How to Shelter in Place and Still See the World.

Passing Trams in an Older Section of Lisbon (©
Passing Trams in an Older Section of Lisbon (©

To say these are strange times is an understatement. The government tells us that because of coronavirus we can’t leave our homes, visit family and friends, gather for religious and social activities, or travel. Our so-called leaders demand we shelter in place except to obtain the most essential items: food, medical care, alcohol, and ammo.

The human spirit is nothing if not resilient. Some choose to engage in nastiness and potentially fatal stupidity (know anyone who’s licked a public toilet seat lately?), while the majority choose to be generous and creative. We help our neighbors get groceries, take them to medical appointments, and stay in touch with them. To maintain some semblance of sanity at home, we attend meetings via Zoom, become more creative in the kitchen, and binge-watch “Tiger King” to take comfort in the knowledge that despite the Coronavirus restrictions, we could never become that batshit crazy.

But what about our inability to travel? How can we satisfy our desire to learn about and explore the diverse histories, cultures, and populations of destinations now closed to us? Here are three ways, while not a permanent substitute for physical travel, that can help keep us going until it’s safe to pack our suitcases again.

Travel Down Memory Lane

Since the mind is a terrible thing to waste, program it to travel mode and make it work for you. If you’ve traveled to amazing places, met phenomenal people, and had unforgettable experiences, this is a great time to bring them to the forefront. Throughout this post, you’ll see some of Simon’s favorite photos from travels past to get your memories flowing.

One of my favorite indulgences is taking long, hot showers. Recently, I’ve been plucking a random travel destination from my memory bank and calling up as many of the most delightful details as I can. While soaping, shampooing, rinsing, and drying off I’m transported back to Lisbon where we took two walking tours in one day. We learned so much about the history, culture, music, and people of this dynamic European city. If you ask Simon, he’ll tell you I can relive an entire week in Ireland during just one of my showers.

One of the Bronze Statues in the Famine Memorial in Dublin Reminding Us of the Mass Exodus from Ireland During the Potatoe Famine (©
One of the Bronze Statues in the Famine Memorial in Dublin Reminding Us of the Mass Exodus from Ireland During the Potatoe Famine (©

But it doesn’t have to be shower time for you to call on travel memories to cheer you. While preparing macaroni and cheese again, think about a fabulous meal you enjoyed during your travels. Then add a generous pinch of Spanish smoked paprika and some sautéed minced garlic to the pot.

Nothing Like a Real Italian Expresso Made by a Barista in Naples (©
Nothing Like a Real Italian Expresso Made by a Barista in Naples (©

Remember those photographs you’ve had languishing in a box on a high shelf since you bought your first digital camera? Now maybe the time to take them down, give them a look-through, enjoy the memories they conjure up, and send the best ones off to be digitized.

One of the many treasures travels gives us is the ability to go back, smile, laugh, sigh, and drool – oh, that incredible calamari we devoured in that crowded little bar in Madrid! – while thinking of some of the best times of our lives.

Calamari with Olives and Hard Cider Served at a Favorite Haunt Near Plaza Mayor in Madrid (©
Calamari with Olives and Hard Cider Served at a Favorite Haunt Near Plaza Mayor in Madrid (©

Travel in the Present

Memories are wonderful, but what about the here and now? Well, there is a great deal of creativity and thinking outside the box going on everywhere. Thanks to that creativity, you can visit some of the best museums in the world, take walking tours in familiar cities and those you want to visit, as well as attend concerts in faraway places. Your web browser is your friend. Use it to track down virtual tours, performances, international cooking classes, lectures, and more. Here is just a small sample of the virtual joy I’ve found so far.

Let’s Begin with Music

Members of the National Orchestra of France perform Maurice Ravel’s Bolero on lockdown in their homes. The piece was stitched together, and if you weren’t looking, you’d swear they were all in the same place. Be prepared to be amazed.

Listen to a lovely and timely original piece written for trumpets.

From the Netherlands comes a virtual version of Beethoven’s 9th, Ode to Joy.

And the one that gives me goosebumps is the Choir of Women Physicians.

Let’s Exercise Our Virtual Learning Muscle

Conde Nast has a list of free online cooking classes from chefs’ kitchens in Modena, Italy, New York, and LA.

“Tours from Home” can send you on walking tours in Venice, or to a pizza-making class led by an Italian chef. Want to visit Pompeii? You can do that, too. Each tour or class is $10, and you have a number of choices.

Cruise Critic offers a series of options for cruise activities you can recreate at home

The people who created these resources love what they do. And if they can’t share their talent and enthusiasm in person, they have found – and are still finding – ways to share them online. So dig in and enjoy.

Travel for Your Future

Being forced to stay home for such a long period is tough. For me, the addition of pine pollen, spring rain, and erratic swings in temperatures makes the incarceration even more annoying. I’m a travel writer. I should be traveling.

Of course, this will end someday, but it may not be any time soon. Still, there are press trips to reschedule and new ones to optimistically schedule for the Fall. I can play with Splendid, go for walks, write, spring clean, bake bread (no complaints from Simon there), and engage in video chats with our sons, friends, and families in England and Israel. Still, I’m itching to get moving.

Despite the current situation, there are many ways to look toward travel in the future. We can be pro-active in preparing ourselves to hit the road – or the sky – when the time comes.

Sign up for the newsletter from Scott’s Cheap flights, Johnny Jet, or other sources of travel news and bargains. You can score some incredible deals for late this year or early 2021 if you have the flexibility to make long-range plans. Can’t wait to cruise again? The newsletter from Cruise Critic posts future deals to make your sea legs do a happy dance. And remember, both the airlines and cruise lines have had to incorporate more flexibility into their cancelation policies.

To keep up with trends, try subscribing to the newsletters from publications like Conde Nast Traveler, and AFAR. The information can help you keep up with travel trends present and future. Many such glossy travel magazines have websites and email newsletters. Pick your favorites and start thinking about your next trip.

Another great resource for future travel is the tourist bureau or CVB (convention and visitor bureau) in destinations on your list for future trips. Their websites are usually up-to-date on cancelations, and they will also be the first to post news on local festivals, events, and venues as they start up again.

Final Thoughts

We are not the only ones feeling the effects of the Coronavirus devil. Simon and I have seen firsthand how small family-run businesses, both locally and internationally, are suffering.

We have no idea what the travel landscape will look like when we can once more venture out, but it’s a sad reality that many of these businesses won’t survive. If you can show your favorite small business some love by buying local, purchasing gift cards to give as gifts or use later for yourself or treat yourself to some take-out, this may make the difference between survival and bankruptcy. Compared to what these businesses are going through, most of us have it easy. So count your blessings, care for your neighbors and loved ones, and stay safe.

How are you coping with the current lack of travel opportunities? How do you see yourself traveling in the future? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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