Explore like never before
Armchair travel is all about discovering the world without actually going anywhere. It's travelling without the packing of suitcases or backpacks. It’s the opening the mind and senses to something foreign without the jetlag, without trying to work out the local currency or that “where on earth did I put my passport?” moment.
These days we have a wealth of resources quite literally at our fingertips which give us the opportunity to journey far and wide from the comfort of our sofa, kitchen table, propped up in bed, or favorite armchair.
Our virtual traveling doesn’t even have to be passive. Experiencing a country and its culture also can be done by learning to cook typical dishes, eating at a restaurant in town that specializes in a certain cuisine (and has vegan options of its dishes!!), learning a bit of the lingo or watching a foreign language film with friends. So let’s have a look at the options we have to explore the world from home.
The World of Food and Foods of the World
Travel is all about adventure, exploring all things new, and the food and drink to be found at that “somewhere” new is a hugely important part of the adventure. I really love trying new (plant-based!) foods. Opening your mind to different worlds and cultures should also mean opening your taste buds, right? But you don’t necessarily need to shell out for a flight to be transported somewhere new.
Check out what’s on offer locally
Explore different cuisines at restaurants in your town or nearest city. Check out reviews on TripAdvisor or Facebook to see what culinary delights might lie within easy reach.
And let’s not forget about alcohol. The wine-producing tradition of Europe goes back centuries, and the customs and cultures of many regions are inextricably linked to its production. Why not see if your local wine bar runs wine-tastings from particular areas of the world?
In fact, alcohol is a world in itself if you think about it! You’ve got Sake from Japan, beers from Belgium, Whisky from Scotland, Tequila from Mexico and the list goes on.
Explore new cuisines from your home
If you can free yourself from the gravitational pull of your armchair then you don’t actually need to leave home to explore the countries of the world through their cuisines. No, I’m not talking about getting a take-away, at least not in the traditional sense. These days there are fantastic monthly subscription boxes which set you up with everything you need to rustle up typical dishes from around the world. We particularly liked these three:
Eat2explore, a fun family activity to explore the world through food; available in the US only
Feast Box ; available in the UK only
Try The World ; available in the US only
Rustle up something new in your kitchen
Of course, you can go down the more traditional route and discover new tastes to excite your taste buds with recipes from your favorite cookbook or chef - here’s some ideas to get you going:
Vegan Eats World features 300 International Recipes for Savoring the Planet by Terry Hope Romero
East Meets Vegan: The Best of Asian Home Cooking, Plant-Based and Delicious by Sasha Gill
Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen: Traditional and Creative Recipes for the Home Cook by Richa Hingle
Online Cooking Classes
There are also some brilliant online cooking classes which can help, especially if you’re somewhat “challenged” in the kitchen. I like to actually watch the whole process of pulling a meal together:
The Table Less Traveled allows you to join chefs and home cooks from around the world with live interactive classes almost every day of the week.
Veecoco has over 400 lessons and takes students around the world on a vegan-friendly culinary journey
Learn how to make ramen from a renowned Japanese ramen master with Shojin Now
The world of technology has brought with it brand new ways of exploring the world. I don’t think it will ever replace the real-life experience of being somewhere but virtual tours can fire up our enthusiasm and arm us with knowledge that might enhance our trips abroad.
The team at Virtual Trips have live tours everyday with great local guides and you get to see what they are seeing via their camera phones. No two tours are the same as all the tours are live and unscripted! They cover 194 different locations around the world.
We often focus so much on the visual that we forget how a nation’s culture can also be reflected in their music. So sit back in that comfortable armchair and open your ears to the sounds of the world
The World Music Network has been promoting sounds from around the world for over 25 years.
Hear the world thanks to National Geographic: @NatGeoTravel on Spotify.
Listed simply as a musical time machine, Radiooooo is an app which allows you to select a country, decade, and then choose something that could be defined as “fast”, “slow”, or “weird”. Close your eyes, and enjoy an expertly curated playlist of songs from that time.
For decades TV was the only way we got to see worlds beyond our own and to get extraordinary insights into the cultures and landscapes of other countries. Thanks to technological advances in filming techniques it continues to provide us with jaw-dropping images, and in-depth documentaries on places that many of us will never get to visit firsthand.
Where to begin? For wildlife it’s pretty hard to beat David Attenborough with his epic, high-definition nature documentaries Our Planet, Blue Planet and Planet Earth.
The Amazing Race
Whether you’ve got a competitive streak or not, there’s something annoyingly addictive with The Amazing Race and the vicarious adrenaline rush of watching people navigate and race through exotic and far-flung countries. It’s akin to backpacking on steroids and it’s exhilarating!
If you google "best travel shows on TV" you’d be forgiven for thinking that travel show = food show. Of course it’s understandable. The cultural identity of a nation or region is inextricably tied up with what is eaten there. If you can get past the fact that vegan cuisine will not feature much on any of these shows then keep reading, if not, then jump to the next point!
Travel TV owes much to Anthony Bourdain - No Reservations and Parts Unknown - his passion for exploring was infectious and his ability to eat pretty much anything was impressive.
