Because of the continued outbreak of the coronavirus, most of us are finding ourselves spending more time at home than we had planned. Major airlines cancelled thousands of flights and countries went into complete lockdown.
The traveller in us is looking for some way – any way, if we are being honest- to satisfy our urge to travel and explore. Besides watching all the travel related documentaries on Netflix, you can explore the world a different way in these mainly domestic times: Through Virtual Travel. There are a lot of different ways to travel virtually. But what exactly is it and more importantly: is it worth it?
Virtual travel is as easy as dragging the “peg man” on Google Street View across the world and walking through your own neighbourhood. Because most of us have done this once or twice, Google developed a new program. Google Arts & Culture was introduced in 2011. The platform offers access to over 32,000 artworks from 46 different museums all around the world. Some of them are the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art or The White House.
Although the luxury of walking through the completely empty Guggenheim or looking at the Mona Lisa up close seems tempting, you must ask yourself if there is a downside to this program. Yes, there is. It is nice to wander through corridor after corridor, but the clicking and dragging gets annoying after a while. Furthermore, a lot of the picture cards are still in development or only in their native language. This may limit the knowledge you gain. Sometimes looking at a piece of art and moving on is all you can do.
Virtual Travel does not only mean visits to museums. If you are one of the people who would much rather spend your time exploring the wild outdoors, Google also has you covered. By introducing Google Trekker, Google Street View was taking to the next level. It expands its views from roads to hiking trails. Thus, we now have the privilege to explore the Grand Canyon and many more from the inside of our apartment. You might feel rather bored after quite a while and have to renounce the sense of accomplishment when reaching the summit or end of the trail. The unedited views of mountains and waterfalls cannot keep up with Instagram but are somehow intriguing.
Have you had enough of clicking yourself through all the places on your bucket list? How about an expedition to mars or a quick summit of Mount Everest? Thanks to headset brands like Oculus you can participate in famous hikes and explorations. These range from an hour-long simulation of an Everest climb to a walk around the Chernobyl area. These are the most realistic experiences of Virtual Travel. To experience this adventure, you need to purchase one of the compatible headsets. This also makes it the most expensive experience.
Lastly, there is always the option of going back to the basics and turn to animal cams. You can go from watching bears to observing nightly activities in South Africa via a few mouse clicks. In case there is nothing happening at all, there is always the option of watching the Highlights. These can include feeding Gorillas or gatherings at the local watering hole. You might not be crossing countries off your bucket list, but it is time spent effortlessly.
In summary, we can establish that there are a lot of different ways to spend your newly gained extra time. The meaning of travel is so subjective and has always been hard to define. This way, it is hard to find one solution that helps all travellers. You might be travelling to meet new people or to see historic landmarks. You might want to learn a new language or engage yourself in the culture and food.
Virtual Travel is not the answer for all of this. But: It offers new opportunities. It reveals different ways to experience art, culture and nature and is a fun pastime. Nevertheless, travel consists of many different aspects, features and feelings. The excitement for our next adventure will never be fully satisfied.