Armchair Travel: Stay at home & explore the world!

OK, the world is under lockdown and travel is the last thing on peoples’ minds right now, as we grapple an invisible yet mighty common enemy – coronavirus! While that’s true, most travellers are not alien to concept of not being able to travel despite wanting to, because of a variety of factors, mostly to do with financial restrictions. So trust me when i say this – there are many ways to travel vicariously or virtually, from the comforts of your armchair, sofa or bed!

Here are a few ideas to never lose that childlike wonder of the world, or wanderlust


1. Organize your places on Google Maps

Why not use this free time to pin locations on Google Maps that you want to visit, so you can check them off later? This is how i usually plan my travel – once i know i want to visit a particular destination, i go and mark locations i want to visit while exploring on Google Maps or Google Earth, or via friends’ recommendations.

Here’s what my map looks like, with places i’ve visited (yellow) + want to visit (green) + favorite places (red) marked on it.

To use this feature, simply click on a particular place and look for the ‘Save’ button. Here, you can add the place as a Favorite, Starred Place, Want to go… or even make your own custom lists (for example, i have lists of cafes, places in Mumbai for the best vada pav, swimming locations, etc.)

If you’d like a more detailed guide, check out the official Google Maps Support page or visit Google.com/Save


2. Travel through music

Lonely Planet has some fantastic, travel themed curated playlists of cross-genre songs from around the world that make for some great discovery as well as perfect armchair travel companions! Check out one such playlist below, or explore more on Spotify.


3. Learn the language of your next destination!

Heading to Goa? Why not pick up some Goan Konkani or Portuguese?
Going to Thailand? How about some Thai phrases?

I’ve said this umpteen number of times – language is not about perfection, but perhaps the BEST tool for cultural immersion. Even if you suck, every little effort is appreciated by locals. Initially, despite my broken Spanish and Portuguese, i made a ton of friends in South America with just the phrases i rote-learned! People in Japan were delighted even with the 10 phrases i could speak. The immigration officer in Italy thought i was a local with just the right pronunciation of Buongiorno’ (good morning) in Italian – when actually, i knew just a few phrases that i listened to, online!

Netflix, Vanity Fair & a bunch of others have some excellent and fun ways to pick up local slang. Here are some examples.

Check out some more of my language & travel posts if you’re interested in cultural immersion through language.

#NarcosSpanishLessons is a fun way to start learning some (NSFW) Spanish!

4. Research the culture

Now more than ever is a great time to learn or update your knowledge about the culture of the places you’ve been wanting to visit. Whether it’s the history, ethnic culture, gastronomy or current affairs – it helps a lot to have a bit of background to any place, to make the most of your experience.

My usual go-to places for this are…

  • Wikitravel (practical info)
  • Quora (queries and what to expect)
  • Wikiwand (modernized version of Wikipedia with historical and updated info)
  • Nomadlist (practical and statistical info for world cities. Great for slow travellers)

5. Travel through reading

Blogs, books, magazines, travel guides… these never go out of fashion and double up as great quarantine partners!


6. Watch documentaries & travel shows

Even though this may seem obvious, these usually get lost in everyday noise. There are some gems out there and every time i discover a new one, it gives me the same amount of joy that discovering a new place on my own does! Here are some of my finds and favorites…

  • TravelXP – My favorite travel channel, besides TLC!
  • Travel VlogsVarun Vagish, Tanya Khanijow & Travelling Desi are my favorites.
  • Documentaries – Blue Planet, Rick Steves, Minimalism, more on Netflix / Prime
  • Travel Films – Eat, Pray, Love; Dil Chahta Hai; ZNMD; Eurotrip; The Art Of Travel; Back To Burgundy; Into The Wild; Under The Tuscan Sun; The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

7. Travel through culinary adventures!

Look up recipes of your favorite (or next) destination, and try making them at home! Ingredients may be an issue temporarily, but once the lockdown is eased or deliveries resume, this should be possible soon. Why wait to travel, to have some ramen, pasta or bisi bele baath?

Make it yourself and let your taste buds transport you to its place of origin! (I’d say the same with alcohol too, but let’s rest out those fantasies for a while).


8. Travel writing & gratitude journaling

Let’s face it – travel is a privilege, if not a luxury. Take this time to reflect on your experiences, learnings and the gifts that travel has given you so far. Very often, we forget to be grateful for what we have received in our quest for seeking more out of life. Jot down the amazing things you’ve done, reminisce through your photo & video albums, flip open your passport for a glance (or your collection of stamps / coins / curios) … and cherish the good times. I guarantee you that you’ll be smiling through it all! The wonders of the world are not to be only sought, but also to be remembered, celebrated and nurtured.

Slowing down our endless quest for happiness helps us find peace through gratitude, even as the earth heals from our misdoings.


9. Learn a new travel skill

We’ve all wanted to be better photographers, writers and smart travellers but never found the time, right? Now that there’s some extra time saved from not having to commute, consider picking up a new skill! I love using SkillShare for this, which i often refer to as “the productive YouTube”.

Check out some FREE courses on SkillShare, and while you’re at it – get 2 free months of their Premium subscription!

Yes, there’s something in it for me too – if you decide to continue after your trial period, i get a free month added to my account 🙂

So give it a try. If you’re a fan of eternal learning like me, you’ll find it 100% worth it.


10. Google Street View!

I started this post with a Google product and i’m ending it with one (no this is not a sponsored post!) – but just because Google Street View isn’t available in India, let’s not forget that you can still explore most parts of the world using this incredible tool, as if you were actually walking down the streets of your destination city. Found a cozy little cafe or a great park or museum? Don’t forget to add it to your ‘want to visit’ Google Maps list!

Photo credit: Andrew Gosine from Burst

Check out more #ArmchairTravel ideas on Twitter

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Exotic Gringo (Kaushal Karkhanis)

Leading an experimental life as a digital nomad, I started traveling in 2007 while choosing to shuttle between Goa and Mumbai as 'home'. An epic life-changing trip to South America an year later gave birth to this blog, Exotic Gringo.

Blog Comments

I really like the idea of Google Street View in times like these. I am making a note of places I would like to visit, or have been wanting too visit. One thing very important for me is the local stay. Is it nice? Is it sustainable and so on… so hunting down nice places. Funny thing, there are tonnes of really nice places that can only be found with some hard search…

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