In a time when the farthest I travel is literally from my desk to my fridge, antsy has become my middle name. And as a travel blogger unable to travel, I suppose you can say I’ve kinda been fired. From a job where I’m the boss.
Despite this setback however, I have discovered the wonders of armchair travel, and wow – what a world.
You heard me – armchair travel, as in the art of vicarious travel from the comfort of your armchair, bed, bean bag, or hey, even the toilet (I’m not here to judge).
And I mean sure, armchair travel may not command the same glittery glamour as necking aperitivo in Milan or gliding through Switzerland by train, but it’s travel you can do in your underwear AND nobody will even call the cops.
So, if you’re feeling weary from gazing blankly out the window or simply want to read something that will distract you from the bleary news ticker, here’s a guide to the wonderful world of armchair travel, with 10 (actually satisfying) ways to enjoy travel from home.
Editor’s note: the following methods will feel more like real travel if you are also cradling an infant-sized margarita. My jokes may also seem funnier. Carry on.
Save this guide to armchair travel for later!
You’ll be very glad you did.
1. Binge travel blogs & videos
Let’s begin this post with a Christina signature move, shall we? Pure desperation.
Please, if you find yourself in need of some mindless entertainment while weathering this dystopian storm, try to support independent creatives as much as you can.
Reading blogs (if you’re here right now, wow you’re super ahead) and watching YouTube videos is an incredible free way to help keep your favourite creatives’ businesses afloat.
So yes, allow me to quickly hurl my YouTube channel at you real quick. Catch!
It’s a tough time for businesses and individuals all around the world, but freelancers and small business owners are especially feeling the pinch (particularly in the travel industry), SO if you crave something to fill your boredom gaps, please consider supporting the many bloggers, vloggers and creatives in your life.
We need you more than ever! And we’re free. SO FREE. * relentless sobbing *
2. Snoop around on virtual museums and apps
For my fellow museum lovers, there’s an easy way for you to get your fix while nestled in the arms of your own comfy bed.
Many of the most famous museums in the world actually have virtual tours that you can do, including the Louvre, the MET, the British Museum, and more. Click here for a huge list I put together.
To get your culture fix, I can highly recommend the Google Arts and Culture website and app. It’s filled with interesting articles about art, culture, and history intrigue.
PLUS it has the most incredible feature called “Art Selfie” where you snap a selfie and they compare it to their archives to find your fine art doppelgänger. See below for the fair maiden I supposedly resemble.
3. Find the hidden gems of the world with Secret Door
So this is a really clunky website that screams early 2000s, but I am still mildly obsessed with it.
Long story short, Secret Door is a site where you open a virtual door and it randomly brings you to a hidden gem of the world via Google Street View. Imagine Chat Roulette (throwbackkk!) but for quirky places around the world. Much like a girls’ outing involving tequila, you never know where you’ll end up.
For example, one visit brought me to an eerie art museum in Spain, another brought me to a colourful Willy Wonka inspired candy shop, and my last visit dropped me off RIGHT on the train tracks of the Bernina Express!!
NOTE: I find that the site can be a little glitchy, so I usually have to reload it each time I want to re-open the door, otherwise it won’t work properly… but still, give it a try here! It’s cool.
4. Explore a random place on Earth with MapCrunch
In a similar vein, there’s another website called MapCrunch that ALSO drops you off in a random Google Streetview location, except it doesn’t necessarily focus on unique/hidden gems… it literally drops you off anywhere.
You might be thinking “why would I want that, Christina? Why?”
WELL, besides getting to catch a glimpse of daily life somewhere completely random in the world, this site was actually the source of a viral internet game of the early 2010s… basically, if (on desktop) you navigate to the MapCrunch Options tab, you can check a box on the bottom the says “Stealth” which will drop you off in a random Streetview location without telling you where you are…
The objective of the game is to pretend you woke up in this random location and somehow navigate your way “home” by finding the closest airport. Tough right? Can you imagine? A great game to play with friends if you want to race. Might be more fun if you’re mildly drunk, but what in life isn’t?
5. Spy on worldwide webcams
Okay, this fact might either be really cool or really creepy depending on your persuasion, but did you know the world is covered with cameras that stream everything live to webcams 24/7?
(Alright, I admit it does sound a little creepy when I put it that way)
Nonetheless, checking out these webcams is prime armchair travel material. Sites like EarthCam have live HD webcams from all over the world, so you can quickly check in on Times Square or the balmy waves of the Maldives all while eating guacamole by the fistful in your other hand. In fact, I’m writing this article while watching sunset at the Eiffel Tower! (I will save my guac for later.)
NOTE: While not live, if you get tired of staring at webcam footage, you can also go for an HD view of the world by checking out Full Screen 360 where there is plenty of 360 degree eye candy from interesting places around the world, from beautiful Cinque Terre to even my beloved Munich!
