Travelling is on most people’s list of “things to do.” Not everyone, however, can up and leave to explore the world. For those who really can’t move away from their desks, there are still ways to get a taste of the world: online.
How can you travel without leaving your desk?
Firstly, travel needs to be defined. If your idea of travel is to physically experience another place, online travelling will not cut it. But if travel equals discovering new culture, being challenged by unknown places, people and histories: in other words, if you see travel as a means to understand people and cultures far removed from your own and that you can do without the sunbathing on a tropical beach, online travel might be just the antidote you need to that nagging wanderlust the shorter days have brought.
Now that you know what you’re after, there are a myriad of online resources that can help you.
WARNING: the following might backfire and give you a serious case of itchy feet
1. Stay away from social media
Checking out some influencers’ Instagram feed isn’t going to help. There is nothing about travel in that perfect pic of a model in a bikini and no amount of travel-related hashtags will change that fact.
2. Be as precise as possible
To really understand something without physically experiencing it, you have to narrow down what it is you really want to know. Googling “Japan” won’t give you an understanding of Japanese culture. Always dreamt of visiting Kyoto? Read up on geisha, on the Inari shrine, figure out how the Kiyomizudera Temple got to be on stills and learn about sake. Japanese food is your thing? Sign up for a snack subscription box, visit your local Asian supermarket and cook a feast, watch Samurai Gourmet, Midnight Diner or binge on old episodes of Iron Chef Japan.
3. Don’t expect the world
Getting a taste of travel online isn’t ever going to be as good as the real thing. It also comes up incredibly short if your dream is to surf Pipeline. No amount of forum chatting with someone who’s spending the season on North Shore will give you the satisfaction that your first barrel of the year could. Watching videos won’t help and reading up about the area will definitely not quieten your wanderlust. If anything, finding out about Sunset and Turtle Bay, Waimea and Haleiwa will get you to open a Skyscanner tab a little bit faster.
4. Documentaries are your friends
The next best thing to a flight out? David Attenborough. If anyone can make you forget you’re stuck somewhere you would rather not be, I bet the national treasure that is David can.
5. Read everything on your particular subject of interest
Bloggers are your friends. Reading firsthand experiences will always beat generic guides and will give you a sense of what’s it’s actually like in your dream destination. Travelling by proxy really is a thing, which is why travel writing and blogging is so popular.
However, checking out gallery after gallery of pictures probably isn’t the best idea, unless you find pleasure in mental torture.
6. Get creative
You can take virtual tours of museums, historical sites and much more online. Becoming an expert on a favourite subject is at your fingertips and making new friends isn’t hard if you’re willing to join a couple of forums. All these will help you get a better understanding of a place, give you an insight into a culture and maybe even make you feel like you’re truly there.
After all this, you will find yourself either satisfied or desperate to go. Whatever your next step, booking a flight or putting your head down and banging out some work, you will have learned something, connected with new people and gotten a better understanding of a new culture. And that, after all, is what travelling is all about.