Spotify (the aptly named “Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be Alright”) to keep my spirits up whilst working from home.
But my favourite attempt at transporting us house-bound wanderlusters to more exotic, care-free climes has to be Travel Saint Lucia’s genius social media series 7 minutes in Saint Lucia. The series airs two times a week and will feature a live-stream yoga class with views of the famous Pitons, an authentic Caribbean cooking class, and even an hour-long live DJ party! So grab yourself a rum, tune in live, and let your worries melt away.
Get creative with your travel photos
If you’re anything like me, your phone is probably overloaded with travel photos that have never quite made it out into the real world. Well there’s no time like the present to get things in order.
Take some time to sort through your holiday snaps and come up with creative ways to display them – it could be a gallery wall in your home, a scrapbook, or a custom-made photo-book. Whatever you choose to do with your travel pics, surrounding yourself with visual reminders of the beautiful world outside is bound to give you all the good feels right now.
Escape with a travel-themed film
In times of high anxiety, there’s nothing better than getting lost in a good film and there are plenty out there to fuel your wanderlust, while you’re stuck at home. The very best travel films promise beautiful scenery and inspirational storylines (two things we could all do with right now), and they might even give you some ideas for your next trip! Check out 10 of my favourite travel movies here, if you need some inspiration.
Cook up an international feast with an online cookery class
Food can provide a powerful source of comfort in troubled times and online cookery classes are springing up left, right and centre, to bring people together in the kitchen – many with an international twist.
Masterclass.com run a range of culinary arts programmes online, from ‘Modern Italian Cooking’ with Massimo Bottura to ‘Mexican Cooking’ with Gabriela Cámara, whilst Milk Street Cooking School are running all their classes for free until 30 April, including pasta masterclasses and lessons in spices.
Nonna Nerina – a charming Italian grandmother, who normally runs pasta-making workshops out of her countryside work-shop near Rome – has also gone online and is running half-price cooking experiences for those craving a taste of Italy!
Lonely Planet has launched a ‘Travel Kitchen’ series and is sharing daily recipes from different world cuisines, from delicious shakshuka to Vietnamese pho. Meanwhile, London Borough Market has also launched a series of live cookery classes on Instagram Live during the Covid-19 crisis, showcasing delicious dishes from around the globe. Check out the social media channels of your favourite chefs and restaurants to see if they’re doing something similar.
Subscribe to a travel magazine
If you can’t go out, then opt for the next best thing and have travel delivered straight to your door. Leafing through a glossy travel magazine is good for the soul in times like these, and there are plenty of inspirational ones out there to choose from.
Lonely Planet and National Geographic never fail to disappoint with their captivating photography and wanderlust-fuelled pages. But there are also some great independent travel magazines worth checking out, such as Boat which focuses on a different destination each issue, and Sidetracked – an adventure travel journal, featuring personal narratives of adventure travel, journeys and far-flung expeditions.