Edited on December 2020
Avid travellers like me have been in distress for a while. What we initially thought would be a couple of months travel hiatus has become the new normal. Pandemic related restrictions are still very much in place everywhere in the world. Travelling is still not safe and not recommended at all, and let’s face it, it should not be on our priority list. Sad but true. As a global society, we have other pressing matters to take care of. Let’s embrace the fact that travel from home is what a lot of us will be doing for a while.
But, hey, don’t be frustrated. Staying at home doesn’t have to be a bad thing; actually, you might even find it satisfying. We can still enjoy travelling from the comfort of our home, or in our own hometown if permitted. I know from my personal experience this year it can be just as much fun as going overseas.
On March 14th 2020 I arrived in Spain, just 1 day shy of National State of Emergency. As a result, I got stuck at my parent’s for almost 8 months. While in Rota, my hometown in the province of Cádiz, I experienced a little bit of everything: a 3 month home confinement, scheduled times to leave home, curfews, perimetral lockdowns and a brief period of free movement during Summer. I can confidently tell you I have been doing the quarantine travel from home experience like a pro.
So, without further due, let me share with you what I did to scratch my travel itch in Spain, including a few new ideas that I am sure I will be putting into practice now that I am back in Mongolia.
Visiting places from home
Thank goodness for TV and internet! We can travel from home anywhere we like if we have a good internet connection. When I was in lockdown in Spain, I started watching the Netflix series Down to Earth with Zac Efron. Although I didn’t finish the whole season I loved the two episodes I watched, one about energy efficiency in Iceland and the other about water use in Paris.
Other things I have watched are My Octopus Teacher, a great tale set in the kelp forests of South Africa and Emily in Paris, a show about an American girl and her struggles with cultural differences in France. Two other titles under my radar are The Dark Tourist and Travels with my Father.
Other ways to visit places from home are, of course, Google Earth or Google maps. How fun is it to revisit places you have already been to and rekindle all those memories! You can also travel from home to the most famous landmarks and wonders of the world with a click of your mouse. Alternatively, there are plenty of museums and exhibition halls that offer virtual tours. I haven’t done any, but they are easy to find in search engines.
Visiting places locally
More often than not we underestimate the beauty of the place we live in because we get used to it and stop paying attention. In my case, I have always thought Rota was boring and the province of Cadiz wasn’t exotic enough to go visit. But this pandemic, and my friends, proved me wrong and I am glad I could finally appreciate my region. Travel from home has never been more rewarding!
If you are not convinced, google your area and make a list of things people like to see when they travel to your hometown, you will be surprised at the long list!
“If you can safely enjoy time outside, please do so. After weeks of being locked down at my parents’ apartment, every moment spent outside was like gold”
Explore your own hometown
During the first phase of de-escalation, we were able to get out of the house for a couple of hours during the day. Since I was craving movement, I used this time to explore my town inside out.
I walked along many kilometres along the beaches Rota. I visited places I hadn’t been to in many years, saw new development areas, and sightsaw at the city centre and historic areas. Nostalgia may arise when you travel from home, if you are like me you will pay attention to how things have changed over time (and, oh, how sad they will never be the same!)
For example, I was appalled to see the well-known Picobarro landmark shrunk to almost nothing. When I was little, it used to have the shape of an arch and kids would go to the top and jump into the water when the sea level was high. Unfortunately, time only moves forward and years of erosion have taken a toll on the rock, depriving it of its past charm.
Explore nearby towns
If you are allowed to visit nearby towns, go for it! This pandemic has allowed me to explore some towns near Rota, including Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Puerto de Santa María or Arcos de la Frontera, among others. Sightsee by yourself, hire a local tour guide, visit museums or historical sites… there is plenty to do! I went with my friends to Cádiz to participate in a city escape, which is like an online outdoor escape room. I am so glad we did it, it was a unique way to engage in an outdoor activity and visiting a place at the same time.
Trying local food
My favourite thing to do and one of the easiest ways to travel from home and learn new cultural aspects of a country.
Cook at home
Believe or not, I don’t normally cook Spanish dishes back at home so being at my parents was almost like being in an all-inclusive hotel. They cooked plenty of paellas, legume stews with pork cuts, Spanish omelette, empanada, salmorejo… We also used to order snails in tomato sauce, too, a local delicacy.
Make rotations and have each family member cook an international dish or, if everyone at home is into cooking, organise a cook-off!
