12 Creative Ways to Armchair Travel from Home

Last updated on January 22, 2024

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The start of 2020 has been the year that even the most avid traveller has had to lay down their passport and stay put for a while. So what do we do when our itchy feet are raring to go but travel isn’t an option?

I’ve put together a new series on Bridges and Balloons called ‘Travel from Home’ where I share ideas for how to get a taste of travel when you’re stuck at home.

I started it because we’re grounded – but the tips will be useful beyond the pandemic for those times when travel isn’t an option because of time, money, commitments, health and other obstacles that stand in the way.

When we can’t travel, the world out there doesn’t disappear and there are many ways to dream of it, learn about it and even interact with it from afar. We may be home and unable to physically experience travel, but we can still bring the world of travel to ourselves.

So here are my top 12 favourite ways to travel from home.

12 ideas for how to travel from home

Best online cooking classes

1. Learn to cook dishes from around the world

Food is one of the greatest joys of travel for me, and while it’s hard to beat the real thing, you can certainly have a go at home by trying to perfect some of your favourite recipes from around the world. I’ve written a post with my favourite international recipe books, plus one dedicated to the best California cookbooks. But perhaps the best way of all to bring those tastes home is do a live cooking class from the country the dish originated from. On Airbnb Experiences, they have all sorts of online cooking classes that also function as a sort of social occasion with participants from all over the world. You could learn to make ricotta live from Sonoma or cinnamon buns from Sweden. I’ve written a post with all my favourite online cooking classes.

Scene from Before Sunrise

2. Get lost in a travel book, movie or podcast

Perhaps the most classic way to travel from home is to get lost in an epic travel book, movie or podcast. This list of the 87 best travel books of all time is a good place to get started. I personally love The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver for a deep dive into the Mexico City of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera – nothing made me want to go to Mexico more. And Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a powerful novel about life in a Mumbai slum.  

For movies, Nerd Bear has a list of the 50 Best Travel Movies, and Conde Naste has one too. I love the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight series, The Motorcycle Diaries and Amelie.

And for podcasts, try this list from Wanderlust. I’m afraid I don’t have any personal recommendations as I don’t listen to a whole lots of podcasts aside from Adam Buxton, which is nothing to do with travel but highly entertaining nonetheless.

3. Join in with classes and experiences from around the world

As well as its online cooking classes, Airbnb also has lots of other fun online experiences you can do around the world. From learning to make cocktails with drag queens in Portugal to discovering the secrets of sound design in Hollywood, there are loads of creative things to experience. I’ve written a guide to my favourite online Airbnb experiences.

Travel themed nursery
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4. Do some travel-inspired decorating

As you know from my obsession with beautifully designed Airbnbs and hotels, I’m a big fan of interior design and love bringing inspiration from my travels back into the home. This is a beautiful and literal way to bring some of the wider world into your own home, be that with pieces sourced from abroad or by following a particular design style. Apartment Therapy’s house tours are a good place to look for inspiration, as well as Pinterest and Instagram. I love the New Darlings’ home in Phoenix, and These Four Walls is great for minimalist Scandinavian design. We also designed Otis’ nursery with a travel theme.

5. Play a travel game

Games nights are all the rage during lockdown, from board games to quizzes to computer games. If you’re lucky and have access to VR then there are all sorts of travel-themed games and experiences you can do virtually. Or for something more low-fi, there are some great travel-themed board and card games. I really like the two games by Wild Card Games, Backpacker and Who Knows Where?. Who Knows Where is particularly good for brushing up on your geography knowledge. And Lonely Plant have a few more recommendations here.

For apps, Quiz Up has all sorts of different categories to choose from and you can play against people from all over the world.

Finally, you could do what we’ve done recently and hold travel-themed quiz nights with friends. I particularly loved putting together a picture round called ‘Where’s Otis?’ where people had to guess the city.

Perito Moreno Glacier

6. Do a virtual tour

Virtual tours have been around for ages, but the pandemic made them more popular than ever and meant plenty more attractions created their own, often making them available for free online. The Guardian has a good round-up of tours of natural wonders, including the northern lights, Yosemite and Perito Moreno Glacier.

And Time Out has a guide to virtual museum tours around the world including the Uffizi, Guggenheim and British Museum. Finally, Globo Treks has a huge list of over 49 different virtual tours to choose from.

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7. Plan your next adventure

One day we’ll travel again and now is a good time to dream about where that journey might be. Do you dream of a California road trip, seeing the northern lights, a Mexican beach town, a safari in South Africa, or a city break in New York, London or Lisbon? Or perhaps a combination of it all? I’m certainly dreaming of an extended gap year once the pandemic has passed and we’re ready to travel as family of four.

Make vision boards, set a route, plan your budget and do all the groundwork to create your dream trip. I have loads of inspiration on this site, from road trip itineraries to round-ups of the best boutique hotels and best Airbnbs. Check my destinations page to see if I’ve been there. And also have a look at my travel planning pages for lots of money-and-time-saving tips.

I’m also a fan of buying a classic guidebook (Lonely Planet and Time Out are my favourites) and planning it out the old fashioned way.

Tallest Man on Earth doing a live gig from home

8. Go to a virtual gig

As so many festivals, concerts, gigs and club nights have had to be cancelled for 2020, many have had to get creative and offer performances online. Lots of individual venues and artists have set up programmes of online events, including the Royal Albert Hall in London, Radiohead and a group of Europe’s best clubs who have set up United We Stream where they host nightly streams of underground electronic music. There’s a good list of live stream concerts on Songkick. And it’s also worth checking out your favourite artists’ social media profiles – I’ve been enjoying The Tallest Man on Earth’s weekly live performances, and lots of Alex Ebert’s stories/videos on Instagram where he often performs in his backyard (what I’d give to be his neighbour!).

Things to do in Bristol - Clifton Wood Houses

9. Bring the travel mindset home

When you’re travelling, you’re alive to all the new sights, sounds, scents and feelings of the world around you. Whereas at home, we often become oblivious to what’s around us – we already have a fixed idea of how things things are so fail to notice when they change or to pick up on things we didn’t even notice in the first place. Try bringing the travel mindset to your surroundings – when you go for a walk, imagine it’s your first time in that place and what your first impressions would be. You could do this from a window of your home, in the garden, or when out in the local area. You never know what new delights it might bring!

10. Learn a new language

What better way to prepare for travel or get yourself into the mindset of a different culture than by learning a different language? Different courses to try at home include the popular Duolingo app, BBC languages and Babbel. Mashable have written a good round-up of other language-learning apps. And Italki is also a good place to link up with a 1-1 language tutor.

11. Teach your kids about the world

If you have kids, there are all sorts of ways to teach them about the world. You could incorporate some of the other suggestions from this list, such as reading books, cooking, playing games, learning languages or planning an adventure together. There are also lots of fun travel craft projects (see this list from Sweet Tea and Saving Grace) or ideas for home schooling (see this list). I also love this selection of children’s travel books by Frankie at As the Bird Flies.

12. Do some old fashioned armchair travel

We’ve always talked about ‘armchair travel’, even before coronavirus made us all travellers of the armchair kind. And in a way, every suggestion on this list is a form of armchair travel. But traditionally, it’s the type of travel you do where you think of and dream of lands afar without leaving your living room. This could be by reading travel blogs or travel magazines, watching documentaries or reminiscing by looking at photos from trips you took in the past. Some travel blogs I recommend for a dose of armchair travel are This Battered Suitcase, A Little Adrift and Never Ending Voyage.

Let me know if you have any other ideas to add to the list!

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