Hopefully, the covid-19 lockdowns and being stuck at home for months are nearly at an end. However, one activity that I plan to continue between actual holiday vacations is virtual travel from home. Besides being fun and something to do besides sitting around bored at home, it has also been interesting and enriching. One key part of my travel mindset is to “Learn something new, as we all have more to learn, especially from other people.” Why not do this from home as well as on a trip?
Elements of Travel
First, let’s look at which elements of travel you can recall. What can you remember most about your past travels? Try to think of one particularly memorable trip. Close your eyes and see what comes rushing back to your memory first. How does this relate to the five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch? Does your memory recall a mixture of sights, sounds, smells, tastes or touches.
Most likely, we each pay more attention to certain senses. For me, I often remember a mixture of the first four senses, with a particular focus on sights and tastes. In fact, a particular sight can stir up emotions from a trip even long after I am home. For example, remembering the breathtaking view of Machu Picchu, or landing on the barren land of Antarctica evoke different emotions. Usually these emotions include awe and wonder, excitement, and gratitude for the opportunity to be there. Regarding the sense of taste, I talk about this a lot in this blog. This is because the taste of certain foods can instantly bring back vivid memories of foreign travels.
Where to (virtually) travel?
Next, you should choose where in the world you want to travel, so you can plan your sensational experiences around your chosen destination. Do you want to travel back to somewhere you enjoyed visiting? Or would you rather discover a new destination? It’s up to you! This will be your theme for the virtual trip. And the good news is that there is minimal waiting time and you can decide exactly when you return.
For the sense of sight, there are many ways to refresh your memory or to discover somewhere new. For example, you could look back at your own travel photos, or visit travel websites, YouTube channels, movies, or television programmes. The choices are endless, and you just need to search for what you will enjoy watching. An example we tried recently was to watch some Norwegian cross-country skiing during dinner. We have never been to Pellestova/Hafjell, but felt like being somewhere wintry like the chilly weather at home that night. The video was complete with skiing sounds and even some friendly passers by shouting greetings in Norwegian.
As mentioned in the video above, along with the sense of sight was the sense of hearing. There were sounds in the video that made the virtual experience more realistic. However, you could also focus on sounds without a visual stimulus. This may include listening to traditional music from a certain country. For example, on Saint Patrick’s day we had a virtual party. We started with an Irish quiz, ate Irish stew with potatoes, and listened to Irish music. And the music really set the festive mood. There are plenty of playlists on Spotify, YouTube or other platforms so you just need to search using a key word. In this case, the key word was Irish.
On another occasion, we were missing the sounds of a café while having our coffee and cake at home. We found background French café noise on YouTube, which reminded us of being in France if we had our eyes closed. So, with a little bit of effort, you can create a pseudo-environment at home with sounds of your choice.
The next sense to explore is smell. Smells can either be pleasant or unpleasant. I suggest that if you want to evoke positive memories, you may want to focus on the pleasant ones?! Essential oils such as lavender remind me of the lavender fields near San Diego, California. I have not yet been to the French lavender fields of Provence but imagine they would smell similar. Of course, there are also the aromas of foods and drinks. These are the most powerful to me. For example, dill makes me think about Vietnam. Dill is used in a traditional dish in Hanoi called cha ca. This dish is made with fish, dill, spring onions, noodles and peanuts. Cardamom and cinnamon recall hot and spicy chai (tea) in India. More recently, I had these smells reminiscent of India while cooking Moong dal halwa at home! And the list of scents could go on and on.
The fourth sense to discover is taste, which can often go together with smell. Taste is probably my strongest sense when it comes to travel. I seek out opportunities to taste local foods and even to learn how to cook them. Later, these tastes bring back the wonderful memories of my travels and experiences. For more about travelling through taste you can check out my blog post about travelling through food and also the recipe map. You may want to try cooking a dish from your virtual travel destination, or just order from a local restaurant. Usually I would opt for trying to cook, though there is often a challenge to find ingredients. One interesting fact I have discovered while doing so much international cooking, is that a lot of very different cuisines have at least one ingredient in common. More about that in a future post!
At first, I was not sure how touch could be incorporated into virtual travel. However, after further thought I think this is possible but could take some effort. For example. acquiring some sand or seashells could evoke memories of the beach. Or holding a real coconut with a beverage inside could recreate a relaxing day in a tropical cocktail bar. I must admit that I don’t have many memories of touch from my recent travels. The only one I can think of is related to food. While ordering food from Red Sea in Shepherds Bush, I felt the familiar sponginess of injera (fermented flatbread) from Ethiopia.
In a creative offshoot of touch, I have an example from our virtual Chinese New Year Celebration of 2021. A group of friends and I each had some paper in our own homes. Then together we watched a video about Chinese paper folding in slow motion. We all used our sense of touch to create something unique and artistic with our hands. And I can assure you that we were all proud of our participation in a traditional activity from China. We did this activity along with tasting Chinese food and wine, then playing Chinese Pictionary led by Janet Wang.
Time to plan your own virtual travel
In conclusion, you can choose to recreate a previous travel experience or virtually travel to a new destination. Usually you can do this using your own imagination and available resources, with the exception of finding ingredients for cooking. It may take some planning, but it’s worth it if you can have fun and learn something new. Last but not least, sharing is caring so why not invite family and friends to join in the virtual travels? Everyone can use their creativity to join in with the destination theme.
Where have you virtually travelled to during the pandemic lockdown?