How This Travel Writer Is Satisfying Her Wanderlust From Home
Just because we’re currently grounded, it doesn’t mean that we can’t explore the world virtually—and plan our next amazing trip.
Like many people, especially other travel writers, I had plans to be traveling for much of the year. But starting in late February, one by one my trips were canceled, or I opted not to go due to the threat of COVID-19. Right now, we have no idea when other countries will open to tourism again, when cruise ships will set sail, or even when we’ll feel safe to get on a plane. It’s a weird feeling to be grounded indefinitely. And even if we do book winter holiday travel now, our destinations will likely be somewhat restricted.
But I’m glad that it’s still possible to explore the beauty of the world through virtual experiences. Many destinations, cruise lines, and groups are offering everything from virtual wine tastings and wellness sessions to live concerts around the globe. These armchair-tourism experiences have reminded me of the incredible places I’ve been fortunate enough to visit and the amazing people I’ve met along the way. Some are also inspiring me to think ahead and plan future trips. Most importantly, though, they are keeping all of us connected and uplifted during this time of uncertainty. So far, these have been my favorite ways to satisfy my wanderlust.
The majestic beauty of Wales
Courtesy Pratesi LivingI was always told that my ancestry was primarily Welsh, so I wasn’t surprised to feel a connection when I visited last March. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the rugged beauty of this small country—it was breathtaking. As I traveled parts of the 870-mile Wales Coast Path, I was mesmerized by towering limestone cliffs overlooking turquoise waters and sandy white beaches rivaling those in the Caribbean. There were also more fairy-tale castles, medieval towns, and sheep than I could ever imagine, as well as colorful seaside villages resembling picture-perfect postcards. Then, there were the dark, moody skies that settled over the boathouse on the estuary in Laugharne, where Dylan Thomas wrote his stirring poetry. It was nothing short of magical. If this sounds right up your alley, check out these 26 enchanting places that look straight out of a fairy tale.
My husband and I were scheduled to return to Wales this fall, but that trip is currently on hold. For now, I’m looking back at the photos and videos I took during my trip, baking Welsh cakes, and virtually revisiting Wales. This video from the tourism board is really well done and gives a wonderful overview of the country’s magnificent scenery. I also love this one that shows the extraordinary beauty of Three Cliff’s Bay on the Gower Peninsula, as well as this North Wales Way clip of Snowdonia.
While at home, I’m learning more about Welsh history and the country’s art museums and galleries. I particularly enjoy browsing through the galleries of the National Museum Cardiff, which has one of Europe’s finest art collections. I also indulged my fascination with medieval castles by watching the short UNESCO documentary The Heritage of Wales.
The golden heart of Alaska
Courtesy Pratesi LivingOn my first trip to Alaska several years ago, I was amazed by the vast, pristine wilderness of America’s last frontier. For more than a week, my husband and I traveled between Fairbanks to Anchorage by car, ferry boat, and even on a small bush plane over mountain ranges and icy blue glaciers. During our time in Fairbanks, which is located about 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle, we were able to see two magical displays of the northern lights, our first time witnessing this phenomenon. Fairbanks is one of the best places in the world to view the northern lights during aurora season, from August 21 to April 21.
Our trip this year was scheduled for the beginning of March when the town would have still been dressed up as a winter wonderland. We would have bundled up for outdoor festivities such as the World Ice Art Championships and dog mushing. We’d also hoped to spend evenings watching the aurora borealis dance across the sky again and to take another bush-plane flight, this time over the Arctic Circle.
While we couldn’t make the trip this year, I’ve been looking through Fairbanks’ Immersive 360° virtual resources, where you can see the northern lights and go dog mushing. It’s also fun to check out how many hours of daylight Fairbanks has throughout the year with the Midnight Sun Tracker, especially during the Midnight Sun Season (April 22 to August 20). I’m also watching this YouTube video, which brings me back to my summer experiences in the area and is getting me excited for a winter adventure to Alaska’s Golden Heart.
The hills of Conegliano Valdobbiadene in Italy
Courtesy Pratesi LivingThe small region of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG captured my heart last fall. Located 30 miles north of Venice, this area is nestled between the Dolomites and the Adriatic Sea in Veneto. It is home to the hill towns and steeply terraced vineyards between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, one of the newest UNESCO World Heritage Sites and also the region where Prosecco Superiore is produced. I traveled along the winding 20-mile-long stretch of the Prosecco Road, toured the precipitous hillside vineyards with the winemakers, and had a picnic lunch at one of the vineyards. I still smile when I think about the day I spent with Ruth and Andrea at their picturesque B&B nestled in the hills, where we laughed, cooked, and shared stories over a delicious meal.
