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Anyone else going stir-crazy?
For me, it started the minute I cancelled my trip to Zion National Park. There’s something about having a trip on the calendar to look forward to that can make tough times easier to get through — and goodness knows right now falls under the umbrella of tough times.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to satisfy my wanderlust when I can’t travel (and even my own city’s attractions are closed up for the moment). Seems like every other travel blogger is sharing advice about watching Netflix travel shows or virtually exploring museums, but those are passive ways of exploration rather than hands-on sightDOING. Planning travel, or watching someone else travel, does nothing to cure my itchy feet right now. And apparently I’m an impatient person, especially when there’s extra stress in my life.
So what’s a girl to do when actual travel isn’t an option? I do the best I can to create a sense of discovery at home…and you know what? It works pretty well. While it’s impossible to entirely substitute these for an actual trip, these really do help keep wanderlust cravings at bay in-between trips.
Even when you think you know your city inside and out, there’s probably something new to discover. Geocaching is a fun way to explore because when you’re looking for small hidden items, you’re more likely to actively observe what’s around you. You’re basically forced to slow down and look at things from a new angle.
There are thousands of geocaches in any given city, so there should be plenty of options in safe, uncrowded, outdoor places that you can responsibly access right now. I’d find a park on a side of town you’ve never been before as an excuse to visit somewhere new. You never know when you might fall in love with a neighborhood and want to go back to explore when everywhere’s back and open for business.
Check out my geocaching guide for beginners if you don’t know how to get started!
Learn a New Language
Communicating in another language is one of the most rewarding ways to interact with your destination, but it takes lots of time and lots of practice. Might as well get started early! I know there are tons of free apps and software (lots of people swear by the free app Duolingo but I prefer Mango), but to step it up a notch, sign up for one-on-one Skype lessons instead.
Working with a real person is way more effective since you’ll have to think on your feet in a true conversational manner. It’s also a great way to still take part in a cultural exchange; I’ve taken Spanish classes with Ixchel and Utatlan and you can chat with your teacher about what life is like in Guatemala right now as part of your lessons (and vice versa). You’re also helping to keep someone employed when they otherwise might have lost all their in-person students. Win-win for everyone.
If your classes inspire you to later travel and study in person, read my guide on how to choose a Spanish school in Guatemala.
Prepare a Foreign Feast
I know so many people who will set aside four hours for a cooking class abroad but then complain about taking more than 30 minutes to make dinner. Guess what…I bet you have free time now, so pick an international cuisine to learn more about!
Start with a Youtube channel or cookbook, hit your local ethnic grocery store (hint: they’re cheaper and better stocked than big box supermarkets anyway), wash your hands, and start cooking. Make it a three-course meal and add a drink for good measure. Cooking can be very therapeutic!
Right now I’m addicted to Manjula’s Kitchen, which is all about Indian food (primarily northern India). Since I’m headed to Rajasthan in November, it’s a fun introduction to flavors and ingredients.
Take a Photo Walk
Photos are becoming more and more popular as a part of travel (and sometimes as the entire reason to travel, in an Instagram age). They’re also my #1 favorite souvenir; I’ve gotten several pictures printed on canvas to decorate my home.
Even though it’s second nature to take photos when you go somewhere new, most people don’t photograph and document their everyday life. Well, now you can! Take your camera out for a walk (or drive) past local street art, architectural highlights, and natural features. Try photographing the same thing a dozen different ways, so you can play with compositions and camera settings. You’ll end up with a fun day out, some new skills, and maybe even a great photo or two.
I’ve barely started Laurence Norah’s travel photography course (I’ve been waiting to have more time…here it is!), but already I’ve learned a lot. Highly recommended.
Stay Up Late
There’s something about stargazing that always reminds me what a big world we live in. The night sky brings a sense of wonder and mystery…exactly the type of thing I look for while traveling.
So bundle up, drive outside town to escape some light pollution, and pack a thermos of cocoa. I prefer unstructured stargazing — without star charts or whatnot — but if you’d rather explore with a map and some guidance, you’ll find plenty of free resources online.
Not sure where to go? Here are some guides on where to go near big American cities for dark skies.
Take a Hike
Nature tourism is my favorite type of travel and I’m positive there’s somewhere near you that’s beautiful and unvisited. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve hiked somewhere without running into another person, which makes it a great low-risk activity this time of year.
The trick to hiking in solitude formal facilities — like a national forest trail instead of a national park. People tend to avoid trails that don’t also come with visitor’s centers and restrooms, but as long as you’ve prepared in advance with maps, water, and gear, you should be okay. Bonus: trails that don’t have doors or gates involved are less likely to be closed regardless of what’s going on in the rest of the world.
Combine this with camping (or glamping) for a mini-vacation.
Go Ahead; Treat Yourself
Although 90% of my travel is about experiencing something new, there’s still 10% that’s about escaping reality and you can still enjoy that 10% from home. Change your mindset without changing your destination (and, that’s SO important right about now).
Do your best to re-create those leisurely moments of traveling: maybe you can’t lie on the beach with a good book and a frozen drink, but you can probably find some “wave” music online, make something in the blender, and read in your living room. Of course it’s not the same, but it’s still okay to take time for personal indulgences right now. The world is too crazy not to.