Love travel but can't leave the house? Here's a guide on things to do at home for armchair travellers.
THE ARMCHAIR TRAVEL GUIDE TO THINGS TO DO AT HOME
We all have times when we have to stay at home when we don't want to. Illness, finances, and right now, a global pandemic.
I'm a restless person at heart and struggle staying contained during flights. I've also had long periods of relative isolation at home following surgery and during a high risk pregnancy. Here's what I find works when you feel well. It's a different ballgame if you feel ill or have young children around. I will tackle that separately soon...
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This may well be the first thing that springs to mind. How many books have you "always meant to get around to reading?"
If you can get out and about then I'd strongly recommend supporting your library. They are vital community hubs and rely on footfall for funding. Plus, it's easier on your wallet and you're likely to be inspired when browsing through and visiting.
However, if that's not an option (say, for example, you're in the middle of a global pandemic) then your library will need to be online.
- Make sure to make yourself comfortable if you're going to be doing this a lot more than usual.
- Reduce eye strain with good lighting, get decent seating and get up and stretch every half hour or so.
- I have a Kindle Paperwhite (bought during aforementioned high risk pregnancy) and I love it. It's not too heavy and is much easier on the eye than reading from a phone or tablet.
- You can buy books individually or sign up to Kindle unlimited. The first month is a free trial, which may suit your situation perfectly.
READING BLOGS OR OTHER ONLINE MATERIAL
Yes, I have a personal interest in this ;-)If you're here, you're reading a blog. Thank you for that! Traffic is a key part of how I earn my living, so by reading blogs, you're supporting freelance or self-employed artists, which is, you know, nice.
But MORE IMPORTANTLY... we know that the more hours people spend on social media (tweets, Facebook, instagram) the more likely they are to run into mental health problems.
Imagine social media as additive-laced acid haribo sweets, blogs as decent meals and novels as fine dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
They all have their place but you need a different proportion of each. I have to remind myself of this all the time.
So, read glorious stories about the world. I'd like to recommend our collection of travel stories, of course. But also, take a look at those below for more well written works from across the planet.
- Check out the travel blogs that Lonely Planet named as best in the world.
- Here's a handy list of the top luxury travel blogs.
EATING OUT (EVEN IF YOU'RE IN)
Depending on where you live, a world of flavour awaits. If you can't get out, then the obvious route is to see if places deliver. But if not, other options include asking someone who can get out or booking taxi deliveries. If those don't work then let's move on to...
One of the most sensuous ways of bringing the experience of the world to you instead of the other way around is through food. Most of us slip into a routine with what we eat and periodically forget that there's a whole world of food out there. And that much of it lies within our reach.
I'm far from a master chef, but even I can rustle up these traditional Jordanian recipes, like siniyet kafta and mouttabal. The recipes even include substitutions, in case you don't have everything you need at the corner shop (or in the online grocery delivery.)
- Imagine sunshine with these recipes from Barbados.
- Summon up the flavours of Borneo with these quick and fresh dishes.
- Embrace your inner Nonna and learn how to make a traditional Italian ragu.
TOUR VIRTUAL MUSEUMS
Of course it's not as good as the real thing, but it does have some advantages. No queues and no irritating requests to stash your handbag in a cubicle.
- Here are 12 museums around the world that have virtual tours available, from the British Museum to the Guggenheim.
LISTEN TO WORLD MUSIC
Go beyond the Lion King soundtrack and try out music from all around the world. Try a different country each day. Or take a shortcut and dive into these compilations of music around the world.
CATCH UP WITH TRAVEL FILMS
For your mental health, it's important not to end up with all your time spent gazing at a screen. But when screens can whisk you around the world and draw you in with their stories, they're a good use of time. Just no more than one a day, I'd say.
- Find a list of the best travel films from around the world here.
- And the worst. Gotta keep your sense of humour.
- Download the Chrome extension Netflix Party to watch with your friends, even if you're physically apart.
LEARN A LANGUAGE
Nothing breaks out a smile faster and builds a connection deeper than showing that you've made an effort to learn the language when you travel.
And we're so lucky in that it's easier than ever before to learn remotely.
FILL YOUR HOME WITH SCENTS
We have five senses. We feel better when we use all of them. Scents can bring back memories of the outside world, through curling incense from Japanese temples to the mint and lime twist of the Caribbean.
- Try a combination of incense sticks and aromatherapy oils to bring different memories of the world into your space.
- Simple scents from fresh ingredients can lift and transport your mood. Browse pinterest for candle recipes, stovetop scents and more. Here's a starter.
BRUSH UP YOUR PHOTO SKILLS
Even without taking a course, you can brush up your photography by practising. Nothing stimulates creativity like having limits, so see what you can find in your home to make beautiful. See how the light changes during the day.
Find indoor photographs you love and try to replicate them to test out your skills. Practice portraits. Self-portraits. Always felt a bit of a fool taking selfies? Practise your heart out now.
