Presidents Day is a great time to go on a vacation, but since the whole world is still grounded due to COVID-19, travel plans have had to be temporarily shelved. Unfortunately, flights and hotel bookings have had to be canceled or postponed, and trips that you’ve excitedly planned for months are now in limbo. The good news is, if we all do our part and hunker down, we will be able to travel again soon, but in the meantime, you can enjoy the upcoming holiday by re-creating the experiences and sensations of travel right in your own home.
Way before any of us were hopping on planes for vacations, we were already armchair traveling with the help of stories, pictures, and our imagination, and now with the internet and social media on our side, it’s easier than ever for your mind to travel while your body stays at home. From reading travel books to preparing a meal from your favorite country, we’ve listed here the best ways to travel from the comfort of your own home for a Presidents Day staycation.
Travelogues and travel memoirs are the OG way to travel, and one of the best ways to let your mind wander the world right now without leaving the house. There are literally thousands of travel books to choose from, written about every kind of country or experience you could want. Missing the great outdoors? Try a book about hiking or spending time in the wilderness like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild or Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. Want to escape to the literal end of the world? Head down to Patagonia with Paul Theroux’s The Old Patagonian Express or Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia, and then hop the Drake Passage to the only place on Earth COVID-19 hasn’t reached, Antarctica, with Sara Wheeler’s Terra Incognita. Need something humorous? Try Bill Bryson’s Notes From A Small Island or Turn Right At Machu Picchu by Mark Adams. Cooking and baking a lot more than usual? Escape to Provence with Peter Mayle to luxuriate in French cuisine with A Year in Provence. There’s a travel book for every kind of mood and place, so snuggle up in your favorite chair and let your mind take off. (You can find more adventure travel books here.)
Not in the mood to read about travel (maybe been doing tons of other reading right now, anyway)? Watch a travel movie! Tons of popular travelogues (Under the Tuscan Sun; Wild; Eat, Pray, Love, etc.) have been adapted into films that also have the power to transport you elsewhere. You can go to India on The Darjeeling Express or stay in the elegant Grand Budapest Hotel. Head to Alaska’s backcountry (and see why staying home instead of heading off unprepared into the unknown is the best option right now) with Into The Wild. Looking to learn something new to help you plan future trips? Try a travel documentary. But arguably the best travel film to watch right now, which best captures the headspace we’re all in, could be The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, where a man who finds himself thoroughly stuck constantly escapes into daydreams of traveling the world and doing amazing things … and then he does them. That will be us again someday. But for now, pop some popcorn, grab a drink, and have a travel-themed movie night.
The fact that we can’t even escape to our beloved national parks right now for some fresh air, epic views, and alone time in nature is also a hard pill to swallow. But we can still enjoy them … in a way. Google Earth has virtual tours of 31 national parks around the country, including Glacier, Denali, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Yellowstone, and dozens of others. It may not be as cool as the real thing, but in case you’re really jonesing for some nature, you can click around to see beautiful parts of the parks and do some digital exploring to find places to visit for yourself when the parks open again.
Even if you can’t make any new travel memories right now, you can still revisit old ones to take the sting off that postponed trip. Look through pictures and videos from your past trips and remind yourself of all the good (or bad, or just strange) times you’ve had while on the road. If you traveled with friends or family, call them up for a Zoom chat and relive that trip together. And don’t just focus on the happy travel memories; travel can also teach us important life lessons, so if there was a particular aspect of one trip that you don’t remember fondly (like a flight that got canceled and left you stranded, or it rained the entire time you were there) think back to how you handled the problem at the time and what it taught you about how to handle difficult situations. You may find some valuable insight into how to cope right now.
Yes, seriously. To continue promoting tourism while encouraging people to stay at home, Greece’s Ministry of Tourism just launched “Greece from Home,” a digital initiative of videos and virtual tours that bring the entire country of Greece and its culture, landscapes, food, and people right into your home. In the video section, you will find videos of famous Greeks sharing their skills, including opera singing, as well as instructional videos like wine tasting. Then the digital tour part of the site offers virtual tours (with stunning visuals) of famous places around Greece like Mykonos Island or the Acropolis. You can also customize these digital experiences to fit your interests, like doing a foodie-focused tour of a Greek city, or hiking through the countryside. And along the way, the site is packed with information so you can plan your real-life visit at some point in the future.
Another way to bring nature into your home is with webcams and livestreams that show different animals around the world, both in their natural habitat or in zoos or aquariums. Katmai National Park in Alaska has a webcam set up at Brooks Falls, a popular spot for brown bears to fish. The cam is most active in summer, but in the meantime, if there aren’t any bears to see, the cam offers a highlight reel that’s also a joy to watch. South Africa’s Tembe Elephant Park has a 24-hour livestream set up monitoring a popular watering hole, where you can see wild elephants. Looking for a specific animal or place? Explore.org’s Live Cam page has tons of options to choose from as well. The only downside of these live webcams is that there’s not always action to watch (you’re observing animals in their natural habitats who can come and go as they please, after all), but you can always just leave a favorite webcam on in the background as you go about your day and periodically check in.
One of the best parts of travel is the food; getting to experience a new country or region through its unique cuisine. So one of the best ways to travel right now is with your mouth! Think of a favorite place you’ve traveled before and then make a popular dish or meal from that country, or prepare something from a place you haven’t been to yet but want to visit. This will help broaden your culinary and cooking horizons, as well as teach you about the place the dish is from. Experiment and have fun with it! (Why not try this ramen recipe, for example?)