Updated: Jul 20
Raise your hand if you feel like the last year has been like living in your very own Groundhog Day. You get up, drag yourself to work, choke down your now-cold coffee, fight the same battles with the same people, come home, eat dinner from a paper bag, and then let your eyes glaze over in front of the TV until it’s time to go to bed and do it all again tomorrow. It’s kind of like being stuck somewhere between a daydream and the twilight zone. Whatever your situation has been, you’ve probably had some pretty long stretches of being stuck in the house.
So how do we break up the monotony of walking past that same pile of unfolded laundry day after day? We capture the spirit of adventure, discover new scents and flavors, wander through unfamiliar landscapes and harness the power of our own creativity and intelligence. In other words, if you can’t go out into the world, bring the world to you. Here’s how to travel when you’re stuck at home.
Discover new food + cocktail recipes
One of the best things about travel is that it’s a treat for your senses. Walking down a narrow cobblestone street and smelling the holy trinity from a nearby restaurant. That’s the intoxicating aroma of simmering onions, peppers and garlic for those of you who are scratching your heads. The point is, nothing transports you to a fabulous, far-flung destination like delicious local cuisine, but luckily, you can bring that experience to your own kitchen.
Pick a day and decide “where” you want to go. But instead of ordering from your favorite Thai or Indian restaurants, choose completely new recipes and get busy. Don’t skimp, ok? This is not the time for you to open your trusty jar of Ragú. Travel gives us a sense of adventure, so your recipe should reflect that. Making your travel dinner an event will help you shake the monotony of your everyday routine and creating something with your hands activates the part of your brain that is responsible for feeling inspired.
So where do you want to go? Will you drag out the old smoker and buy wood chips or gather a few pinecones for a traditional parrilla like the ones in Buenos Aires? Make sure you head to the wine store and get recommendations on Mendoza’s finest selection of Malbec. Talking to a knowledgeable wine professional is another great way to travel when you’re stuck at home. You’ll talk about the land, climate and what makes a Malbec a Malbec. You may even learn about some of the Argentinian producers before you decide which bottles to take home.
Maybe going to Sunday brunch in France feels more your style. There are hundreds of delicious crepe recipes online that will pair nicely with a fizzy Champagne or a Crémant. Craving Italian? Lidia Bastianich’s traditional Bolognese recipe is well worth the time and effort it takes to make it, and remember the longer it cooks, the better it tastes. If you want to take this one step further, Curious Appetite is a company in Florence who partners with local Italian growers to deliver authentic food and ingredients to the U.S. through their gourmet food boxes. And they have virtual cooking classes too!
Check out more food + wine travel ideas
Do Virtual Wine Tastings
I’ll be the first to tell you, a virtual wine tasting does not come close to standing in the rolling green hillsides of Italy, tasting grapes that have been warmed by the sun. But, if you’re stuck at home, a virtual wine tasting is still a fun way to connect to your sense of travel.
One company that is really delivering on their virtual tasting game is Vivant. The company started at the stately Château de Pommard in Burgundy, France and has evolved into a progressive tech streaming platform that hosts wine experiences for people all over the world. It’s easy to do too, you just choose an experience and order the tasting kit. Mind the time difference if you want a live tasting, you may be sipping at 9 a.m., but that’s part of the fun.
The wine advisors host fun and informative virtual sessions, making it easy to decipher the tasting notes while giving you the terminology to identify them for yourself. Sure, you may not be standing at the 18th century chateau in France, but the virtual tasting takes you on a stunning visual tour of the region and the growers behind it with high-quality drone footage and intimate interviews, which is quite honestly the next best thing if you can’t be there.
If you already have a favorite winery or region, you can go directly to their websites and see if they have virtual tastings set up. With the 2020 curveballs that shut down many tasting rooms, several wineries started to adapt to the Vivant model, so you can still taste your way through a winery from home.
Watch movies with travel themes
Movies like “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “Eat, Pray, Love” really kicked off a collective love affair with travel movies that made us feel the romance of discovering who we are and what we want no matter which stage of life we’re in. Just like travel is a feast for our senses, we experienced those movies with all our senses too. From the struggles, to the awe, to the laughs, the food and wine, the growth and triumphs, storylines like these transport us right along with the characters.
