Ideal for those stuck indoors craving escapism.
Hey, we wish we could be writing this article sans the ‘from your sofa’ part; just as much as you wish you were reading this piece on the way to the airport, rather than from that sofa, we’d venture.
But current travel restrictions, closed borders and ongoing inadequate government responses dictate things differently. We’re all having to get pretty creative with our escapism right now, with holidays far-flung being taken virtually, linguistically and imaginatively until real trips are once again permitted.
For now, this is the next best thing; our 5 of the best ways to explore a new country from the safety of your sofa, IDEAL for those stuck indoors craving escapism.
LEARN THE LANGUAGE
Have you ever felt like you’ve only scratched the surface of the country you’re visiting? Like you’ve just engaged with fellow travellers and ordered solely off menus with English translations? That you’ve felt a sense of separation and distance from the culture you were hoping to experience because you couldn’t speak the language?
Yep, we’ve all been there. If you’re looking to truly engage with a country, its culture and its people, then a grasp of their lexicon will enable you to do so. Understanding the language doesn’t only let you converse and make friends, it also gives you an extraordinary insight into how a place ticks.
So, while you’re once again locked down, why not make it your mission to get to grips with the nuances, slang and conversational quirks of a country you love?
Doing so is possible via several popular apps currently seeing an exponential rise in use; Duolingo leads the way, and its gamified interface is great for getting some beginner vocabulary under your belt. Should you be looking to improve your grammar, Rosetta Stone feels like a more serious platform, but in all honesty, conversational skills are most comprehensively improved by engaging with native speakers. There are free language exchange websites which enable you to do just that, via Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts. You might even make a new friend in the process.
Even if you don’t have the time to take a deep dive into a new language, memorising just a few useful phrases can help nurture convivial communications in the country you’re visiting. The travel experts at Egypt tours, who offer exclusive deals on accommodation and catering, recommend that above all else, you should ‘’learn a few Arabic words so you can speak to the locals when exploring the country’’.
Wise words, indeed; now how do we say them in Arabic?
AIR BNB ESCAPISM
Though it’s a cold, hard case of living vicariously, we’ve found a peculiar comfort in checking out AirBnB and other such apps’ listings during lockdown, appraising properties in the destination we’re dreaming of, and imagining where we’d be having our dinner and putting out feet up, should we be staying there. Yep, it sounds sad, but escapism is hard to come by right now.
To get your mind racing regarding somewhere a little closer to home, check out these incredible Air Bnb rentals for a unique stay away in the UK. Give it go and then get back to us!
COOK THE CUISINE OF A COUNTRY AT HOME (OR ORDER IN!)
One of the most fun parts of any holiday is taking a cooking class or having a drinks mixing class booked to learn about the country’s food culture. Sadly, this isn’t possible right now, but online cooking classes in a whole variety of cuisines are available.
Alternatively, you could endeavour to teach yourself using a good old-fashioned cookbook. Though we’d be here all night if we recommended all of our favourites, here’s just a few we particularly love and which are especially exhaustive and educational about a single country’s cuisine:
- For Italian food: ‘The Essentials of Italian Cooking’ by Marcella Hazan
- For Thai: ‘Thai Food’ by David Thompson
- For Sichuan: ‘The Food of Sichuan’ by Fuschia Dunlop
- For Indian: ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery’ by Madhur Jaffrey
- For Spanish tapas: ‘Barrafina: A Spanish Cookbook’ by Nieves Barragan Mohacho, and Eddie and Sam Hart
- For Portuguese (or more specifically, the food of Lisbon): ‘Lisboeta’ by Nuno Mendes
- For Mexican: ‘Tu Casa Mi Casa’ by Enrique Olvera
TAKE VIRTUAL TOURS
Many of the world’s premier attractions have had to be nimble, dexterous and adaptable to fast moving times in order to keep afloat and relevant whilst not actually being visited in the flesh. This has led to many offering virtual tours online, keeping their doors open via the World Wide Web for inquisitive travellers to explore.
Here are a few we’ve been enjoy lately…
- Check out these 10 IDEAL virtual tours of London landmarks
- Pique your curiosity with virtual tours around 10 amazing European museums
- For something a little different, try these tips for exploring Philadelphia from your sofa
- Or, visit The Open Heritage website where you can explore some of the world’s most iconic locations including the Temple of Apollo and parts of the Roman City of Pompeii. If you’re feeling spenny, consider investing in a VR headset to immerse yourself in a wrap-around view of these amazing sites for even greater armchair wanderlust.
- We’re also fans of the youtube channel Rambalac which offers virtualesque videowalk tours; there’s no talking or intrusive faces, just videos of walking through various places in Japan.
- Finally, vlogger Mark Wiens, who runs the websites Migrationology and Eating Thai Food, has hundreds of videos on YouTube which are totally free to access, and detail epic food tours of some of the finest eating cities in the world.
WATCH TRAVEL DOCUMENTARIES
Speaking of watching videos, BBC iPlayer, Netflix and a whole host of other streaming platforms all offer a treasure drove of travel documentaries which will satiate your thirst for travel, at least for a little while.
For now, sadly, much of the joy of discovering new cultures is going to be found via our TV screens. We particularly love both Parts Unknown and No Reservations by the late, great Anthony Bourdain, who shows a compassionate touch exploring the world through its food. He’s so sorely missed, but you can still watch Bourdain’s food travel shows on Amazon Prime and Netflix, and feel connected to cultures and people on the other side of the world.
David Attenborough’s exploration of the natural world is also much needed when the most nature we’re currently interacting with is our pot plants. Right now, A Perfect Planet is on every Sunday on BBC One, and is fascinating.
Alternatively, YouTube boasts thousands upon thousands of travel channels and vlogs. Some of our favourites include Sorelle Amore, the Budgeteers, and Shizuka’s Food Adventures in Japan. Let’ be honest, though; sometimes it’s more fun to stumble across the less-polished, down-to-earth travel videos which haven’t been given that particular sheen all the bigger-budget vlogs seem to boast. Often it’s more fun just to blast a random search into YouTube and dive in!