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  • Writer's pictureGunnar Garfors

Travelling While Not

Leptis Magna in Libya.

The coronavirus has affected most people’s lives and we would all like the pandemic to end sooner rather than later. The good news is that all of us can help, by staying the hell home and by practicing hardcore social distancing the few times when you have to leave your premises. That means no travel. Many borders are anyhow closed and the availability of scheduled transport reduced to a minimum, if not entirely.

So, how can we still travel, while not? Or help keep keep the travel bug at bay? In quite a few different ways, actually. I’ve listed 15 travel replacements below.

1. Read books

The Norwegian versions of my books “198: How I Ran Out of Countries” and “Elsewhere”.

There are millions and millions of books about places and countries other than where you live. Read your way to far-flung corners of the world. I’ll take the opportunity to mention by own two books, “198: How I Ran Out of Countries” and “Elsewhere” about the world’s 20 least-visited countries, although there is more inspiration in this Forbes article about 15 travel books that will change the way you see the world. You can find another ten on Six-Two: 10 of the best travel books and stories to transport you to distant lands.

2. Watch movies

The Darjeeling Limited inspired many to travel to India.

You may feel like actually seeing various places around the globe before deciding whether you actually want to go there sometime in the future. The Guardian recently published an article of the 20 of the best travel films, whereas Conde Nast Travel went all in with a lot of courage to pick The 50 best travel films of all time.

3. Browse photos

A random image search on duckduckgo.com.

Search for specific towns, islands, mountains or rivers in your favourite search engine, and choose images for results. This will likely take you to websites with great photos, and perhaps also a lot of textual information. And then there are various social media sites and apps that are great for travel, i.e. Pinterest and Instagram. Feel free to look me up on the latter of those, I have shared photos from every country and continent in the world: instagram.com/garfors. I currently post a new travel photo per day tagged as #pandemicpause, to try help people get a bit of a break from the coronovirus. Perhaps you’d like to post photos yourself?

4. Listen to podcasts

Some travel podcasts on Spotify.

There are a lot of good travel podcasts out there. Six-two is on a roll: The best travel podcasts you need to listen to right now. And Travel Noire helps you with These 11 Travel Podcasts Will Inspire Wanderlust In 2020. I actually do my own travel podcast together with travel journalist Thorkild Gundersen, but Globusrulett is still only available in Norwegian.

5. Learn a language

There are many language platforms and apps out there.

English will usually get you far on the road, but there is rarely better ways of getting to know people and cultures than by knowing their language. Even a few words and phrases will get you a long way. It is all about showing respect and curiosity, you are after all the visitor in their country. Quite a few people are shy about speaking other languages than their own, and I guarantee you that the barrier is lowered a lot, and usually immediately so, if you speak to them in their language. To future travellers it is hard to find a better way of turning the time spent during a pandemic into something positive than learning a new language. There are many language platforms and apps out there, several friends of mine recommend Duolingo, which is free.

6. Order from restaurants

I am unsure if this chef in Cameroon delivers, but I nevertheless got some delicious take-away from him.

You shouldn’t go to restaurants right now, but you can still support many restaurants that offer take away or delivery. There is a lot of culture in food, just dare try something that you haven’t tried before. And come on, be a little bit more adventurous than only going for Italian pizza, Chinese dim sum and Indian curry.

7. Look up a foreigner

I met these friendlies in a bar in Curitiba, Brazil. But even at home you’ll be very likely to find friendly foreigners.

Chances are there are many foreigners in your town or city. Why not get in touch with them, via online platforms, and ask them about their country? Chances are they are quite curious about your own country too. They may live init, but that doesn’t mean that they know many locals. My experience, after having lived in six countries and travelled to all, is that foreigners tend to hang out together. Foreigners typically have few local friends, perhaps because it is easier to connect with other newcomers than to befriend those that already have deep roots in a society. And why limit it to your own hood? There are many webbased platforms where you can easily find people in a country you are planning to visit in five months, or in 2022. Couchsurfing, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are only some examples.

8. Cook

I helped these lads barbeque in Cyprus. These days I cook international dishes at home.

The internet is flowing over with recipes from around the world, not to mention a vast selection of cook books focusing on countless cuisines. Buy the right indegredients, or at least as close to them as you can, cook a meal and decorate your table or dining room with photos, flags, napkins or other decorative elements that will help your mind fly to the country or region your cooking is taking you and your family to.

9. Go down memory lane

It’s been 15 years since our Lada taxi broke down in very rural Azerbaijan.

Revisit places you have been to before by going through old photographs, receipts and tickets. I can almost guarantee that this will help you remember details, things, events or experiences you had pretty much forgotten. And why not talk to people you travelled with or met there while you are at it? Chances are you are still keeping in touch, or at least have the possibility to do so, via email, social media, the phone or with the help of a letter pigeon.

10. Take out a map

Cannot decide where to travel? All you need is a bow, an arrow and a map.

I love exploring good old paper maps, spreading them all out over a big table and deciding on which places that look or sound cool that I will venetually visit. This can of course also be done digitally on i.e. Google Maps, although I must admit that I prefer paper maps for planning at home. They may be too big and unpractical on the road, but you’re not going anywhere soon. By the look of things. Unfortunately.

11. Plan your next trip

One way to travel around the world.

You may not know when it will take place, but why not start your planning already? A lot may change in terms of what restaurants and other local businesses that will make it where you are going, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for not starting to plan parts of your next adventure. Most people spend much more time planning trips than actually going on them, primarily due to a lack of funds, why not make the most of the planning too?

12. Travel locally

There are a lot of amazing places in Norway. Here in Skjomen with my brother Håkon.

Unless you are under lockdown, you can probably explore hoods, forests, lake districts, mountains or deserts not too far from home. And perhaps you have been too busy travelling to exotic countries to check out your own neck of the woods. To get some fresh air and exercise is a great escape during this pandemic, perhaps you can combine that with some local curiosity. Just be sure to practice social distancing while you are at it.

13. Be creative

Wood carving in Bhutan is certainly something else…

While waiting for your trip to commence, why not engage your creative side and create something from it? Perhaps you can draw, paint, write, wood carve or knit? Decide on a motive or a product that is inspired by where you plan to go. There is no way that I can draw, paint or knit anything that would impress or inspire anyone, but I really enjoy writing. My texts may not inspire anyone either, but I am thick-skinned and will give it a go. Organizing your photos or enhancing them in Photoshop would also qualify as creative, stop procrastinating.

14. Drink tea or coffee

I am relatively certain that drinking Ethiopian coffee in Poland beats drinking Polish coffee in Ethiopia – when it comes to taste, at least.

Did you know that coffee was originally only available in Yemen? It has since been exported to quite a few countries, and you can easily drink your way around the tropical parts of the world. Try different kinds of coffee beans from new and exciting regions, perhaps you’ll discover a new favourite. Unless you are a tea person, of course. Then your selection may actually be even more impressive. Buy tea or coffee from your local shop, most of them are happy to deliver in these difficult times. Or order online.

15. Get drunk

Beers with international radio colleagues in Italy.

Alcoholic drinks have been made around the world since ancient times, and various people have gone to great lengts in terms of their creativity when coming up with new techniques to get people tipsy or outright hammered. Whether you are a beer, wine or liquer kind of person, you’ll find a great variety of poison from a range of countries around the world. Hell, even dry countries produce alcohol, although you’ll then typically need to know the right guys or girls to get hold of it. There are additionally also many interesting cocktails from around the world, from Singapore Sling to Long Island Iced Tea. Take the opportunity to read up on the drinks and their history or specialize in i.e. Romanian red wine.

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