An illustration of a girl seated on a stool

At this point in quarantine and social distancing, the novelty of spending the entire day in sweatpants has definitely worn off, and the once-excited feeling for going on a walk around the block may be dimming, too. Dreams of hopping on a plane to an unknown city or driving across country seem like a long-lost fantasy.

Yet, exploration doesn’t have to occur in-person to be exciting. The heart and soul of a new place is found not only in its sights, smells and sounds, but also in its art, food and history. These tips for virtual exploration—plus a dash of imagination—will resurrect that long-lost sense of wanderlust.

The heart and soul of a new place is also found in its art, food and history.

Take a spin on Google Earth.

Even if you can’t sip an espresso by the Trevi Fountain, then you can take a virtual stroll through the streets of Rome on Google Earth. In addition to a view from multiple vantage points, Google Earth offers a little info on each place. You can even “walk” down the street! Ask friends to share favorite places from their travels to give you ideas, and even ask them for a narration as you wander through satellite images on Google Earth. 

Take a virtual museum tour.

Some of the world’s most renowned museums are offering virtual tours to display great art and artifacts to patrons. From the MASP in São Paulo to the Museum of Broken Relationships in LA, a slide-by-slide gallery tour offers the viewer an intimate experience with each piece. Each slide is carefully constructed to tell a story in a way that is unique to the virtual platform. It allows the viewer to linger on each painting and sculpture (or relic of a past relationship). Dive into the cultural riches of the world from the comfort of your couch.  

Watch a movie.

This classic option allows you to explore a new place in whatever time period you choose. For maximum enrichment, do a little research about the place in which the film is set and maybe even about the film’s creation itself. Films are often set in places to which the director has a special attachment like Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” (Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn,1989) or Jules Dassin’s “Never on Sunday” (Piraeus, Greece, 1960). Films can offer an even more vibrant representation of the setting. 

Follow the hashtags.

Every picture tells a story. On Instagram, there are a lot of pictures documenting places across the globe. Choose a city, monument, country or even a famous restaurant and search for it in the “tags” query. You will find a patchwork quilt of unique moments in a new place.

Dig into local eats online.

A region’s cuisine quite literally demonstrates its flavor. From the produce that is widely found to which spices are featured and what tools are used, each element of a meal tells a story of how the locals live. In the absence of touring local eateries live, dig into shows that explore international cuisines. “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” is a classic exploration of culture through food. A Netflix favorite, “Salt Fat Acid Heat, featuring chef Samin Nosrat, explores new places while finding common ground through world cuisine. 

The joy of travel is the joy of discovery, and virtual discovery only requires a little creativity. With a readiness to learn and a listening ear, your computer can be a portal to the rest of the world.

Have you gotten to virtually travel anywhere? What was one unexpected surprise about the experience?

Image via Studio Grand-Père


  1. I love the recommendation to watch a movie…going out of your comfort zone to watch a foreign film (especially in a different language, with subtitles) can feel as immersive as being in the place!

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