Slow, immersive and pre-planned post-pandemic travel
By Barbara Ramsay-Orr
When travel resumes, journeys will be changed as a result of the isolation and caution created by the pandemic. Travel professionals are predicting that we will be visiting places that are less packed with tourists, we will be learning in depth about the locales in which we want to immerse ourselves and we’ll be staying longer.
Here are some valuable virtual tours, podcasts and travel diversions to help the intelligent traveler to research and plan future adventures. Want to go to Paris but not keen on standing tightly packed with 150 other tourists in front of the Mona Lisa? Visit the Louvre virtually. Learn about the history of the Camino de Santiago, or Gaudi’s Barcelona or do a virtual wine tasting in Bordeaux (so you know what to order when you dine in France in the future.)
These days, many of us are out walking more than we ever have in the past. One of the ways to add some interest to these walks, and maybe even add an incentive to get out there, is to listen to one of the many compelling podcasts that are targeted to particular interests.
According to travel writer, photographer and podcaster Gary Arndt, “the podcast is one of the biggest mediums on the internet in terms of attention. An hour long podcast can reach a level of depth that can’t be beaten on any other platform.”
“Even though I have large followings on other social media platforms, when I meet my followers in person, they always mention the podcast first because that is how they know me best because they can hear my voice.”
If you want to research a potential future trip or discover more about a place you long to visit, there is a podcast for you. Here’s some of the best, and one of these is sure to be just your style.
This is one of my favourite podcasts, mostly because it is aimed at nerdists like me who want to know the in-depth story of places and history and individuals. Each of Gary Arndt’s podcasts focuses on a narrow topic into which he does a deep dive. Topics like Tulipmania, The Smallest Country in the World, Jack The Ripper, and The British Pound are compelling and detailed explorations. While not explicitly travel, the topics often connect to places.
The Inappropriate Traveler– Spud Hilton creates this travel podcast that “covers guests, topics and places that make up the fun, messy, naughty side of travel”. It gives an irreverent and funny look at the world. The podcast offers episodes like “Boozy Travel with Danger Jill K Robinson”, “Sleeping Naked at Disneyworld” or “Hokey Pokey on Airplanes”. The podcast streams slightly irreverent and entertaining stories of odd. unique and, sometimes, inappropriate travel experiences told by the people who lived them.
The Travel Diaries – This one, presented by Holly Rubenstein, is the UK’s number one podcast. Holly interviews “celebrity guests who reveal the travel experiences that shaped them”. She features guests such as Dev Patel, Sir Ralph Fiennes, Michael Palin and Dr. Jane Goodall. Hear Jo Malone tell her stories and reveal the secret places she has discovered in Dubai, or learn about Rick Stein’s favourite culinary memories.
Zero to Travel – Host Jason Moore has an approachable tone, and a casual but fascinating take on journeys. He always has interesting experts who talk about their personal experiences on the road. Discussions of “How a Pilgrimage Can Transform Your Life”, or a step by step description of “Hiking the West Highland Way in Scotland” or a personal take on “Traveling While Black”, bring listeners along on a journey and add deep insights.
Travel with Rick Steeves– Steeves is probably North America’s most famous travel writer. His podcasts keep the same gentle and careful style of exploration we have come to love and his voice is as soothing as a warm bath. He speaks with tour guides, personalities and experts, discussing the great train trips of the world, French cheeses or the architectural gems of Florence.
Canada’s Calling – For travel close to your own backyard, this podcast will guide you right across the country. Hosts Ashley and Mike take listeners on tours of Canada from coast to coast. Locals give tips and tell the stories of their area in easy relaxed conversation.
Smart destinations, attractions and institutions have discovered the power of virtual tours to engage potential visitors and give them compelling reasons to visit when they can do so. Here are some good ones:
World Museums: – You can see the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory and the many treasures of the Louvre without the crowds in a virtual tour of Paris and The Louvre. It is also a way to plan a future visit to the museum. Other museums offer virtual tours of their galleries and their current shows. You can do a guided tour of the new Andy Wharhol exhibit at The Tate Modern, or take a tour of the Tudors or the Victorians on a virtual gallery tour of The National Portrait Gallery. Visit the mummies and the Parthenon Marbles at the British Museum
Gaudi’s Barcelona: If you are dreaming of a trip to Spain, a virtual tour will give you some inspiration and background information. Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces are a must see in Barcelona, and this virtual tour of Gaudi’s Barcelona from Viatour can give you a preview and some deep insight into the buildings that you will want to see. There is a moderate cost and you need to sign up for a time slot, but the experience is the next best thing to being there.
Virtual Attractions: You can buy a glass of butterbeer or cast a spell during a Virtual Tour of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: We can’t take the kids now, but we can get a taste of what it will be like when we can go. Many attractions like Dollywood, Legoland and Disneyland , (where you can test drive some of their new rides) have cleverly pivoted to virtual experiences, hoping that future visitors will be enticed into coming in person when the conditions are right. They are a great way to raise levels of anticipation.
Wining – Bordeaux may be out of reach now, but you can enjoy a virtual wine tasting with the Bordeaux Conciergethat will take you through six of the Left Bank First Growths at the moment when they are perfectly ready to drink. Taste a vintage Châteaux Latour, Lafite Rothschild, Margaux or Haut Brion, followed by a sip of Chateau d’Yquem, guided by a wine expert.
Bucket List Trips – While the great trips are on hold, you can try them out virtually. Tour the pagodas of Kyoto, Japan, Hike The Great Wall of China , visit World Heritage Sites with Google Earth and set out on a virtual Safari in Kruger National Park
Staying Buff: Combine your fitness goals with a famous pilgrimage by signing up for the Camino de Santiago Virtual Challenge. Every time you go for a run or a walk, you can advance along the map.
Funky Fun: For a quirky but amusing visit, how about a drive along the streets of major cities, with Drive & Listen, including Toronto and Barcelona, while live streaming a radio station from that place. And for pure eye candy to inspire you, browse through the winning photographs of The Guardian’s Travel Photographer of the Year awards.
It isn’t the real thing, but it’s a good thing. And right now, virtual is the safest way to travel.