I’m an avid reader of the New York Times’ travel section, especially its “52 Places Traveler” series, for which journalist Sebastian Modak traveled to a different place each week in 2019 and published a column about his experiences.
In just three weeks, you could travel to the beaches of Costalegre, Mexico, the Falkland Islands and the streets of Vevey, Switzerland — all, of course, behind the screen of a laptop and with a New York Times subscription.
Traveling is one the best ways to learn about the world we share with 7.8 billion other people. But now, the need to virtually travel the world is needed more than ever, especially as more and more people find themselves locked indoors, wanting to take a trip somewhere other than to their refrigerators or backyards. Here’s how you can still travel the world while protecting the health of everyone in it.
A trip to Alaska’s glaciers to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
In order to encourage people to travel from inside of their homes, the Smithsonian Channel has released 68 episodes of “Aerial America” to stream for free online. The episodes take on each of the U.S. states and territories, teaching viewers a little bit about their history and natural ecosystems.
The National Park Service also offers virtual tours of some of its most unique parks, like Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska, Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico or Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii. Within a day, you can admire glaciers, walk within ancient caves and stand among lava fields.
Finally, one of the simplest ways and my personal favorite way to travel virtually is through Google Earth and Google Street View. You can drop into a street view in places like Tikal National Park in Guatemala, an archaeological site left by Mayan civilizations; Bran Castle in Romania, a national monument and landmark also known outside of Romania as Dracula’s Castle; as well as the Palace of Versailles, Everest Base Camp and the Great Barrier Reef.
From Paris’ Louvre to Egypt’s ancient tombs
Many museums around the world offer virtual tours for some of their most famous exhibits. The Louvre in Paris, France offers a virtual tour for exhibitions like “The Advent of the Artist,” which examines the transition from the classical period of art to the Renaissance.
The Vatican Museums in Vatican City offer a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel. Inside you can view its detailed paintings by Florentine Renaissance masters of 1481 to 1483. Or, you can tour Raphael’s Rooms, chosen by Pope Julius II.
Virtual tours of some of Egypt’s archaeological sites were also recently posted by Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. Some of the tours include the tomb of Menna, the tomb of Queen Meresankh III and the Red Monastery.
A trip across time
While most people are stuck in the confines of their homes and neighborhoods, with nowhere else to go, looking up into the night sky is a reminder that the world is bigger than just the places we are currently quarantined in. With apps like SkyView and sites like the WorldWide Telescope, you can learn a little bit about the constellations and cosmos above you. This may be one of the best ways to remember that a future, past and infinite universe exists beyond the past difficult few months.
Finally getting to those old travel photos and memories you’ve been wanting to organize since you returned from the past trip allows you to travel back to easier times. Whether that means dedicating some time to downloading and printing old photos or even organizing a detailed scrapbook full of collected plane and train tickets, postcards and photos, take time to appreciate your past experiences.
Why we travel and why we don’t have to stop
When Modak returned home after a year of traveling the world, he wrote in a reflection piece, “For now, the best I can do is draw out the moments that float on the surface of my memory, the ones I’m most grateful for, as they taught me invaluable lessons not only about the world, but also about myself. And isn’t that why we travel?”
When we travel, we are thrown into a world unfamiliar to us, testing our ability to adapt and learn about places and cultures different than our own. Although the option to travel the world in person is not an option at the moment, there are still ways to keep the travel bug alive — at least until we’re given the green light to take off again.