PLAN YOUR TRAVEL SKILLS
Have you fallen into a travel booking rut? Always book through the same website or never got around to setting up your Uber and Air BnB accounts. Plod through the admin now to be ready when the doors open.
- Check out our recommended travel resources here. How many do you know? Do you have any more you could recommend?
TAKE STOCK OF YOUR FINANCES
Whatever our budget, travel costs money and periods of isolation rarely help to improve the bank balance. Now is the time to look at long term investments and scroll through short term spending to see what you can do.
If you're relatively new to looking into your finances, check out Money Saving Expert. It's full of practical guides and useful tips and processes.
RELISH PLANNING TRIPS IN THE FUTURE
How about the best wildlife experiences in the world? How many have you done? Which could you plan to do later.
LISTEN TO AUDIO BOOKS AND PODCASTS
Sometimes, reading or watching films feels a bit too restrictive. Enter podcasts and audio books so that you can still do your exercise, the housework, give your eyes a break, whatever.
- Check out the free trial period on Amazon Audible. The full service includes unlimited audio books but get a feel for how it works first.
SORT OUT YOUR TRAVEL WARDROBE
Ahem. Do all your clothes still fit? Are they still fit for purpose? Does the lycra still stretch back?
Have you thought about setting up a capsule wardrobe to help with packing and planning. How about clothes for extreme weather or adventure?
DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR EXISTING TRAVEL PHOTOS
Actually take the time to organise them, pull out the ones you love, enlarge them and have them framed. Put them on the wall. But no need to stop there.
How about converting them into tote bags, jigsaws, mugs or... shockingly...just slowing down and enjoying simply looking at them.
TAKE STOCK OF YOUR TRAVEL SOUVENIRS
Hm. If you're anything like me, you have plenty of travel souvenirs already. Lying around somewhere. Out of sight, in a box, gathering dust.
If you can't actually travel then make the most of the memories you already have.
ORGANISE YOUR TRAVEL SYSTEM
Travel will come back. How about all those tasks you've put off? I can't be the only one. Sort through those mini toiletries. Fix the broken travel adapter. Cull your loyalty cards and arrange copies of all your important travel paperwork to live in the cloud.
- Create your own pre-trip checklist based on this article and get yourself up and ready for when the world reopens.
CREATE YOUR MASTER TRAVEL LIST
If you check out the ultimate travel packing list, you'll discover the concept of a master list and a travel packing drawer.
Now is the time to get yours ship shape and shiny, so that when the doors ope again, you are ready to go.
MAKE A TRAVEL SHOPPING LIST
Get all your ducks in a row by researching and stocking up on the kit you'll need. Left to the last minute, this can become overwhelming (or just something you forget about.) Using your time now will help you later on (you may also be able to find some great deals.)
Beyond that, relish time spent researching and learning about the quality souvenirs you can buy from a place. I'm not talking about snow globes and neon plastic Eiffel towers (though, if that's your thing, I'm not judging.)
I mean working out how to find the best balsamic in Italy, the freshest croissants in Paris or the greenest pumpkin oil in Graz.
EXERCISE FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Think of exercise as your most important task to protect your physical and mental health. But, it's going to be tricky. Remember that any movement counts. You don't need to be climbing mountains or running marathons.
Walks around the block and home workouts will get the job done. So will a folding exercise bike like this which you can order from Amazon. Fitness Blender has a range of online exercise programs and videos you can use for free.
But how about changing the exercise you do?
Taking an online yoga class from India? Learn dance moves from Brazil. The flamenco from Spain. The tango from Buenos Aires...
RESEARCH CHARITIES TO SUPPORT
It's a sad but true fact of life that many charities around the world are used for rather nefarious purposes. Orphanages, in particular, can be created to lure in tourists and their cash using some horrendous practices. If you find yourself with time on your hands, spend your time digging deep into charities you wanted to support but weren't quite sure.
A good starting place is to read this article from Uncornered Market on sustainable tourism practices.
IMPROVE YOUR WRITING SKILLS
Want to tell tales about the trips you've already been on? Wondering about whether a travel writing career is for you but you've put off seriously thinking about it because you've been too busy?
- I run online writing courses that promise to help you bring your ideas to the world. See this page for more details about Write Better, Right Now.
ACTIVELY PROTECT YOUR MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH
Isolation can take a toll. Daily fear can grind away. Make a promise to yourself to look after yourself. That means daily exercise, daily creativity, limiting terrifying news stories, getting dressed, eating properly, making your bed and making some kind of social contact for each and every day. Create long term projects to look forwards to and try to help someone every day. Think these are wishy-washy suggestions? Not at all, they come from sound medical advice.
Right now, it's a strange and uncertain time. And isolation, for any reason, is harder than it sounds. But it can be done. We can all get through this. There may even be some good times along the way - and we should certainly look to the good times returning as well. Change is the only constant. This too shall pass.
I will also be adding to this list regularly. Sign up by email to hear updates.
Any other tips?