During my lockdown in Spain, it was a joy to open the fridge and find jamón serrano, manchego cheese and caña de lomo as a staple. For something more simple than cooking a whole meal, pick some new foods from the international shelf section and a bottle of wine at the supermarket and put together a tasting platter!
Once I was able to go out, I dined out as ofter as I could. It is almost a miracle that I didn’t gain any weight! I went out for tapas, and I indulged in Indian, Japanese, Mexican and Italian cuisine. Yum!!
Other great options to do out of your house are doing [insert alcoholic drink here] tastings. check what’s available in your region, for me it was wine, but for you, it can be whiskey, vodka or even tea!
Organise a themed day
While I was stuck in Spain, every day was a Spanish themed day (obviously!) Having lived overseas for over 9 years my habits have changed a little, so reliving mundane parts of my culture felt like a novelty. I did things that I wasn’t used to any more, like hanging out at the table after lunch, going out for tapas and wine and even dressing up when hanging out with people.
I get that you are likely stuck in your own country, so you can create your own culturally themed day. This can be a fun, highly customisable activity that can be as immersive as you choose it to be. You can do a couple of cultural activities to travel from home or combine them with other outdoor activities.
Include some of the activities I have already mentioned, like eating a traditional dish or watch a movie from the country (documentary or fiction). You can also learn the basic steps of a dance, for example, salsa or sevillanas.
Travel from home with a book
From travel guides to travel blogs, historical books or easy readings, you have the ability to disconnect from your routine and transport yourself to new destinations. Travel from home to Saint Petersburg with Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment or to Florence with Robert Langdon in Inferno. The possibilities are endless.
If you want to get up close and personal find travel bloggers who recount their experiences in other countries or authors who have an inspiring story.
Learn or practice a language
You may, like me, speak two or more languages, but you only get to practice them while you travel. If you are stuck home you can take an online course, use an app or even watch youtube videos to improve your skills or even learn a new language. Have you got foreign friends? Give them a call and practice your language skills with them!
If you can go out, attend a class if it’s safe to do so or engage in a language exchange in your city.
Travel from home through your photos
I love photography and after a trip, I always come back home with millions of photos and tons of videos that get piled in my hard disk until “I get time to deal with them”. During the pandemic, I have had plenty of time to purge and edit photos from my last trip (and the previous one). I am also planning on getting a few photos printed to have them at home, and hopefully create some photo albums, something that I have been wanting to do for years, but haven’t gotten through just yet.
Organise your souvenirs
If you collect travel mementoes and have them scattered around the house, this is the perfect chance for the DIY lovers! Make your own coffee table travel book if you are into scrapbooks, put your souvenirs in a transparent container, like a jar or a shadow box. If you are not too hands-on, just grab a pretty box, throw your nick nacks in, and label it as a memory box.
You can display all your creations as living arrangements. If you have enough space in your house and feel up for the task, you can create a travel corner with shelves where you can display a myriad of objects you have gathered throughout your travels.
Whenever you feel like you need a break, you can stop what you are doing, go to your travel mementoes and travel from home, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
Prepare for your next trip
Create a bucket list
We all have a bucket list with all the places we want to visit. Or maybe you don’t… So create one! Be inspired by movies, books, social media… And since you have got plenty of time… make the list visually appealing and hang it somewhere in your house so that you can get excited every time you look at it.
Plan the perfect itinerary
Now it is the best time to thoroughly plan for that trip to Japan or that Kilimanjaro hike! First of all, what is your budget? What foods do you absolutely need to try and where is the best place to have them? Where are you going to stay? All these questions and more is what you need to be thinking about to keep you busy at home until you can travel again.
Learn new skills
Every trip is different and you may require to learn additional skills besides a list of things that you want to do and see. Do you need to be fit to be able to walk for 8 hours a day in the Inca Trail? Would you need some knowledge of Russian language to get around while touring through Russia in the Transsiberian? Are you going to go on a road trip around your country but wouldn’t know how to jump-start your car or change a tire? Get to it now!
I was away from home for 8 months and it has not been easy. A few of those months I was trapped or semi trapped, but it didn’t feel bad, I can’t say it was boring. I did my best to do what I like the most in this world even under strict restrictions. I was able to explore the world I live in and so can you.
I hope that wherever you are in the world you are safe. I am deeply grateful that no one in my family nor friends has gotten sick to this day. If you have a job in the front and mid-line of this crisis I am grateful for everything that you are doing to keep the rest of us afloat.