Love it or hate it, “Emily in Paris” made a big splash on Netflix. And one of the reasons it was so wildly successful is because the creators made the city itself a leading character in the series. There may have been times you wanted to punch the main character in the face over her chronic Suzy Sunshine persona, but the magic of seeing her become seduced by Parisian café culture is undeniable. Paris is so charming it’s almost a cliché and this series oozes that essence in almost every scene.
Another series you will fall in love with is Stanley Tucci’s “Searching for Italy” on CNN. As if we didn’t already know Italy was a crown jewel in the universe, this show takes you to each corner of the beloved boot to reveal the culture’s most treasured food, culture and customs, all while drinking in the unbelievable landscape Italy is known for.
Try reading incredible books
Landscapes have a way of transforming people, and that goes for fictional characters as well. Whether it be a blustering cliffside during a crossroads in a character’s life, or a sunny, carefree moment on the beach to symbolize a youthful era, a vivid description of surroundings can instantly draw us to that moment and satiate our travel bugs.
Books like “At the Water’s Edge” by Sara Gruen follow characters through the windswept Scottish Highlands, exploring cultural traditions and folklore like ancient creatures and even the Loch Ness monster. “Next Year in Havana” by Chanel Cleeton is a vivid example of the aching contrasts between high-society Cubans in the 1950s who threw lavish parties in stately mansions and the suffering that now takes place in the shadows of that decaying beauty today.
“The Vineyards of Champagne” by Juliet Blackwell and “The Winemaker’s Wife” by Kristin Harmel whisk us away to one of France’s most revered wine regions for a taste of history, mystery, romance and resilience set against the backdrop of the most celebrated champagne houses in the world.
And finally, “Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans” by Dan Baum is a consuming non-fiction biography spanning over 40 years and the lives of nine fascinating people who call the Crescent City home. It’s real, raw and richly told through experiences and settings that can only be found in New Orleans.
And if you’re really a travel bookworm, you won’t be disappointed if you pick up “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens, “The Lions of Fifth Avenue” by Fiona Davis, “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter, “Clap When You Land” by Elizabeth Acevedo, and “The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah. Each book transports you smack-dab in the middle of a destination so robust, you could close your eyes and picture yourself standing there.
Listen to international Music
You know that feeling you get when a song gives you goosebumps or raises the hairs on your arm? The ones that make your foot start to tap and your hips start to shake. Music is a vessel for human emotion. We use it to celebrate, to mourn, to express ourselves, to concentrate, to expel anger, to stir our souls. It’s a companion for loneliness and it brings people together. It also takes us to far off places.
Wishing you were in the Caribbean instead of the office? Listen to Calypso or Reggae to capture that light and breezy feeling. Don’t know when you’re going to make it to India’s iconic Holi Festival of colors? Nothing will put you in a better mood than cranking up Bollywood music. Missing Spain? Tune into a Flamenco or a Barcelona Lounge station on Spotify.
There’s magic in music. It moves us in every sense of the word, no matter our age. Extra bonus points if you choose a culturally relevant soundtrack for your international meal above.
Enroll in foreign language lessons
There is no better time to learn a language then when you’re stuck in the house. You have fewer distractions and are generally looking for something to do besides the dishes.
Companies like Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur and Babbel have tried and true formulas to make learning foreign languages easier and quicker. The differences between them really revolve around learning styles. Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur tend to be the more popular programs with Rosetta Stone being a little more visually oriented with lots of pictures and Pimsleur leaning more towards speaking and listening skills.
On the other hand, Babbel’s language lessons include grammar and written exercises while Duolingo is a fun and free app that you can download on your phone and essentially practice lessons from anywhere.
Let’s be honest, if we’re not traveling, we’re thinking about traveling. So we might as well use this time towards something enriching and productive like finally being able to ask where the bathroom is.
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Ashley Oñoz-Wright has been a travel writer and editor based in Las Vegas, NV for the last eight years and is a regular contributor for Manifesting Travel, Modern Luxury, Sophisticated Living, Greenspun Media Group, Vegas.com and LasVegas.com. She holds a degree in Sociology & Anthropology from DePauw University.