10 Ways to Satisfy Your Wanderlust When You Can't Travel

By Chelsea La Near

It starts with inspiration followed by often months of preparation and endless excitement. You’re finally ready to turn your travel dreams into reality when something suddenly comes up, and your trip has to be postponed or called off completely. The emotions that go into travel planning can make trip cancellations or delays all the more devastating. And with much of the world in various states of lockdown, it’s likely that your future travel plans have been put on hold.

Aside from global pandemic, there are plenty of more mundane factors that can force us to reassess our trips: broken bones, unexpected expenses, or even the demands of a new job. Whatever the reason you can’t travel, these tips can help you scratch your travel itch without actually going anywhere.

1. Read travel books

Books can help your mind travel when your body can't. Get inspired by the adventures of others and travel as far as your imagination will allow you to go. Really, any book set in a nonfiction location will work, but here's 10 great travel books if you're unsure where to start:

On the Road - Jack Kerouac (The USA)

The Alchemist -Paulo Coelho (Andalusia and Egypt)

In a Sunburned Country - Bill Bryson (Australia)

The Great Railway Bazaar - Paul Theroux (Asia)

The Life of Pi - Yann Martel (India)

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - Cheryl Strayed (the USA)

The Innocents Abroad - Mark Twain (Europe and the Holy Land)

Into the Wild - John Krakauer (Alaska)

Seven Years in Tibet - Heinrich Harrer (the Himalayas)

The Valley of Assassins - Freya Stark (Middle East)

2. Watch travel movies, tv shows, and documentaries

Breathtaking cinematography of travel destinations can give us the imagery we need to feel transported. It's also fun to know that we can actually visit many of the places we see on screen. I wrote a list recently of the best romantic travel movies, but again, a movie or show doesn't need to specifically be related to travel to cure your wanderlust. It just needs to be filmed somewhere on Earth. Here's a few of my recommendations:


A Little Princess (India)

The Motorcycle Diaries (Latin America)

Before Sunrise (Vienna)

Amélie (Paris)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Greenland, Iceland, Yemen, and Afghanistan)

In the Mood for Love (Hong Kong)


The Crown (England)

Insecure (Los Angeles)

True Detective (Louisiana, Los Angeles, and Arkansas)

Boardwalk Empire (Atlantic City)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (New York City)

Portlandia (Portland)

Marco Polo (Kazakhstan)

Game of Thrones (Croatia, Spain, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Morocco, Malta)

Outlander (Scotland)


Planet Earth

No Reservations

Ugly Delicious

3. Organize your travel photos

You know those hundreds (or thousands) of pictures you took on vacation, loaded onto your computer, and then forgot about? Well, now is your chance to get caught up on organizing them and sharing your favorites. Not only will you feel accomplished, but you'll also get to relive some beautiful moments. I like to organize my photos by location, and then transfer the best ones to a special folder for editing or sharing.

4. Reach out to travel friends

We meet so many wonderful people along our journeys. Chances are you've shared contact information with some of the more meaningful connections, but have lost touch over the years. Make a list of 3-5 of your most cherished travel connections and reach out to them. Send them a message of a travel memory you share together, and let them know how they positively impacted your journey.

5. Reread your travel diary / Write about past adventures

If you keep a travel journal, going back to remember how you really experienced that trip can be an insightful and satisfying activity. Perhaps it will even inspire you to edit and publish some of your travel stories on social media or a blog.

If you don't journal, you can make a list of your top ten most memorable travel experiences and write about them. See how many details you remember. Who was there? What was the weather like? What were you eating? How do you remember feeling? How did you get there?

6. Look for travel opportunities nearby

I've met plenty of people who grew up in or near popular tourist destinations, but have never even been there! This is an interesting phenomenon that can happen when people live near a tourist spot. They never visit it either because they are annoyed by the tourism and don't want to contribute, or they just think that they'll always have the opportunity since the destination is right there. Is this you? Is there something awesome near where you live that you haven't visited?

Even if you don't live near something well-known, you might be surprised what you find if you research what your area does have to offer. I've looked up hikes, waterfalls, and historic buildings near my small hometown in Missouri for refreshing mini-vacations. Your next vacation may be right in your backyard.

7. Study a language

Language study always involves some kind of culture study as well. It requires learning about the place where the language originated, which is one of the many things you do when you travel. There's plenty of online learning resources to help you set and meet language learning goals, even Netflix. Perhaps you can even find a language partner to meet with or converse with online to practice.

8. Eat international food

Try a new cuisine or restaurant from a country you've always wanted to visit. Food delivery apps, Yelp, and Google make it easy to find whatever it is you're looking for. If you can't find a restaurant locally, try to cook the food yourself! Some spices, vegetables, and other ingredients are fairly universal, so there should be at least a few things you can make from the country you have in mind. My Korean Kitchen is a great blog for easy Korean recipes, and The ABCD's of Cooking can help you make delicious Indian food.

9. Go on a virtual vacation

Author Reif Larson had planned a trip to South Carolina with his son. When COVID-19 threw a wrench in their plans, the father used Google Street View to take his son around South Carolina anyways, complete with an airport landing!

Another option is a virtual museum tour. There are at least 12 world-class museums that you can visit online. On the Louvre website, you can navigate the museum like you would with Google Street View, and then you click on pieces you want to learn more about. The best part is that the online option is free.

10. Start planning your next vacation

Even if you're unsure when it might be. Eventually, the coronavirus will pass and travel will resume with a new sense of gratitude. Planning can help you keep your mind off of the current situation and focus on a future of possibility. Everyone has their own unique ways they like to plan their trips, and of course there are those who don't like to plan at all. Some like to read through guidebooks and mark places of interest. Others prefer to get inspiration from travel blogs, Pinterest, or Instagram. You may even find inspiration looking through Parlay Vacay's destinations.

Chelsea La Near, M. Ed., is a writer, wanderluster, and language education professional from Missouri who spent the past 9 years teaching abroad in East Asia and is currently based in Seattle. Follow her on Twitter @chelsealanear and Instagram @thenearsea for more.

Which language do you dream of learning?

Parlay Vacay: Language Vacations offers intimate group destination course packages that help you learn a new language or level up your existing foreign language skills while on a real, relaxing vacation.

Contact Parlay Vacay to learn more: email@parlayvacay.com

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