6. Stream some wanderlusty movies or TV shows
In the world of streaming, Netflix is of course king, but if you want to expand your horizons (or take advantage of something free!), you can register for a free one month trial of Amazon Prime Video and binge their huge library of free content (or otherwise rummage through their very extensive paid offerings).
In terms of recommendations, I have a list of great travel movies to watch here.
Show-wise, here are some quick recommendations:
- Departures – One of my favourite all-time travel shows. It’s about 2 Canadian guys that hit the road and travel the world through personal connections/friendships, so you get a good mix of tourist sights and local secrets/know-how. It’s a little dated now (originally recorded in 2008), but guess what? These legends have put a lot of full episodes on YOUTUBE for FREE! Check them out here.
- An Idiot Abroad – A hilarious and mildly offensive show that’s great if you want something a little different than your standard travel programme. It’s a documentary series that follows Karl Pilkington, a guy with zero interest in travel and global cultures…. being forced to travel by his friends Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais. If you like Ricky Gervais humour, this is a must-watch. Watch it here.
- Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown – Like many travel enthusiasts, I adore everything from Anthony Bourdain, but there’s just something about Parts Unknown with its incredible visuals and storytelling that makes it my favourite. Watch it here.
7. Cook up global inspired dishes
If you often find yourself traveling for food, sending your tastebuds on their own lil voyage might be the most delicious form of armchair travel you can enjoy right now… all the better if you’re learning to make it yourself (because then your gluttony can be disguised as self-actualization.
Trust me, I’ve been doing it for years).
Where can you get free ideas and tutorials for recipes?
Honestly, YouTube is such a wealth of information these days that I can guarantee you’ll find a video teaching you to cook any foreign dish of your choosing!
If you’re feeling especially fancy though, you can also purchase online cooking classes! This is an amazing way to support local businesses who might be suffering otherwise due to the dip in tourism.
8. Enjoy a country-inspired night in
Combining points 6 and 7, for extra dorkiness points, consider hosting a country themed night-in. Simply pick a special film that’s focused on a destination and cook a meal (or order one in if you feel like it) related to that destination.
You can even have a watch party with friends on Skype (or do a group viewing on Netflix Party) and all tackle the same recipe together before/after.
Some ideas for your country inspired soirée:
- Watch Parasite and make ramdon – not the most wanderlusty combo but this is the best movie I’ve seen in years so I have to recommend it
- Watch Amélie and have roast chicken + creme brûlée – you’ll see why if you watch the movie. Bonus if you buy some fresh raspberries to eat from your fingers
- Watch Eat Pray Love and Pizza Napolitana or Spaghetti all’Amatriciana – truthfully, the spaghetti will probably be easier to make from home…
- Watch Crazy Rich Asians and dumplings or Hokkien Fried Mee – in addition to wanderlust, a bonus side effect of this movie is it will make you feel incredibly poor and alone
9. Cozy up with a good travel book
At a time when we’re constantly bombarded with one distressing headline after the next, boyyy does it feel good to curl up with a nice book far away from the horror-show that is social media.
So, treat yourself to some wanderlusty reads! Blogs are great, but there’s something unbeatably satisfying about holding a book.
Now, while I prepare myself for excommunication from the League of Extraordinary Bloggers for saying that, let me think of some recommendations…
I’ll be very honest, I haven’t read a ton of travel memoirs, but one hilarious classic I can wholeheartedly recommend if you’re looking for a good laugh is What I was Doing While You Were Breeding. Otherwise, if you want something more conventionally travelly (but a tad cliché), I did also enjoy Eat Pray Love. Please let me know in the comments if you have any travel memoirs that you would highly recommend!
Otherwise, if you’re looking for some non-travel related reads, I’ve been really into memories from awesome female comedians lately, and both Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and Bossypants are great.
NOTE: If you don’t mind reading off a Kindle, you can click here for a free month of Kindle unlimited… all you can read!
10. Try actual virtual reality
Lastly, despite being a millennial who works on the Internet, I am shockingly out of touch with technology and how far it has come. Did you know for instance that virtual reality travel is a thing now?
Like, not just in testing phases, not just a clunky pixellated prototype, you can literally just buy an entry-level headset online that uses your phone?
… I only discovered this while researching armchair travel options for this article, and I have to say this one might just take the cake.
There are all sorts of apps that you can download on your phone (both free and paid) that allow you to enjoy really cool virtual reality travel experiences all around the world.
Better yet, there are full-blown YouTube videos now that can be watched in VR mode, which is how I spent my lockdown Spring in Europe taking a taxi ride through New York City, enjoying an overwater villa in the Maldives and even gliding through space, all of which I just did in my pyjamas in Munich.
If you’re interested in this, I got this set for really cheap and it works great!
Any more ideas for armchair travel?
I’m all ears! I hope you enjoyed this read… and safe travels (from the couch).