Text and Photos by Victor Block
f you’ve pushed to the back burner dreams of visiting the Big Sur region of California, relaxing on a beach in Australia or mingling with Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World, turn up the heat.
You may not be able or wish right now to travel to those and other bucket-list destinations. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy them virtually.
At this time of limited travel, theme parks, museums and entire countries have the fear of an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude. In an effort to persuade people not to forget what these places have to offer when visitors make future travel plans, many have created YouTube and other ways to visit online that provide a taste of their attractions.
Among reasons why many people go to the Monterey region of California during normal times is to visit its world-class aquarium, watch waves crash against the rocky shoreline, and observe seals, sea otters, condors and other wildlife that call the place home.
These numerous virtual visits via live webcam are the next-best thing to an in-person stopover. Golfers are likely to enjoy views of the legendary Pebble Beach Golf Course, literature buffs may long remember a stop at the John Steinbeck museum, and artists at all levels of expertise have an opportunity to take free online classes.
Near the other U.S. coastline, YouTube videos, Facebook Live broadcasts and streamed films offer a simulated stay in Orlando, Fla. They demonstrate why the destination lives up to its claim to be the “theme park capital of the world.” From the comfort of home, thrill-seekers can speed down a 200-foot roller-coaster drop, zipline over a congregation of alligators (yes, that’s the correct term) and get tips from an expert about how to draw a lifelike likeness of Mickey Mouse. Other near-real experiences range from hanging out with Harry Potter to exploring the resort castle at Legoland.
The tourism folks in West Virginia thought big when they selected “Almost Heaven” as the state motto, but small when it came to posting videos on their website. Views of a waterfall and a soaring pinnacle rock serve as an introduction to the state’s natural beauty, while a pair of adorable kangaroos may prompt people to consider a visit just to learn why they’re there. What the mini-video segments lack in length, they make up for in the variety of things to see and do in the Mountain State.
Farther away, the ocean plays a major role in videos that provide hints of much that Australia has to offer. From strolling along a deserted beach to snorkeling over the Great Barrier Reef, chuckling at the antics of cavorting penguins to marveling at the beauty of the Sydney Opera House reflected in the harbor water, a virtual visit can fill the void until it’s time for the real thing.
Countries in Europe may be off-limits at this time for in-person visits, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t travel to them vicariously. In Germany, for example, you can imagine yourself marveling at the ambience of medieval towns, admiring regal palaces and fairytale castles that dot the landscape, or hiking or biking through unspoiled stretches of nature.
Not surprisingly, food and fashion are featured in some of the videos that take people on a virtual visit to France. Among other topics are lovely parks and gardens that add touches of Mother Nature’s handiwork to Paris and hidden gems that are well known to locals but many visitors miss. A YouTube link provides access to dozens of short but enticing videos.
Some websites offer a something-for-everyone choice of places to visit while looking at your computer or smartphone screen. Lonely Planet is the largest travel-guide book publisher in the world, and the videos that are available on its website cover much of the globe. Interested in a drive along sections of historic Route 66, which stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles/Santa Monica, and checking out vintage diners and other relics of the past? Craving a calming massage in Thailand? How about bungee-jumping off a high cliff in South Africa?
More lengthy and elaborate videos are provided by Overseas Adventure Travel, the self-proclaimed “leader in personalized small group adventures on the road
less traveled.” Its selection of trips covers the alphabet from Antarctica to Zambia, and the website is a treasure trove of realistic experiences. Visit spice markets and come face-to-face with Bengal tigers
in India. Be charmed by the Celtic culture of Ireland. Ride a horse over the expansive, grass-covered steppes of Mongolia. Wherever you wish to go — in person or imagination — you’re likely to find something to interest and intrigue you.
This is but a sampling of non-travel travel experiences around the country and the world that are available without having to set foot outside of your home. If you’re itching to get back on the road or sea or in the air, the online offerings may provide some relief until the real thing returns.
WHEN YOU GO
Monterey: seemonterey.com and montereyaquarium.org
West Virginia: wvtourism.com
Lonely Planet: lonelyplanet.com
Overseas Adventure Travel: oattravel.com