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Travel may be largely on hold for now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t scratch your travel itch from the comfort of home. In fact, there are more ways than ever to experience the world from your kitchen counter or living room sofa.
These tools are about more than fulfilling dreams of far-flung places; they’re a great way to enjoy unique experiences with your family, discover new places and stay connected to the world even as we’re all feeling a bit isolated. So watch, read, listen or learn — and get inspired by the wonders of the world both near and far.
Watch a documentary
Outdoor enthusiasts missing that connection to the natural world can find stunning documentaries on nearly every streaming service or cable package (there are some on YouTube, too). "Planet Earth" (Discovery Channel, Amazon Prime) and "Our Planet" (Netflix) are two of the better-known productions, but a simple search will turn up a plethora of options.
Want to watch animals in their natural habitats? Head over to Explore.org to travel the world without leaving home. Here, you’ll find livestream videos from around the globe, many of them of wild animal habitats, including gorillas in the jungle and elephants in Africa. See what the animals get up to when no one is around to disturb them.
For families, check out "March of the Penguins" (Amazon, Vudu) and "Monkey Kingdom" (Disney+, Amazon) for a look at the wild animal kingdom the whole family will enjoy.
» Learn more: NerdWallet’s best credit cards for streaming services
Screen destination movies or TV shows
Not a fan of documentaries? Watch a movie instead. There are a number of epic destination-focused films that highlight the beauty of particular locations around the world and make you feel like you’re there (or you want to go there).
For example, the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy offers a stunning representation of New Zealand. "Eat, Pray, Love" provides a tour of the world. And “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” offers glimpses of Iceland, the Himalayas and the U.S. Find a list of more ideas here.
Read a book
Pick up a few fiction or nonfiction titles that are sure to inspire your next adventure. If it’s a walk on the wild side you crave, try "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer, "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson or "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed.
For worldwide adventures, read "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho, "Shantaram" by Gregory David Roberts or "Around the World in Eighty Days" by Jules Verne. You can order books online or borrow a digital copy from your local library.
Learn a language
If you have more time on your hands these days, why not seize the opportunity to learn a new language? You’ll feel like a citizen of the world even at home, plus you’ll be preparing for your next big international trip.
Sign up for online education courses through sites like Freestyle Language Center or Rosetta Stone, use a free app like Duolingo or borrow digital titles from your local library.
Tour a museum
Are you a history buff or art fanatic? Or are you looking to expose your kids to some culture without leaving your home? Google Arts & Culture offers 360º videos of over 3,000 museums and cultural sites around the world. Though it won’t be quite the same as standing in front of "Sunflowers" at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam or meandering through the gardens of Château de Bouges in France, it might be enough to inspire your next trip to a cultural epicenter.
Explore national parks
Are there national parks you haven’t checked off your bucket list yet? Want to feel a little more connected to the great outdoors while you’re inside? Google Earth now offers virtual tours of some of the nation’s most popular national parks, including Glacier, Joshua Tree and the Grand Canyon. There are 31 tours that feature views of the parks from overhead or on the ground with photos or 360º images, so you can marvel at nature from the comfort of home (and maybe start planning your next family vacation).
» Learn more: Best national parks for families
Go on a wild ride
If rides and roller coasters are your thing, check out TheCoasterViews on YouTube. They’ve produced first-person videos of rides around the world, including many at Disney parks — from Florida to Tokyo — so buckle up and see how the parks compare.
» Learn more: How to plan a Disney World vacation on points
In many U.S. cities, "stay at home" and "shelter in place" orders still allow you to go outdoors for exercise. While this may not be the time for grand adventures or epic road trips, in many places, you can head to a nearby hiking trail or walking path provided it’s open to the public and not crowded.
If you opt to take a hike or a stroll, remember to keep at least six feet of distance from others and be prepared to leave if you see the parking lot is full or there are people congregating. Check your city government website before you go to see which parks are open.
Not ready to venture out? Start at your balcony or backyard. Pitch a tent in the grass or simply read a book or eat lunch on the patio. Studies show that time spent in nature is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety.
Now is the perfect time to start planning your next adventure. Research the destinations you’ve been dreaming of and learn how to use points and miles to save up for a visit to your dream destination. Join travel forums to chat and learn about places to stay and eat. Read up on the history of the place and plan potential itineraries. Planning is a great way to keep any travel-ban blues at bay.
The bottom line
Even though you can’t leave home for exotic destinations across the globe right now, you can still experience the world. So watch, ride, learn and explore from the comfort of home — and when the world is once again your oyster, you’ll be ready to pack your bags and get back out there.