For many of us, our sense of wanderlust is far greater than our given circumstances allow for. Or perhaps you’ve never really felt the urge to travel the world — and you’re perfectly okay with that. Whether you lack the desire or paid vacation days at work, it is possible to travel without ever leaving home. Some may require a bit more imagination than others, but none of them come with long TSA lines and checked baggage fees.
Here are just a few ways you can explore the world from the comfort of your own home…
Tuck into a good book
It has been said that one of the best ways to explore the world is through the pages of a book. Check out the travel section of your local library or bookstore and peruse the numerous guidebooks. Or scan the photography section to explore the depths of the unknown through someone’s camera lens.
More of a fiction fan? Research well-known authors from places of interest and get lost in their stories. Chances are you’ve been engrossed in at least one novel in your life, so you can probably remember feeling as though you were actually a part of the story. And yes, it’s perfectly acceptable if that place is Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry — trust me!
If you’re literally trying to explore without leaving your home, go online to the countless websites and search engines that can provide detailed street views and maps of the most bustling, or uninhabited, places on earth. My favorites include the Northern Lights from Pitkäjärvi Lake in Finland and deep sea diving off Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef.
Sometimes all it takes to cure a case of the “travel bug” is a change of perspective. When was the last time you explored your current neighborhood? Chances are, it’s been a while. Rather than feel as though there’s a whole world that you’ve yet to see, start with your own backyard! Begin by exploring areas that are normally deemed “tourist traps.” From local monuments and landmarks to hotel lobby bars, you’ll not only get to blend in as a visitor, but you may even come away with a newfound love for your own city, simply because you interacted with people who chose your home as their vacation destination.
There’s nothing like appreciating where you live after you’ve conversed with people who saved up the time and money to visit there. You can also research when unique festivals or performances are coming to your town. Most of the time we get stuck in the rut of feeling like there’s “nothing to do” where we live — but that’s most likely not the case. A little bit of Internet sleuthing can provide intel on everything from concerts to farmer’s markets happening right where you live.
Become a host
Whether you finally agree to let your old friend come crash on your couch for a few days, or rent out that spare bedroom on Airbnb (hello, extra money!), breaking up the routine of your daily life can be equated to the fluidity one experiences on vacation. Consider hosting a foreign exchange student to give someone the opportunity to come and experience a new way of life, while allowing yourself the opportunity to experience another culture and their way of life.
You may be able to learn about their language, customs and heritage, and possibly even make a little bit of cash on the side. This is a perfect way to save up for when you do want to take that vacation. Unexpected, but potential, bonus: you two become life-long friends and you secure yourself a place to stay in their home country.
Expand your culinary horizons
One of my favorite things to do when I am in a new place is to seek out the local flavor. From breweries to cafes to hole-in-the-wall eateries, there is nothing like trying new cuisine to transport you to another land. Consider going to a new restaurant that caters to a cuisine from a place you’ve been wanting to visit — or dine in one of your city’s ethnic neighborhoods. Once you’re there, you’ll be transported through sights, smells, tastes and possibly even the wait staff.
If you enjoy cooking, research recipes from other cultures and consider making them at home. Visit local gourmet and ethnic markets to pick up spices, herbs and produce you wouldn’t normally try, then invite your friends over for a dinner party. You could also host a wine or beer tasting party for friends, sampling libations from across the globe from the comfort of your dining room.
In short, while it sometimes feels as though there’s no replacement for the real thing, it is possible to rekindle the romance with your hometown — it just takes a bit of work. Once you open up your mind to the possibility that there can be excitement at home, you’ll begin to appreciate where you live, and you may not want to leave! Adopt a traveler’s mindset and treat every day as an opportunity for adventure — without having to pack your bags.
— Megan Harris