One of the newer additions to the genre is Somebody Feed Phil, which features Phil Rosenthal (creator of the TV series Everybody Loves Raymond). His laidback style makes him very easy to watch, and his constant childlike positivity brings a smile to your face.
Virtually visit some of the world’s best museums
With fascinating exhibitions from around the world at your fingertips, you can now linger in front of masterpieces at leisure. Some museums offer more simple Google street map style visits, whilst other offer more in depth accompanying texts and audio. Check out the following suggestions to get you started:
Venture into the Louvre, one of the most visited museums in Europe.
Washington, D.C.’s National Museum of Natural History is one of the most-visited museums in the world and their online resources include narrated tours.
Broaden your horizons with online lectures on cultures and history
Perhaps you want to learn more about the histories and cultures of countries that are on your travel bucket list? Well these days you don’t need to haul yourself out of your armchair to go sit on some uncomfortable seat at a lecture hall to hear and learn from some of the world’s experts on these subjects. These are a good place to start your research:
- The Great Courses Plus: with literally thousands of hours of audio/video lectures taught by some of the world's greatest professors, this subscription site is worth checking out for the hundreds of subjects they cover from Food & Wine, and Travel, to History and Music & Fine Arts.
edX: find courses from 160 universities from the across the world - selection includes languages, history and art.
Coursera: a global online educational platform that partners with universities and companies to offer a huge array of courses.
Learn the lingo
Speaking another language, even if just a few words, can transform and enhance your travels to non English-speaking countries. We all love to connect and more often than not an attempt to string a few words together will cause a smile and a nod of encouragement. Plus getting the feel for a language can often help you begin to understand the culture of the country.
italki with its one-on-one teaching not only promises to teach you any language it also promises to help you become fluent in any language.
Duolingo has free apps for both android and iOS, ideal for practice whenever and wherever you want. The Duolingo Plus has offline courses and more.
Babbel is great for vocab and learning everyday phrases
Google Arts and Culture
The main mission of Google Arts and Culture is to preserve and bring the world's art and culture online so it's accessible to anyone, anywhere. But it’s much more than that. Click on the link here and explore not just masterpieces in super high definition but also the places that inspired some of the world’s greatest artists and authors. Fill your screen with street art from the streets of Berlin, São Paulo and Amsterdam. Or how about an adventure across India or journey through the breath-taking nature of South Africa. Google Arts and Culture has something for everyone.
The world in a podcast
Podcasts are great - they allow you to multitask ,so if you’re up and out of your armchair, perhaps doing a spot of exercise or doing the housework then pop in your earphones and listen to one of these:
Armchair Explorer on Apple Podcasts: billed as the world's greatest adventurers telling their best story from the road.
The World Nomads: listen to inspiring travelers talk about amazing destinations.
Travel with Rick Steves: Rick is probably one of America’s most esteemed travel experts on all things Europe.
World Vegan Travel also has a great selection of its very own podcasts about all things travel with guests who are also vegans.
Lose yourself in a book
I could probably dedicate a whole blog to travel books from coffee table books to travelogues and everything in between. So I will leave here just a mere taster of what you could investigate if losing yourself in the pages of a book are your thing:
Coffee table books
Coffee table travel books are like an instant fix of inspiration - where to next? Lonely Planet has done some great coffee table style books ranging from Epic Drives, to Epic Hikes and even Epic Runs! And I can’t not mention the National Geographic and their Journeys of a Lifetime and Destinations of a Lifetime
Literature from around the world
Although this extensive list of books about nearly every countries dates back to 2012 it’s still a fascinating experiment and if you’re a bookworm then seriously look no further.
Alternative travel guides
If only “off-the-beaten track” will do then perhaps get this on to your reading list.
Foreign language films
Not speaking the language or being familiar with the cultural settings playing out in front of you never seem to dampen the experience of seeing the world through the eyes of someone far removed from your daily life.
I was transfixed and moved to tears by Cinema Paradiso, and equally fascinated by Parasite, the South Korean film that won four Oscars in 2020. Both films succeeded in transporting me far beyond my armchair.
Travel blogs galore
Travel blogs are a wonderful source of real gritty details and experiences. You really feel like you’re getting stuff straight from the horse’s mouth. There are many, many travel blogs out there catering to every demographic under the sun. These are just three that caught my attention on the blogosphere:
Roads & Kingdoms: founded by veteran journalists this blog explores politics and culture through food and travel.
Anywhere we roam: this award-winning blog helps travelers experience destinations to the full with its detailed information and local insights.
The Opposite Travelers: Rachel and Ryan are Canadian and this blog is about their very different approaches to travel.
With millions of users around the world this video sharing service provides a platform for travelers to share their experiences from all four corners of the earth. The quality of travel vlogs has vastly improved over the last decade with travel YouTubers upping their game to keep audiences engaged with improved editing techniques and the use of fantastic drone shots. So if you’re looking for inspiration YouTube is a great place to start. It’s also a great resource for tips on traveling in general from how to survive a long haul flight to travel essentials that you shouldn’t leave home without! Check out these three for starters and why not subscribe to our very own YouTube channel here: World Vegan Travel YouTube Channel
FunForLouis - Living the Adventure: if travelling for you is chilling out at a beach resort somewhere exotic… then this prolific travel vlogger is not for you!
