It’s a good bet that you and your family could probably use a vacation about now. But unless you own an island, or more likely, a beach house or mountain cabin, chances are you’re not going anywhere, anytime soon. COVID-19 has up-ended both everyday activities and long-planned events.
Yet vacations have established benefits—relaxation, stress reduction, and stimulating our brains through fresh, new experiences. So during this summer of our discontent, Capital Caring Health (CCH) wants to help you to take the trip of your dreams. And the only thing you need to pack is your imagination!
Organizations around the world have stepped up to create or enhance an opportunity for you to “travel” through a virtual experience. You can still learn about a new culture, watch wildlife in real-time, or go on an adventure you’d never actually try IRL! And given your only flight this summer is likely a “flight of fancy,” there are no lines, no crowds, and no limits. So, dive in (just imagine the water is warm!) and your well-being and outlook will benefit, we promise!
No Passport Required
While all of us are temporarily on the “no-fly” list to Europe, you can still go anywhere you want, virtually. Viking TV offers short films that showcase scenery, history, and often local life with Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa, Shetland Ponies of Shetland Islands, great gardens of the world, including Monet’s favorite at Giverny, France, and more from Europe, Asia and Russia. Be sure to check the site frequently as new episodes are released weekly.
The site also recommends films, books and music, that are evocative of a place from one of its world-wide itineraries. And if Europe isn’t exotic enough, there’s always the Galapagos Islands, Bali or the West Indies…
Is art and culture on your list? Then this comprehensive website is your gateway to many world-famous museums, including the Louvre, Guggenheim or British Museum. Global historic sites such as the Taj Mahal are also featured.
Nature Lovers, Rejoice!
If you love the great outdoors and live near nature, you already know firsthand how “forest or nature bathing”—the Japanese-coined term for spending time under a canopy of trees—can improve one’s mood and well-being. However, if your closest nature destination is not open or too-long a car ride, you can still virtually visit the country’s best-known spots for hiking and camping.
The National Park Service offers a wide variety of virtual tours from Crater Lake in Oregon, one of the deepest lakes in the world, to Yellowstone National Park. Or, take a virtual hike in the Grand Canyon which, given daily temperatures of 115 degrees at this time of year, may be both safer and more enjoyable from the comforts of your home. You can also escape urban noise by listening to bird song, tree frogs, rustling leaves, rushing streams and other sounds from national parks.
To get up close and personal with some real wildlife, watch brown bears during their busy season—summer—from a safe distance via three live webcams at Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
If camping is part of what you’re missing—and you have your own outdoor space—you can approximate the experience at home. Think about getting that sleeping bag and/or tent out of the garage and sleeping under the stars.
Campfire food is usually part of the charm, so make the most of it with s’mores! If you were ever a girl scout, boy scout or went to camp as a kid, this dessert—the best campfire food of all time—will take you to a place long ago and far away, no ticket required. Here’s the original 1927 Girl Scout recipe plus 6 variations to try. And if you’re one of those people that thinks it’s necessary to eat dinner before dessert, check out these 31 incredibly easy camping recipes from Epicurious.
Vacations for Foodies
Nothing replaces actually sitting at a Parisian café or dining on a restaurant’s outdoor terrace overlooking the sea. Until that’s possible again, many international chefs are offering free online cooking classes from their home or restaurant kitchen.
National Geographic lists such classes in Lockdown Lessons: Cooking Tutorials from Global Chefs, available on Instagram or You Tube. Offerings include a daily class from a Michelin-starred Italian chef, an Indian chef and former winner of the Great British Bake-Off, and home cooking recipes from a group of 5-star chefs.
Additional free classes from some of the world’s best-known chefs, including José Andrés, baker Christina Tosi, and US-based David Chang are described in this guide from Conde Nast Traveler.
Raise a Glass through Virtual Wine Tasting
If you love wine and learning about new wineries, varietals and vintages, wineries are making it easy for you through live virtual tastings and other events. Often led by winery owners or winemakers, here’s a list and description of virtual tastings in California’s Napa Valley. Or, check out this Napa winery events calendar for tastings, chef cooking classes and concerts. Some events are free while others incur a fee based upon experience, such as ordering wine in advance of a tasting.
For fans of Sonoma wines, many wineries are offering individual or small group virtual tastings with the winemaker. To help guide your decision of where to “visit,” a wine and travel writer offers her list of the best of virtual Sonoma wine tastings with detailed descriptions.
Looking for Adventure?
Part of the appeal of a virtual vacation is that it doesn’t have to be a trip you would actually take—for whatever reason—just one you find interesting or exciting. Here are few wild places to experience from the safety of your armchair:
- Go on a live safari drive through several wildlife preserves in South Africa. You can even book your own safari guide for a live private tour and interaction for a fee. Start exploring here.
- Take a tour of rugged and sparsely-habited Patagonia.
- Virtually scale the highest mountain on earth through a helicopter tour of Mt. Everest.
After all that exertion, chill out afterwards by looking at photos of the 20 most beautiful beaches in the world.
A Room with a View
For a brief change of scenery, you can swap views with people all over the world—from Australia to Istanbul, Oslo to Singapore, and Toronto to Long Island. Views vary from treetops and urban skylines to verdant valleys and backyards. You can even submit your own view to share with others.