Saturday, August 28, 2021

Virtual Travel Opportunities Abound


I recently had emergency surgery, with a week-plus of enforced rest.  The surgery cut short a camping trip, so I was feeling mighty travel-deprived.  With all that time on my hands, I got to searching the web for virtual travel opportunities – films and websites that could help me be an armchair traveler without using a single core muscle.  I found so much …


First, I googled “best travel movies” and found lots of lists.  Based on recommendations from my favorite list, I binge-watched Under the Tuscan Sun and A Good Year in one evening.  Both movies help you imagine that you’re in the grand rural geographies in Italy and France where they take place.


Then I moved on to virtual travelogues and found that so much has been released to the public or created during the past 1.5 years of Covid.  I’ll just highlight a few for you that combine wanderlust with educational value.


Flyover Zone takes you on 360-degree 3D tours of some of the world’s great cultural heritage sites.  Commentary is provided by leading historical and archaeological experts.  Where sites remain in a damaged condition, the tour may include digital restoration, so you can imagine what it might have looked like at its best.  For now the tours include Baalbek Roman temples,  Hadrian’s villa, chariot racing, and Rome reborn.  Tours of Athens reborn, great monuments and Egypt reborn are under development.  You’ll have to look at their website to see which tours are free.


Just as you can find just about anything available for sale on Amazon’s virtual marketplace, you can use the beta version of Amazon Explore to virtually visit a dizzying number of tourist destinations.  Ranging in cost from $10 to under $100, the virtual travel experiences are organized by world region (North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Australia, Asia).  The focus of the virtual trips is also broad, ranging from a virtual cocktail class to learn how to make the Peruvian drink pisco to shopping (live) for customizable traditional Tuscan textiles to a virtual tour of Slovenia’s capitol (Lubljana) through romantic stories to an exploration of miniature orchids in Costa Rica.


Unify Cosmos promises that you’ll be listening to “the most relaxing sounds in the world.”  You begin the adventure by selecting a place in the world from their list of options.   I picked Alghero, Sardinia.  After clicking on the arrow, I listened to wonderful ocean waves as they lapped on the beautiful beach displayed on my screen.


Finally, Google Arts & Culture offers interactive opportunities to engage with art throughout the world.  By downloading experience-specific apps on your device, you can play with art through offerings such as “Which artwork looks like you?,” “Make music with the blobs in London,” or “Turn yourself into Van Gogh.”  You can also explore major museums like the Grand Palais in Paris, the Tate Britain in London, or the Tokyo National Museum in Tokyo.


These virtual travel opportunities are not likely to disappear when Covid does (when will that be?!).  Meaning that we all – adults and children alike – will be able to appreciate some of the wonders of traveling to exotic places from our armchairs for years to come.  If you combine that with ethnic take-out or adventurous cooking, and virtual shopping, maybe it’s almost as good as being there?

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