I think one of the biggest misconceptions about travel is that you learn about history and other cultures just by being somewhere. Yes, when you go abroad, you do literally see another place, but if you barely leave your accommodation, sit on your phone as you’re driving or walking around, don’t go into a single museum and don’t talk to anyone, you probably won’t learn much. When I write blogs, I draw heavily on the experiences I had, but I also have to read and research about that place or issue’s history in order to write something coherent. When I walk around a museum, I make notes and take pictures of the information to refer back to when I’m writing. There’s a lot you can learn from travel, but there’s also a lot it’s easy to miss.
This is a great thing! This means that so much of the learning aspect of travel you can do anywhere. Even when you’re sitting at home, you can learn so much about the world around you, without needing to move at all. Here are five ways to travel from wherever you are:
Learn a language
This is one of my favourite things to do generally, but especially because it makes me feel like I’m getting incrementally closer to one of my ultimate dreams: to speak a dozen languages and glide through the world communicating effortlessly with everyone in my path. This is very unlikely to happen, but a girl can… painstakingly pick up vocabulary across any number of European languages and learn the basics of Japanese and Russian in her spare time in the hope that one day it will.
Nothing makes me feel more connected to the world around me than practising a language. The thought that one day I’d be able to have conversation with someone in their native language rather than needing them to speak English fills me with joy. Spending the time at home brushing up your Spanish skills or learning to ask for directions in Arabic may well pay off the next time you whack out the passport.
Try a new cuisine
So much of travel is about food (for me, anyway. For anyone sane, really). Of course I want to go to Mexico to see the Mayan ruins and the beautiful nature… but I also really want to eat tacos right at the source. I can’t wait to go back to the Sagrada Familia at the end of this month, but I am also basically salivating at the thought of sangria, tapas and churros. I still remember all the amazing pho I ate in Vietnam and the dumplings in China and barszcz in Poland. Food is culture in so many ways. I love food.
If you live in a city, there are hopefully a few places you can go to try different cuisines. Living in London means that there is food from almost every country and region in the world available basically on my doorstep. I don’t go out to eat that much while I’m at home, but when I do, it’s almost always the kind of food you really might travel to eat.
Even better, you can try to make other foods yourself. Last year, I made gyoza, and it might well be my proudest moment from 2018.
Read the news
One thing that I think passes many of us by is how much world news we are not exposed to. In the UK, we get UK news, a lot of US news and the most major news from a couple of other countries. But we miss a lot of the big news from other areas of the world, especially areas that are often forgotten about by mainstream Western media. Last year, there was enormous economic upset in Argentina and Venezuela that continues to this day, Brazil elected its first extremely right-wing president in decades and both Spain and Italy saw populist parties gain support. There is so much going on in the world while we remained paralysed by Brexit and inundated with Trump’s latest antics. Keeping up to date with world news and seeking out current affairs from a variety of different countries is a great way to feel like you’re expanding your worldview from wherever you are.
Get on the Internet
There is so much content available online, most of it for free, where you can learn new things about different countries, cultures, cuisines and languages. Blogs, YouTube channels, podcasts, quizzes, articles, social media and recipes abound to make it so easy to learn new stuff. There are also amazing documentaries about the natural world and any international issue you could possibly want to learn about. If you’re looking for Earth porn, then anything by David Attenborough is probably going to show you more in one hour than any trip could. It has never been easier to see amazing pictures, videos and words from any country on the planet.
Just being on the Internet gives me ample inspiration for trips to last the next ten years. Whenever I write blogs about history or culture, I always do some extra research to pad out whatever I learned while I was looking around. I learned the world capitals by procrastinating with quizzes and I have read so many travel blogs over the past few years. I have learned more about the world, travel and planning trips from the Internet than I could possibly have learned on the ground. I have also learned so much about travelling responsibly and sustainably, which has made me a better, more conscious traveller.
Read a book!
It should be no surprise to anyone reading this blog that I like books. I actually haven’t read many travel books lately, but in the past I have read many books detailing people’s adventures around the globe, from a serious memoir detailing a man’s solo walk across Afghanistan in winter to a female comedian’s hilarious collection of stories from dating around the world. But aside from straight travel books, I consider all the books I read about geopolitics, economics and politics to feed into my understanding of the world. It gives me a far more nuanced appreciation of my place in the world and the impact I have as I move through it. It makes me a more intelligent and compassionate person, especially when I visit communities that are impacted and often held back by the same economic forces that I’ve been reading about.
Between all of these things, there’s plenty to do to keep a traveller’s spirit alive as you hang around at home. So much of what makes someone an educated traveller and thoughtful person can be learned without ever leaving your postcode (though that’s usually the fun part!).