Armchair travel only goes so far — here's how to take your staycation to the next level.

By Chloe Berge
March 20, 2020
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As the world stays home to “flatten the curve” of the spread of COVID-19, museums and attractions across the globe have also shuttered, and many are now offering virtual tours or live-streaming events instead. Passively watching something can only go so far to quell the doldrums of self-quarantine, though.

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More importantly, the major health benefits of travel, including its correlation with decreased stress, better health, and enhanced creativity, come from real immersion in a new place and culture — something that can’t be achieved with armchair travel. Until we can take to the skies again, here are some ways to bring the travel experience home to you.

1. Cook a meal that will make you feel like you're worlds away

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Whether you plan your trips around the best new restaurants or local markets, discovering other cultures through food is one of the greatest pleasures of travel. While you may not be slurping down spaghetti bolognese at a Roman piazza anytime soon, Chef Silvia Grossi at Il Salviatino in Tuscany, Italy is hosting cooking lessons from her home in Florence via Instagram. In the spirit of #iorestoacasa, she’s only using ingredients most people have readily available in their pantries. Another Italian chef, Massimo Bottura of Michelin-starred restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena is also hosting a daily virtual cooking series called Kitchen Quarantine.

2. Shake up a cocktail or enjoy a spirit tasting from your dream destination

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Keep delivery services like Drizly, Saucey, and Mini Bar in business and practice social distancing by ordering exotic spirits to your door and setting up an at-home tasting or destination-inspired cocktail night. If canceled spring break plans have you saying adios to Mexico, try creating a tasting of different agave spirits from around the country. Toast staying in with pastis or champagne if you’re dreaming of France, or shake up a rum cocktail if your foiled Caribbean travel plans are still irking you. Get inspiration from books such as Carey Jones’ How To Be Your Own Bartender.

3. Learn a new language

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One of the joys of travel is wrapping your mind—and tongue—around a foreign language. There’s a positive, lasting impact when you learn a new language, too. It improves brain function, including better memory, and it increases mental flexibility and creativity, according to a study published in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience. With many of us now working from home, now is the time to learn Spanish or Japanese through online classes like Babbel or Rosetta Stone so we can converse with the locals when travel can start again.

4. Experience nature away from the crowds

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The exhilaration of travel often comes from experiencing things for the first time, and this includes taking in vast, awe-inspiring landscapes. A study conducted by Stanford University showed that being in nature has been proven to increase happiness and studies show new experiences illicit a similar effect by activating dopamine pathways in our brain. Getting out in nature is still one activity we can enjoy while practicing social distancing, if we know where to go. Find a forest trail that you’ve never been to before (and reduce human traffic and contact on well-trodden paths in national parks) with apps like Hiking Project and AllTrails, or consult an app like iNaturalist to identify and learn something new about the flora and fauna in your own backyard.

5. Create your own spa experience

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With oceanside massages off the table, hotels are sharing ways for housebound jet setters to bring serenity home. “You can make a body scrub with pantry items you likely have at home, such as sugar, coconut oil, and olive oil, and add a few drops of essential oils if you have them,” says Christina Stephens, spa director at Wymara Resort & Villas in Turks and Caicos. “I love using coffee grounds and olive oil, too, which is good for circulation.” Stephens also recommends an essential oil steam in the shower and hydrating with fruit water afterwards—Wymara uses watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon—to feel like you’re somewhere tropical. “We also need mindfulness practices now more than ever,” says, Carrie Sotebeer, spa director at The West Hollywood EDITION. “I recommend sitting in quiet meditation for at least 10 minutes.”