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How to travel when you can’t travel

By: Dave Gunner

January 15, 2021

You’re sitting in a recliner watching the sunset over the Caribbean. As the sky darkens, the final rays light up a few small clouds moving slowly across the horizon. It’s a scene you’ve dreamed about a thousand times. You take a sip of an ice-cold beer, straight from the bottle. Waves lap the shore and a gentle breeze rustles the palm leaves. In the distance, tree frogs are waking up and begin their rhythmic whistling. The only thing on your mind is what to have for dinner. Maybe some coconut battered prawns. Or jerk chicken and rice. All is well with the world.

Except, you’re actually somewhere in Britain in the middle of winter, and there’s frost on the windows.

Welcome to the world of virtual travel.

Viewed from Castara Beach in Tobago. The sun setting over the Caribbean sea.

Frustrating isn’t it. Midwinter. Long nights, cold days. And this year things are even worse, what with all the travel restrictions. But if we can’t get away, at least we can still dream. It’s called virtual travel.

In its simplest form, it just means spending time on the internet exploring the world. But take it a bit further, and you can revisit favourite places or investigate your next exciting destination in incredible detail. You can even virtually visit somewhere you know you’ll probably never go. The secret lies in stimulating as many of your senses as you can. That, after all, is what travel is all about. Oh, and it helps if you have a good imagination.

Sights

The most obvious starting point is watching a few videos. We live in an age of free, high quality travelogues and are lucky enough to have the whole world at our fingertips. YouTube and Vimeo are the best places to look, and if you have a big screen TV with surround sound, all the better.

But if you want the most immersive experience, a VR headset is the way to go. Ignore the fact you’ll look a little strange and discover incredible 360-degree videos that will really play tricks with your mind. Experience genuine stomach lurches on rollercoasters or proper vertigo from being suspended under a helicopter flying over the Grand Canyon.

If that’s too much, VR Headsets also offer a brilliant way to watch a regular video. They can be adjusted to give a giant screen experience and then repositioned so you can look at the screen when chilling in a deckchair or lying down on your bed. It’s like having a cinema screen on your ceiling.

Now boarding

Missing the airport and flying experience? For a bit of fun, why not start with the journey itself. There are plenty of first-person ‘trip reports’ on YouTube, which often start on the train heading to the airport. Enjoy strolling into the terminal, checking-in, and browsing through the shops in the departure lounge—all before boarding your aircraft and settling down to enjoy your (considerably shortened) flight. You can travel in whichever class you like, and even pause for a bite to eat, a drink and a movie halfway through.

Drone films are particularly good, such as this one taken in Antigua. although you are only limited by your imagination, so go mountaineering, diving, parachuting or horse riding.

Taste

Food is one of travel’s biggest sensory triggers and an essential way for the armchair traveller to feel immersed in a different culture. Local dishes can bring memories flooding back or build an understanding of somewhere you’ve not yet visited.  And who doesn’t love trying a new cuisine? Think street food, like delicious doubles from Tobago, or swap your regular breakfast for a deliciously spicy Pakistan omelette. There are plenty of websites to explore, but the BBC World Cuisines page is an excellent place to start.

Touchy-feely

This one is not so easy. Let’s start with the temperature. We’re not saying you should crank the heating up to the full 30-degree Caribbean midday sun, but maybe treat yourself to a couple of extra notches on the thermostat. Pop on your favourite shorts, flip-flops and holiday t-shirt, find somewhere to recline, and read a book or magazine if that’s what you’d do on holiday. Switch it up a gear with a fan to recreate that balmy breeze.

Smell

This is for the hardcore virtual traveller. Slap on a bit of sunscreen and savour that lovely coconut smell. Light a citronella candle, and let it mingle with the scent of those spicy chicken wings sizzling in the oven. Memories of hot, humid nights in tropical resorts will soon come rushing back.

Sound

There’s nothing like a bit of local music to create a holiday atmosphere. Maybe a bit of soca if you’re talking the Caribbean, or your favourite American bar band if you’re missing the USA. But don’t forget there’s an entire planet’s worth of natural sounds too. Apps like Nature Space and websites like Nature Sound Map and Moodil offer excellent samples of forest birdsong, tropical storms, or sounds of the sea, any one of which provides a transporting dose of instant calm. A really good set of headphones will give you the best results here.

Then what?

If virtual travel sounds a bit odd, you’d be right. But you’ll also be in for a surprise. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to reawaken your wanderlust. But it comes with a big caveat. If you think this is going to scratch your travel itch, it probably won’t. In fact, it’ll probably have the opposite effect and make you yearn for travel even more. Because, of course, it can’t come close to the real thing.

Travelling is about so much more. Meeting new people and making friends. Creating memories. Getting under the skin of a place. Or just getting away from it all. And flying, of course. Let’s not forget the flight.

And one thing virtual travel won’t give you is the stories you’ll be telling for years to come. For that, you’ll need to wait for the real thing

Turn dreams into reality

Half the fun of booking a holiday is the weeks and months you spend looking forward to it. Think of virtual travel as a way to enhance the anticipation. Build excitement. Especially important at this time of year.

Sustainability

One of the best things you can do while in planning mode is to research your destination with your sustainability goggles on. As we emerge from this crisis, we need to take more care of each other and the planet. This is something we’ve always taken seriously. Our fleet is now one of the greenest in the skies, and when you book with us, you can be confident you’ll be flying on a new, modern, efficient twin-engine jet. But you can also make a difference when travelling. Things to consider include packing light, offsetting your carbon, avoiding waste, supporting local shops and businesses, using public transport and shopping responsibly.

Barbados beach. Not long now until we can all get back there.

So enjoy your virtual trips, whether you’re an armchair traveller or planning for real. Discover new destinations. Enjoy the food and drink. And when you’re done, head over to our website. We always have some fantastic deals available, so see where your imagination can take you.

Dave Gunner

Dave Gunner

I love telling the story of our people, our planes, our places and our planet through Ruby Blog.

Categories: Our Places