For now, my husband and I are enjoying Prosecco Superiore at home and visiting the region virtually with this video. I’m even learning about making Prosecco Superiore from the Consortium’s Conegliano Valdobbiadene Academy, which offers three online lessons in English. These informative sessions cover everything from the history and characteristics of the wine to proper food pairings and storage techniques. I’m also following the region’s #SparkleatHome initiative on social media and will be participating in their first #SparkleatHome Zoom webinar. This virtual wine tasting will be held in early June in partnership with Wine.com. Participants can purchase the wine and do the tasting, or they can just tune in to listen and learn.
Daydreaming about a trip to the Far East? Here’s how to explore Japan’s most beautiful landmarks virtually.
California’s Monterey Peninsula
photo by Chris Axe/Getty Images
I also had to cancel a wine-focused adventure to California’s Monterey Peninsula. Instead, I’m visiting the region from the comfort of my living room and sipping wine at home. Some of my favorite winemakers are hosting Instagram Live events. For example, J Vineyards & Winery hosts weekly wine tastings with their winemaker every Friday at 3 p.m. PT, and on Sunday, their executive chef hosts live cooking demonstrations. There’s also a Friday tasting at William Hill Estate Winery, as well as a Friday happy hour and a Saturday cooking demo at Louis M. Martini. You can even take a drone tour of Talbott Vineyards’ prestigious Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA (American Viticultural Area). For other virtual events and tastings, check out Discover California Wine’s website.
Sail away on a cruise
Courtesy Pratesi LivingCruising is one of my favorite ways to travel, and I will continue to take cruises, even after coronavirus. Until it’s safe, though, I’ve been exploring the world with several of the cruise lines’ online globe-trotting experiences. My last cruise before the pandemic was with Lindblad Expeditions in the Galapagos in February. The line’s Virtual Expeditions feature programs reminiscent of the days I spent on board the National Geographic Endeavour II and include a morning wake-up, wellness time, guest slideshows, photo tips from National Geographic photographers, recipes for popular cocktails, and live concerts. I can also watch videos of the sea lions and iguanas along the beaches, snorkel, and even see and hear my cruise director, Paula, again!
Viking is another line that has an extensive online program. On Viking.TV, you can live-stream daily sessions with special guests and hosts, who cover topics ranging from world cultures to the arts, architecture, music, and history. They also have Wellness Weekend podcasts, as well as live broadcasts on Fridays at the filming locale of Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, hosted by the Countess of Carnarvon. Plus, it’s been fun to see the crew members and interiors of the ships.
I was supposed to be on the Regent Seven Seas’ new Seven Seas Splendor in March, so I’ve been watching their Regent Connects initiative and following the #RegentForward hashtag on social media. The interactive experiences include DIY spa treatments, cocktail demonstrations, recipes, and musical performances. I particularly enjoyed watching these musical performances of Josh Groban’s song, “Thankful” and this video of so many places I still want to visit around the world.
But wait—there’s more!
If there’s a spot you want to see, chances are, there’s a virtual experience for it. Here are a few more “trips” that I’ve been taking.
Courtesy Pratesi Living
Abu Dhabi: This is one place I hope to explore when this all passes. I missed a few opportunities in the past, but it’s still on the bucket list. Their tourism board has created this short video, plus this one to inspire travelers; there are additional videos on their tourism website. Follow their hashtag #StayCurious on social media.
National Parks: Many national parks have virtual tours and 360-degree images online. These are some of my favorites: a Google video of Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska, a Google Earth tour of Glacier National Park in Montana, and an e-cruise of Acadia National Park in Maine. Don’t miss these 35 other national parks you can tour online right now.
Africa: Tune into AndBeyond’s daily three-hour personalized game drives. WILDwatch Live is streamed in real-time from two South African game reserves on YouTube and Facebook, or you can view the safaris on their website. Guides are also posting wildlife sightings out in the field from two other games reserves on Instagram.
For more strategies, including how people are staying sane and safe, see our comprehensive Coronavirus Guide.