Ben Brown chronicles his travels around the world with stunning cinematography, he tends to let the images speak for themselves.
The Vagabrothers - as you might deduce from the name - follows the globetrotting adventures of 2 brothers, looking to dispel stereotypes and celebrate our differences.
Pinterest is like an image-based google. If you tap in, for example, “explore the world”, your screen will explode into color with stunning images from all round the world from travelers and travel agencies alike. And of course the great thing about Pinterest is that their board system makes it really easy to store all the places that catch your eye in one place for you to refer back to later when you're ready to start making decisions and planning…. at which point you can then search for what to pack for your trip with downloadable lists and tips.
Beware! From my own experience I can tell you Pinterest is addictive! See what we’ve been up to and get pinning: World Vegan Travel on Pinterest.
Reach out to like-minded travel-lovers on social media
Fellow travelers are a great source of information, with many willing to share their tips or experiences. Where to find them? Well both Facebook and Twitter have some lively groups that are worth checking out whether you’re looking for inspiration, or simply curious to see what other people are up to.
The following groups on Facebook are “private” so you will need to submit a request to join:
The Weekend Wanderlust: for all things travel be it just for a weekend or a year.
Travellers allows members to share their adventures with one another.
There are many travel companies on Twitter. The following are individuals or groups as opposed to businesses:
@journeywoman is Canadian and has been running for over 25 years - aimed at female travelers.
@Earthpix posts stunning pictures every day from rainbows in Hawaii to the tulip fields of Holland.
@everywheretrip follows Gary Arndt as he travels around the world. He sold his house in 2007 and hasn’t stopped travelling since.
Google Earth lets your mouse do the exploring and allows you to click through maps, understand the lay of the land with Street View, or even better still, with Photo Sphere you can drop into Egypt to see the pyramids or the Mayan temples in the Guatemalan jungle or click your way around the grounds of the 14th-century castle that supposedly inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Live cams around the world
Get a bird’s eye view of what's going on around the world in real time. Be it waterfalls, throngs of crowds in the world´s greatest metropolis or animals rolling around in the mud there’s a cam to capture the moment.
Explore.org is one the best out there with everything from breakers in Hawaii to elephants in Africa.
Check out the Northern Lights in real time at the Canadian Space Agency’s AuroraMAX cam
Check out the International Space Station, where you can catch live streams of the crew doing their thing and stunning views of Earth
Start planning your next destination
There is no shortage of inspiration here, so why not take the plunge, choose a destination and get down to the actual planning. How much time have you got and what time of year can you go? These are 2 important factors to keep in mind so that you really make the most of your next trip. Once the decision’s been made then you can start to research what you want to see and do, get some background reading in to make sure you don’t miss out on anything. Plus the whole experience can be enriched by understanding a bit about the local culture and the region’s history.
Rediscover your own neighborhood.
Using your phone
Pokemon was quite a phenomenon a few years ago and perhaps the team behind the game were onto something. People often overlook what’s on their doorstep. You might be surprised by what you might discover on your doorstep or neighborhood, don’t turn your nose up at something because it’s just around the corner from home.
Geocaching is a treasure hunt for the digital generation. To play participants use an app or GPS device. Geocaching is about exploration, discovery and outdoor fun. It’s about finding caches, which are waterproof containers or boxes ingeniously hidden amongst urban infrastructure or in the nook of a tree, depending where in the world you are. With over 3 million geocaches worldwide, you’re bound to find something nearby or on your travels.
Spotting animals around you
And ok, perhaps you’ll not find anything that closely resembles “the big five” in your town but why not take the time to really explore your local park. In Europe greater care is being taken of green spaces within urban sprawls with local authorities even taking the time to label and indicate the origin of the plants and trees.
Great Backyard Bird Count
The annual Great Backyard Bird Count is growing ever more popular as it enters its 25th year. People from all over the world head outdoors to count birds. Scientists then use the data to track the health of bird populations. It’s surprising to find out just what birds inhabit the world around us.
Take a trip down memory lane
I still have boxes of photos and files on my computer from my travels over the years. Slowly but surely I’m sorting through them all creating albums. It's amazing how the images trigger memories, sights and smells of places. There are places I’d love to return to and explore even more…. and yes, there are places I’m in no rush to head back to. Having travelled so much people often asked which was my favorite country or city. It’s difficult to create a “Top 10” but the trip down memory lane is wonderful and makes me realize that however comfortable my armchair might be I’ve still got the travel bug.
Let the armchair adventures commence…!
An article like this normally ends with a call to action, but here the call to action can be as simple as booting up your laptop, reaching for the TV remote or swiping through apps on your phone. It’s never been so easy to be an armchair traveller, and quite honestly the breadth and quality of resources out there has never been better and is improving all the time. Make yourself comfortable - there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored, re-visited, or experienced. No passport required!
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