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We can say it: This year has been a huge downer, in more ways than one — including how much time we got to take off and travel.

According to data compiled by ValuePenguin (and shared by Messenger From Faceebook), 72 percent of Americans did not take a summer vacation last year. Of those who did, 71 percent of those people opted for a road trip rather than flying. Tapping into this trend, Messenger is excited to help people connect and virtually experience our planet, no matter where they are this month.

As the pandemic is still going on, it's clear that this summer seems like a perfect time to celebrate the great outdoors and our national parks. So, Messenger has teamed up with National Geographic to bring back more special, 360-degree backgrounds for you and your friends to share on the app.

360-view of Rocky Mountains
Credit: Courtesy of Messenger

Last August, Messenger debuted new 360-degree backgrounds for the first time, which includes destinations like the Louvre in Paris or the Taj Mahal in India. This year, the app is honoring some beautiful, natural wonders just in time for National Parks Week (April 17 through 25) and Earth Day (April 22).

Now you and your friends can take a virtual trip and use these backgrounds as if "you're really there" when you make calls using Messenger Rooms, Messenger video calls, or on Portal. It's not the same as climbing a mountain or relaxing by a real waterfall, but it's a nice thing to have while travel restrictions are still in place in some areas.

"Both the Canyonlands and Rocky Mountain National parks have had huge impacts on my life ever since experiencing them as a young climber and artist, and spending season upon season within the parks. It's easy to see why both Native communities and outdoor enthusiasts find these places so special and the positive impact of such wildness on the soul," said National Geographic photographer Renan Ozturk. " It is a huge honor to be able to share 360-degree imagery from them for this project, as many more people can experience them, recognize their majesty, and hope for their continued protection."

"Our familiar planet is a new world at night, unexplored. Without people around, the sounds are different, sometimes nothing but a gentle breeze or ocean waves. In the past 2 decades, I spent over a thousand nights imaging under stars in seven continents and realize that night may hide a world, but truly reveals a universe," said National Geographic photographer Babak Tafreshi. "I try to present the natural night environment as an essential element of nature, to protect against our growing artificial lights. Many of the National Parks in the US, including Death Valley in California and Acadia in Maine, have joined the dark sky movement to preserve their natural night environment by reducing light pollution."

New backgrounds will be released every few days, beginning on April 16 with a view from Acadia National Park in Maine. On April 18, feel like you're breathing in the crisp air at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. On April 23, take a trek in the desert at Canyonlands National Park in Utah. And on April 25, see the lowest point of North America at Death Valley National Park's Badwater Basin salt flats.

To find these backgrounds on your next call, download the Messenger for Facebook app.

Andrea Romano is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @theandrearomano.