How Do You Travel When You Can't Travel?
How to travel when you can’t? In fact, what is travel?
To answer the question of how to travel when you can’t, let’s first look at what travel is.
What is travel?
1. Anytime we leave home, we travel
Various sources define travel as a diverse activity:
(Verb) To traverse a specified distance | To follow a course or path | To progress in a given direction | To move by means of foot, car, bus, boat, plain or train
(Noun) A passage from place to place | A journey, expedition, tour, voyage, adventure, trek, road trip, shopping trip or any trip
In my experience, many of us most often use the word “travel” to indicate the longer journeys that we take involving extended periods of time away from home:
Bucket list or “trip of a lifetime” journeys.
“I’m travelling for work” trips.
"Heading to the tropics for margaritas, sun and sand" getaways.
"Uncovering exotic locales and unearthing ancient cities" expeditions.
“Hopping on a long haul or red eye flight and crossing the pond” kind of trips.
As the definitions above show, travel can and does encompass even more than these longer, more extended periods of time away from home.
The Travel Goods Association (TGA) defines travel gear and accessories as: “If you take it with you when you leave the house, it’s a travel product”. By extension, then, travel occurs anytime we leave the house! The pandemic – more than ever – is helping us realize and experience this.
Whenever we leave home to go from one place to another, we travel!
2. Travel is a mindset
For me, travel is also a mindset or a way of being throughout the day and in the world. It involves how we “travel” through life. For example, when we bring a spirit of openness, learning, curiosity, collaboration, ingenuity, mindfulness and discovery to our daily interactions and activities we are, in many ways, embracing the spirit of travel.
National Geographic (*for the National Geographic articles referenced you may need to provide an email address to access) wrote recently that: “Travel entails wishful thinking. It demands a leap of faith and of imagination … to revel in uncertainty and stumble across a ‘new way of looking at things’”. These are all qualities we can bring to our day-to-day.
Rick Steves (Have you watched his TV show “Rick Steves’ Europe”?) wrote an excellent piece for the Atlantic in August 2020. In it he declares that the pandemic has helped him see that: “The essence of travelling requires no passport and no plane ticket. A good traveller can take a trip and never leave her hometown.”
Cue the sound of tires screeching to a stop.
What a brilliant, heartening idea – especially during a global pandemic that is severely restricting the access we have to our former, more broadly thought of notions of what constitutes travel. This is good news for all of us travel-deprived and “stilled souls” (as National Geographic calls us). We can travel and never leave our hometown, neighbourhood or even our backyards!
"A good traveller can take a trip and never leave her hometown."
3. Travel is also an essential human activity
Lastly, in looking at “what travel is”, you could say that travel – of any kind − is a vital human activity beneficial to our overall wellness and well-being. Travel has been scientifically linked to happiness, self-esteem, excitement, optimism and creativity. Doctors are even starting to prescribe time and outings in nature.
National Geographic agrees that travel is essential. Not in “the way hospitals and grocery stores are essential” it says but in “the way that books and hugs are essential” − food for the soul. They say, “it is not natural for us to be this sedentary. Travel is in our genes.”
Travel is essential in "the way that books and hugs are essential” − food for the soul.
How can we travel without travelling?
Now that the pandemic has helped us see that we can “travel” closer to home, that we can inject a traveller’s soul into our everyday activities and interactions, and that travelling is, in fact, a critical human activity let’s look at ways we can travel without travelling (in our old view of the word!) and nurture our wanderlust day-to-day.
***Note: Prior to embarking on any of the suggestions below (safely, by yourself or with your household or close contacts cohort), confirm the activity's hours, most up-to-date health and safety policies, and that the activity or location is open. Know the latest public health guidelines and restrictions in your area and ensure you know how to complete the activity safely. Wear a mask, physically distance and wash hands often.
1. Savour all of our shorter, everyday travels close to home
Be a traveller in your own community. Rick Steves says: “I’ve found that I can satisfy my wanderlust with “sightseeing highlights” just down the street and cultural eurekas that I never appreciated. Before the pandemic, I didn’t think to savour the little, nearby joys in the same way I did while abroad. To be honest, I ignored them. Now I notice the tone of the ferry’s horn, the majesty of my hometown sunset.”
