Five innovative ways to explore the world virtually in 2021
With the PM’s recent announcement that the Covid restrictions will stay in place for a while longer, a growing number of Brits are wondering when they can get out, about and overseas.
While various countries are opening their borders to UK travellers, including the popular holiday spots Egypt, Spain, and Cyprus, the world still largely remains closed. It’s still uncertain when people will be able to travel and sate their wanderlust as they did before. Bryce Conway, the founder of 10xTravel, told CNN that the volume of long-haul flight routes may not “increase to pre-Covid-19 levels until 2022″.
Of course, booking a flight is only part of the issue with ongoing struggles to control the virus in some nations, concerns over the availability of urgent care and the proposal of vaccine passports all being factors that make overseas exploration difficult.
Technology has offered some solutions for would-be jet setters who are stuck at home. While everyone’s physical passports might be gathering dust, people can still travel the world virtually in 2021 because the internet is an ally.
With that in mind, here’s a round-up of some immersive travel experiences that ardent travellers can take from the comfort of their sofas – or beds, we won’t judge.
Stream travel programs from around the world
Hats off to the BBC and Netflix for supplying everyone with some awesome and exciting content but there’s only so much Bear Grylls one can take before starting to wonder if it really is possible to tame and then ride a “wild” horse in the “forest”.
For travel show aficionados who have watched everything their streaming services have on offer, it’s time to escape the Eurocentric lens and delve into a world of foreign content. By using a VPN service, users can shield their true IP address and thus their device’s actual location; the result is being able to appear online from anywhere in the world.
Given this capability, a VPN allows users to stream global content, regardless of geo-blocking restrictions. Watched every show on UK Netflix? Switch the VPN’s server location to Moscow, open Netflix, and stream Russia’s Netflix catalogue, including its travel shows. Switch the subtitles to English and вуаля (voila)!
Explore the world’s cultural treasures on Google Arts & Culture
Google’s Arts & Culture portal came under a fair amount of justified fire for its biased art doppelganger feature. For museum junkies looking for a fix however, this could be just the ticket. In combination with over 2,000 museums and galleries worldwide, the portal has amassed a veritable treasure trove of digital craft experiences, long and short-form art and cultural commentary and 360-degree walkthroughs.
Whether it’s a deep dive into Cuban street artwork or the creation of a pastapiece Van Gogh-style, there’s something to keep everyone entertained. Discover Goya’s black series at the digital Prado or take a safari through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania.
Book a digital tour with a local guide
It’s safe to say that the majority of industries have been adversely affected by the pandemic, but travel and tourism has been among the worst hit. In nations such as Thailand where tourism makes up a significant proportion of the national GDP, the effects have been devastating to local families who rely upon international travel.
The advent of digital tours is helping combat this issue to an extent. Virtual travellers can book a private excursion with a dedicated local guide who takes guests on a trip around the local area. Platforms such as Tours by Locals connects couch-based explorers with escorts and ensure that a fair amount of the fee goes directly to the worker.
Wander Amsterdam’s famed red-light district at night, discover the delights of Damascus’ souks by day or take a peek into Bangkok’s famous floating markets. The options are plentiful and affordable with most expeditions costing around £15.
Fed up with Earth and the virus? Say stuff it and go to space
If Earth’s delights are not quite as delightful as they used to be, it’s time to turn to space. While Elon Musk’s colonisation of Mars is still a few lightyears away (or perhaps not judging by the sheer pace at which he’s building those Starlink satellites), gravity-bound stargazers can still get a taste of the intergalactic via NASA’s virtual experiences.
NASA’s website boasts a fair few activities including an encounter with the International Space Station, a 360-degree look at Goddard’s Robotic Operations Center (ROC) and even a virtual adventure to the Moon. Channel the inner sputnik and strap on some moon boots, there’s enough innovative digital content here to keep even the most jaded among us amused.
Go scuba diving in the world’s top spots
Last but certainly not least, consider getting wet and go scuba diving. While this sport might often be thought of as a warm water activity, the truth is that divers explore worldwide. Even here in the UK, we’ve got places such as St Kilda in the outer Hebrides, Scapa Flow, and the Skomer Marine Reserve – all renowned scuba spots.
There are numerous ways to get underwater from one’s sofa, including VR experiences in Egypt’s Red Sea to diving in NZ’s Poor Knights Islands; PADI has a good round-up of dry dive ideas here.
If the urge to get wet for real hits, consider taking the theory part of an Open Water Diver course online then plunge into a new skill once centres are running as normal again. Since around 70% of the globe is covered in water, it would be a shame to not travel under the surface, too
Inspired by these digital travel ideas for 2021? Gather a (small) group at home and take a trip together. The world may be mostly closed, but thanks to the internet, it’s still our virtual oyster. Enjoy!
The editorial unit