Home COVID-19 How to Virtually Travel the World While Staying at Home

How to Virtually Travel the World While Staying at Home

by Yiwei Gu
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“Travel” is a hard concept to wrap our heads around these days. Borders are closed, planes are grounded, and venues across the globe have closed their doors. This, however, doesn’t mean the life-long journey of exploration should also be temporarily suspended. With the past decade’s technology boom, there are now numerous websites and platforms that offer virtual travel experiences that enable us to explore ancient sites and vibrant cities from the comfort of our homes, and many of them are surprisingly sophisticated and fun.

No, these are not supposed to replace the real, in-person thing, but they are still useful channels to utilize to learn about the world and get inspired. Hoboken Girl has rounded up a list of ideas, activities, and tools for virtual travel {most of which are free}. So, yes it might be {only a short} while before we actually set foot on these faraway places again, but discovery should never stop, even when we are all staying at home. Here’s your at-home travel guide:

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Learn About the New Seven Wonders of the World + Beyond

Start the journey of exploration and discovery with the New Seven Wonders of the World: the Great Wall of China, the Colosseum in Italy, the Taj Mahal in India, the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, Machu Picchu in Peru, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, and Chichen Itza in Mexico. A few different websites and platforms offer virtual Seven Wonders tours, each with their own strengths. On Google Poly, it is a montage of 3D aerial shots, that allow users to appreciate these sites and the grand landscapes around them as if in a helicopter.

Airpano, a website with a huge collection of panoramas photos and videos of interesting corners of the world, enables viewers to dive into each one of these sites and appreciate the highlights and details from various angles. The New York Times also has a series of interactive videos that allow readers to look at these monuments from ground level. By moving the computer mouse and zooming in and out, you can turn around 360 degrees at each scene, and even closely watch the people walking around the sites. 

Beyond the seven monuments, there are also countless other wonders to virtually explore. Some equally breathtaking monuments  include the Giza Pyramids in Cairo, Alhambra in Granada, Wadi Rum in Jordan, and Bagan in Myanmar

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Of course, a virtual tour can never compare with the real thing. However, confined in our own homes, it’s still an interesting alternative to learn something new about the world. {Maybe even pick up a book afterward and dive into the stories of the civilizations behind the monuments!} It’s actually even more fun for those who have been to these places, to revisit the old memories, discover previously unnoticed details, and get inspired for the next expedition. 

Read More: Local + International Museums You Can Virtually Explore From Home

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Explore a National Park

One of the best ways to explore nature virtually is through Google Earth. For the U.S. alone, it has created virtual tours of more than 30 national parks. Users can look around 360 degrees at any chosen spot, “walk” along the trails, or closely examine the plants and boulders along the way, similar to how we browse around Google Street View. Some national parks also have virtual tours on their own websites. Yosemite’s website, for example, has an extremely detailed and informative virtual tour section, which not only contains stunning 360 views of the park, but also provides practical hiking recommendations and interesting information on the geology and natural lives of certain areas of the park.

For other parts of the world, it is also extremely fun and inspiring to explore nature using Google Earth. Even in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where the stock of ground-level images is not nearly as plentiful as in the U.S., users can still get high-quality virtual experiences {simply click into the blue dots on the map to enter “street-level view”}. Consider standing on top of Mount Kilimanjaro and looking down the crevasses and spikes of the glaciers, or descending into a safari camp in Serengeti and peep into a tent under an acacia tree. Or simply “wander” around without a set destination. When researching this article, Hoboken Girl accidentally dropped a pin and saw this amazing waterfall in central Kenya. 

Visit a New City

Turns out that Google Street View is the best way to explore a city — instead of presenting crowd-free, “polished” shots of photogenic streets and plazas, the street views reveal the most “real” version of a place, where the sidewalks and public places are packed with tourists and locals alike. This can be a surprisingly powerful experience, especially during the long quarantine days when we spend hours wondering what normal urban life is like. We can virtually “rub shoulders” with tourists waiting in line to climb up the clock tower of Notre Dame, or “walk” past young people leisurely leafing through their paperbacks at a tiny table outside a sidewalk cafe. Some really fun {read: visually busy} neighborhoods to explore are Le Marais district of Paris, Galata Area of Istanbul, and Old Delhi in Delhi.

For those who want a more curated experience, for many cities and tourist hotspots around the world, AirPano has created 360-degree views of selected highlights of that place. Depending on the spot that is shown, users can either take a bird’s eye view or descend to street level. On the same webpage, viewers can also read about the history and facts of a city or site, and browse more professionally shot photos of that place. Some really wonderful collections on the website include “Tokyo at Night,” “Sintra, Portugal, and Hong Kong”

Virtual city tours don’t have to happen at an unknown part of the world. It’s equally fun to explore a familiar place. As a New York Times columnist wrote in a recent article, “Street View has an uncanny way of making the familiar unfamiliar.” For one thing, it enables users to see how a place changes over time — something that actually cannot be achieved in actual travel. To do it, enter Google Street View by dropping the yellow human figure down at a chosen street corner, click the clock sign in the black box at the upper left corner of the screen and choose a time point in the past. It’s heartening to watch how a beloved neighborhood evolved in the past decade along with our own lives. {This is what the corner of Hoboken’s 6th street and Washington street looked like in 2007 and 2019.}

See More: A Round-Up of Entertainment Around the Web to Enjoy at Home

Get a Culture Fix by Attending a Concert

Artists around the world are taking to social media and streaming platforms to bring their art to people’s living rooms. Many of them are free or come at a discounted price compared to “normal” times. The legendary Berlin Philharmonic has opened a digital concert hall, making available over 600 orchestral concerts as well as many “behind the scene” videos documenting the makings of the music. The content can be accessed free of charge for 30 days after registering with its website {no manual cancellation needed, so relax!}.  For a “live” show, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, despite the ban on ticket sales, has been performing sans audience. The livestream concerts can be watched on their YouTube channel.

Beginning in late March, the Metropolitan Opera launched its Nightly Opera Streams, making some of its most celebrated performances available to the public for free. The schedule for upcoming performances is released weekly, so plan your night accordingly. For musical lovers, BroadwayHD has a large collection of original performances the platform filmed, including some of the most famed shows on Broadway and the West End such as “Kinky Boots.” A subscription costs $8.99 a month or $99.99 a year. 

Finally, independent artists, bands, and dance troupes have also been livestreaming their performances on their Facebook pages, YouTube channels, or other more specialized art websites {such as this}, and most of them can be watched at no cost. For those who still don’t know where to start, the NPR website has a running list of {mostly free} virtual live concerts that is updated daily.

How will you be virtually traveling the world?  Let us know in the comments!


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