Also, sit still for a while. As James Oglethorpe, a seasoned traveller, did when gazing at “the slow change of light and clouds on the Blue Ridge Mountains” where he lives. Well and Good "suggests practicing noticing and lingering in the good, positive moments of your life - like a beautiful sunset, a nice meal, a relaxing evening with your family."
If you’re in the Calgary area here are some suggestions for ways to explore or be still and enjoy the majesty of our community. If you aren't in Calgary, a Google search will likely reveal similar, safe travel-related activities in your area.
If you know me, I love a good walking tour and always try to do one or more when travelling. Some great options in Calgary include:
Heritage Park’s Ghost Tours (I also love a good ghost tour!) promise otherworldly encounters, spine-tingling history and memorable manifestations. (BTW, sauntering around Heritage Park's Plaza and strolling the nearby Glenmore Reservoir is a lovely way to pass an afternoon!).
For more on walking in Calgary including cycling and walking maps, the Plus 15 network and other walking tours visit Tourism Calgary's extensive guide. Or checkout the book Calgary's Best Walks by Lori Beattie. It includes walking routes, maps and other details for 45 urban jaunts and nature strolls.
Uncover new parks and trails
Calgary is rich with parks and trails (8000 hectares of parkland to be precise). You could set a goal to experience a new urban green space once every few weeks or aim to enjoy nature at least twice a week. Some highlights:
Calgary's new (and first!) Flyover Park.
Battalion Park for the views (and stairs!).
Edworthy Park for the Douglas Fir Trail (also known as the "drunken forest" for some of its "tipsy" trees) featuring one of the most easterly stands of Douglas Fir in Canada.
Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Centre which provides migratory birds with a place to rest their wings. Saunter around the serene paths and listen for bird song.
Reader Rock Garden which is a designated provincial historic park and is a lesser-known gem featuring quaint rock pathways, bridges, benches and blooms. Rest your feet and rejuvenate at the Readers Garden Café after your stroll.
Test new activities
Why not take this time to try all those activities you’ve wanted to try but never had time for? Hike, wander a local makers market or soak up nature's health benefits by forest bathing. Or plan for and embark on safe, short road trips or scenic drives, maybe go for a picnic (with afternoon tea on hand - see below) with your household or camp out in your backyard or basement. The options are truly are limitless!
Savour a scrumptious afternoon tea with your household or close contacts cohort at Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant or The Noble Teahouse. Alternatively, have a lovely tea "on-the-go" for an at-home treat, picnic, day trip or as a wonderful gift idea from Le.Picquenic.
See if you can check out any of these famous filming locations, dine in a dome or road trip north to this Spring's immersive Van Gogh exhibition (Calgary dates have been added and this exhibition is coming to other cities too - check your local listings!).
Alberta is home to 6 UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as Dinosaur Provincial Park (which protects the largest badlands in Canada). Consider setting your road tripping GPS to a few this year (and/or learn more about the Canadian Badlands).
Venture out of your comfort zone
Cross the border of your comfort zone. Tackle long-held fears or take on tasks that will broaden and challenge your perspectives. Want to go to a trendy, new restaurant (and there are a few in Calgary as Avenue Magazine discloses!) but your household members don’t?! Go by yourself and enjoy the peace and company (or quiet!) of a delectable meal with yourself. Do it!
The options are truly limitless!
2. Get whisked away in a travel-related movie, TV series, book, virtual tour or podcast
Disclaimer: I haven’t personally checked out all of these suggestions :-) If you try one or a few, let me know which ones you like or didn’t in the comments below.
Travel movies or series
For travel movie inspiration, peruse Travel Tomorrow’s list of travel-related films.
Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father (Netflix Canada)
Somebody Feed Phil - Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal travels the globe to take in local cultures and cuisines (Netflix Canada)
I’ll Have What Phil’s Having (Amazon Prime)
Emily in Paris (Netflix Canada)
Midnight in Paris (Amazon Prime)
Into the Wild (Netflix Canada & Amazon Prime)
Condé Nast Traveler’s list of the 89 best travel books of all time is sure to keep you busy and satisfy your travel longing.
Lands of Lost Borders, Out of Bounds on the Silk Road by Canadian Kate Harris
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Virtual vacations (or tours)
Nomadic Matt has an extensive selection of virtual tours along with ideas for travel books, movies and TV shows here. Some of the virtual tours include:
Anne Frank Museum, Amsterdam
Picasso Museum, Barcelona
Buckingham Palace, London
Metropolitan Museum, New York
The Louvre, Paris
Machu Picchu, Peru
The Irish Times has also compiled their list of the best virtual travel experiences for 2021 here. These range from ice swims in Helsinki to Mandala art and meditation in Delhi.
I’m not a podcast person; however, here are some podcast ideas that have crossed my radar if you like to have the audio on in the car or while working or working out.
Checkout Forbes’ list of 8 travel and culture focused podcasts.
The Travelers Podcast − a show with amazing people and the stories of how they found themselves through travel, hosted by Armando Esparza.
The Travel Mug Podcast - a show about our travel anti-regrets.
Channel your creativity, get inspired
Finally, you can always search for or even create travel trivia, puzzles or games. Grab some munchies and a bevvie and revisit old photos while reminiscing and retelling travel tales, memories and stories!!
Or do what this Alberta couple did and bring the tropics to your basement. (In Calgary, visit Devonian Gardens for a taste of the tropics too.)
Channel your creativity, get inspired, re-tell travel tales!
3. Research and plan for future travel
Well and Good says that "while exotic vacations or even a weekend getaway might be out of reach, those suffering from cabin fever have a powerful - and safe - way to improve their mood while still satisfying travel urges: Start planning a trip anyway!"
Plotting a trip is good for you, according to scientists who say, it is "nearly as enjoyable as actually taking one.” Even just thinking about a trip can give your brain a boost.
Plan vague but “booking-ready” itineraries for trips on your wish list
With that said and considering current travel restrictions, experts recommend planning vague itineraries for trips on your wish list including where to go and what to do without getting attached to taking the trip at any specific time. Then, start booking flights and hotels once experts say it’s safe for us to travel again.
So go find that Lonely Planet guidebook that’s been collecting dust since March 2020, flex your Instagram scrolling and saving muscles along with your Google search techniques and start mapping out future travels. This includes researching possible destinations, activities and accommodations, keeping a pulse on prices and sifting through reviews. It could also involve:
Budget and start to save, map out your priorities and “must-see or must-do” activities.
Set up price alerts for flights and other activities.
Get your luggage or backpack packed with the things you always take with you. Or, get organized and formalize your trip planning list for future ease.
Test out your travel gear and accessories and check that everything works.
Build a travel-themed, walking or road trip playlist.
Start planning for spring and summer local activities
You can even start planning and getting ready for safe spring and summer “closer to home” travels and activities like those above.
Lastly, update, upgrade and prep your travel and on-the-go gear and accessories! This will help make your immediate, shorter journeys more enjoyable and you'll be set to embark on travels to far off destinations as soon as we can.
To help you update, upgrade and prepare your gear, navigate over to Easier Journeys’ shopping pages and browse our collection of some of the latest "on-the-go" accessories including crossbody bags, fanny packs, hoodies, sweatshirts, scarves and hygienic germkeys to help make all of your upcoming journeys - near or far - easier.
Some “wanderful” items for upcoming shorter travels or to stock up on for future faraway trips include our:
So what are you waiting for!? Grab your crossbody bag or fanny pack, hoodie and scarf and depart on some safe travel without travelling!
Plan vague, "booking-ready" future trips afar | Plot safe spring & summer activities | Get "on-the-go" gear-ready!
How are you satisfying your wanderlust in these pandemic times? What safe, closer-to-home road trips or activities are you planning? What future faraway travels are you researching? Let me know in the comments below.