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How to explore the world from home with virtual travel

Travel journalist Caleigh Alleyne shares some fun ways to quench your wanderlust during the pandemic.
January 21, 2021 1:41 p.m. EST

We all miss travelling right now, especially as the weather gets colder. Oh, to be sitting on a warm beach somewhere, sipping a mimosa... However, all hope is not lost! There are plenty of ways you can still satisfy your wanderlust, even while staying at home. While it may not be the same experience as the real thing, virtual travel has lots to offer, not the least of which is a mini-escape from reality for a little while. Interested? Travel journalist Caleigh Alleyne shared some amazing opportunities that are available right now to explore the world, all from the comfort and safety of your own couch. Oh, and did we mention they're all free? These fun virtual attractions and activities will tide you over until we can all travel again!

Check out Caleigh's suggestions below, and be sure to watch the video above for even more ways to travel the world through your computer screen.

PLAN A FUTURE TRIP FROM HOME

If you can't stop looking forward to your next vacation, this might be the best way to tide you over. Much like pre-pandemic days, the first thing you can do to plan a vacation is to search it up on Google. Instead of searching for where to go, where to stay and what to eat, use Google's street and satellite view functionality in Google Maps. There, you can (literally) look ahead and plan!

There are also plenty of road trips from home where you can check off iconic journeys, like racing along the Avenue de la Porte Neuve in Monaco where you’ll see the city and mountains, and the water full of luxury yachts. Or, drive the Great Ocean Road in Australia where you’ll see things like the famous Twelve Apostles, a beautiful collection of limestone stacks. There are so many stunning places to explore!

AIRBNB ONLINE EXPERIENCES

To help local hosts whose bookings have been reduced during this time, Airbnb has pivoted to offer online experiences that connect virtual travellers with local communities around the world. Choose from a selection of Airbnb online 'Field Trip' experiences, where you can discover street art in Buenos Aires or dive under the sea with a Shark Expert - all in one weekend.

Not only that, but there's also the option to virtually gather your family and friends together and take part in cooking classes, magic lessons, dance classes and more, all taught by an international teacher to give you that authentic experience of learning a new culture. 

TRY AN ONLINE ESCAPE ROOM

Improbable Escapes in Kingston is a great example of how tourism has pivoted during the pandemic. To help meet safety guidelines, you can hop onto Zoom with your friends and find your way out of a virtual escape room in real time. How fun! You’ll have a guide who is actually locked in the room and will follow your directions to solve the puzzles and escape.

These family friendly experiences can accommodate from 2-30 people and cost $25 per participant. They’re played at home from a device while you follow along and are transported into mythical and magical worlds. There are even large group play options of 200+ people so digital escape rooms are perfect for big family events or staff parties.

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FOR THE FAMILY TRAVELLER

Explore.org has the largest live nature camera network on the planet! It has a YouTube channel where you can enjoy the natural world in real time. You can witness brown bears in Alaska feeding on salmon and playing, or tropical reefs that are home to over a thousand different animals.

The Vancouver Aquarium also has some great content for families right now. You can check out their animals from your living room by taking a peek at the Baby Otter cam. SO cute!

Okay, this one blew our minds. You can book a private Virtual AquaClass with an Ocean Wise Educator to talk about the ocean topic of your choosing! While the Virtual AquaClasses are normally reserved for schools, parents can book 45-minute sessions with an Ocean Wise Educator to learn about Careers in Conservation, Reptiles and Amphibians, and more. This interactive presentation is a great supplement to virtual school and a socially-distant alternative to field trips during this time.

FOR THE ADVENTURE TRAVELLER

Turn your next indoor spin cycle ride or treadmill run into a journey around the world with the help of YouTube and VR. For those who want to gamify their journey, apps like ZWIFT allow you to cycle through fantasy inspired routes and iconic routes. You can ride through New York City, Yorkshire or France all while tracking your speed and getting the full experience. It’s currently a 7-day free trial, then costs $18.99/month for cycling. The running programs are free while they are in BETA testing.

Or, if you're looking for a lower-cost alternative just to escape for an hour, there are lots of virtual hikes  or virtual bike rides on YouTube to watch during your workout or from the comfort of your couch!  

EXPLORING CANADA

For explorations in Canada, head to the Northwest Territories where they have 360 degree VR videos you can enjoy. To experience them in VR, all you’ll need is your mobile device to transport you there. Once you switch to “Watch in VR” you can toggle through the YouTube video to get a panoramic look at the Northwest Territories. The video captures some of the cultural traditions, the reindeer crossing in Inuvik, winter sporting activities and sledding or catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights dancing from the warmth of your own home. 

You can also sail down the Rideau Canal (which is celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2021) in this remarkable four-hour video. The Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage where, during the winter, it transforms into the world’s largest skating rink. In the warmer months, it is used for both recreation and commercial boat traffic connecting Ottawa with both Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River. This video takes you through the intricate lock system and the small towns and communities found along the way.

Head to Whistler, British Columbia for a beautiful hike with this 3D tour that a local real estate agent has made of famous spots like the Trainwreck Hike. The short hiking trail follows the Sea to Sky Trail and crosses a suspension bridge before arriving at the colourfully painted box cars, which have sat in the forest since 1956. Matterport, which is primarily used by real estate agents to include virtual tours in the listings, allows you to navigate the train through this panoramic image and to create your own path by stopping, zooming in, or looking around the trail at different points throughout your virtual hike.

FOR A CULTURAL EXPERIENCE

National Arts Centre Indigenous Theatre is offering livestream programming throughout January and February including a series of Powwow Workout Classes led by Josée Bourgeois, a professional dance artist who specializes in First Nations powwow dance. In her classes she’s known to use a mix of traditional powwow music along with modern day favorites, such as DJ Shub. Get ready to learn the basics of different powwow styles, all the way to modern hip hop infused choreography to really get your sweat on!

If you’re more into art, The Remain Modern in Saskatoon is offering weekend art making classes, helping Canadians get creative from home. Even though the supplies required are easy to find at home, the art that you’ll create is inspired by some renowned artists. This is a fun way to spend your free time!

 

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