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9 Ways to Travel Meaningfully From Home

By Jeff Minthorn & Jessica Lockhart

The COVID-19 pandemic has us confined to our quarters for the time being. We've come up with a few suggestions for how to keep that travel bug alive and well.

Communities around the world are reeling because of the global spread of COVID-19 and the measures put in place to slow the spread: border closures, travel bans, quarantines. Headlines abound with stories about pilfered hospital supplies and panic-buying; about people coming to blows over bottles of hand sanitizer and tins of beans.

But the light in all of this is the stories of people who are stepping up to the plate and engaging in radical niceness.

In Italy, one of the world's hardest-hit countries to date, communities are sharing a spirit of andrà tutto bene (“everything will be alright”) with flash mob performances aimed at boosting moral and beating boredom. Spontaneous renditions of the Italian national anthem belted out by neighbours, impromptu balcony arias performed by house-bound opera singers, and even window-to-window table tennis matches have been spotted. In Singapore, communities have risen to the challenge by collecting face masks to give to the elderly, leaving hand sanitizer in elevators of public housing blocks and delivering supplies to the quarantined.

Here in Canada, a grassroots social media movement dubbed "caremongering" is being taken up across the country, in response to deluge of COVID-19 fear-mongering that has been spreading faster that the virus. Started in Toronto by social worker Mita Hans as a way to help vulnerable populations, #caremongering Facebook groups have been set up across the country with tens of thousands of members. People are offering to deliver or cook food for others, donating gift cards to those out of work, or doing the shopping for those who can’t.

Meanwhile, most of us have (or should have) placed ourselves in isolation. As fellow travel junkies, I’m sure we can all agree: It sucks. We don't know about you, but our Netflix tolerance peaks at about two-and-a-half hours. Then what?

While we wait this out, we've come up with a few suggestions for how to keep that travel bug alive and well, and hopefully stay amused, engaged, inspired and maybe even productive at the same time.

1. Step in front of a virtual classroom

Online courses can offer a number of advantages for instructors, from flexibility in terms of teaching hours and location, to the diversity of students and the kinds of courses you teach. Roles range from K-12 teachers, to college-level faculty, to online tutors and subject matter experts. There is also a need for online course developers and designers.

If you’re interested in teaching, here are some places to start:

HigherEdJobs
Currently, HigherEdJobs claims to have nearly 60,000 positions listed; roughly 350 of them are online or remote positions. You can refine your search criteria to find courses in specific faculties, or search for admin or executive positions.

Inside Higher Ed
Inside Higher Ed advertises teaching positions mainly on university and college campuses (as opposed to online) but there are sometimes online teaching positions available as well. Go to the search function and click the "work from home" box.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Chronicle's jobs board has, at the time of writing, more than 20,000 positions listed, but they don't seem to offer a convenient way to search for online teaching positions aside from entering "online course" in the keyword search field.

TeachAway
TeachAway has a dedicated online teaching jobs board with a variety of teaching and tutoring positions advertised, including numerous vacancies for online English teachers.

2. Become an online English teacher

English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers are in high demand. In fact, no matter what language you speak, there are people out there who want to learn it.

Online language teaching allows you to spend time (virtually) with people from around the world, and earn some money on a relatively flexible schedule at the same time. If COVID-19 has stalled your plans to teach abroad, it’s also an invaluable way to gain experience in the interim.

Qualifications required of teachers vary from company to company—some will need a university or college degree, plus teaching credentials and experience. Others, where the work involves more casual tutoring in conversational language, may simply require that you are a native speaker in the target language. There are a host of online language-learning companies out there looking for teachers. Some of the more well-known ones include: italki, Verbalplanet, DaDa, Learnissimo and FluentU.

Recently, experienced online English teacher Aisha Preece shared with us how she earns up to $60USD per hour—and explains how you can get started.

3. Take in a bit of culture

Just because you're stuck at home doesn't mean you have to put cultural edification on hold. Why not trip off to Paris (virtually, of course) and explore the collections of the Paris Musées. The group of 14 museums in Paris have made digital copies of more than 100,000 artworks freely available to the public on their collections website. Artists with works in the archive include Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, Cézanne, and thousands of others. 

You can also take a virtual tour of some of the world's most famous collections thanks to Google Arts & Culture's partnership with more than 500 museums and galleries around the world. Spend the morning checking out antiquities at the Acropolis Museum in Athens, then, off to the Dulwich Picture gallery for a virtual tour of the beautiful building designed by Regency architect, John Soane and one of the best collections of Old Masters in the UK. 

But if you want to stay closer to home (cough, cough), many of Canada’s regional museums and art galleries also offer online tours, which can be accessed via virtualmuseum.ca. Finally, this week, the Art Gallery of Ontario launched AGO From Home

If the visual arts aren’t your thing, you can listen to live music in your home, courtesy of the countless symphonies, operas and musicians worldwide. Here’s just a few:

The Berlin Philharmonic, one of the leading orchestras in the world, has now temporarily made freely available its full archive of the Digital Concert Hall.

The Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich has begun to livestream concerts without audiences, including one on March 16 with Igor Levit playing Franz Liszt’s First Piano Concerto under the baton of Joana Mallwitz. 

NPR Music is compiling a list of live audio and video streams from around the world, categorized by date and genre, with links out to streaming platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Udiscovermusic has a guide to live-streamed music event during coronavirus.

Global Citizen is hosting a series of #TogetherAtHome concerts, with headliners such as Vance Joy and Noah Cyrus. 

Finally, when you need some time away from your screen (and trust us, you need time away from your screen), you can boost your cultural literacy and awareness by digging in to some great books.

4. Watch for wildlife

On a recent trip to Dunedin, New Zealand, our contributing editor Jess was brought to tears by the sight of northern royal albatrosses soaring near their breeding ground at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head. Cornell Lab’s livestream of their nesting grounds—complete with fluffy white chicks in full view—is keeping her sane. 

If birds aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other wildlife options out there, from Explore.org’s African Safari Camera, to Google Art’s virtual tours of some of the United States’ most popular national parks. More of a city mouse than a country mouse? Head over to EarthCam to see livestreams of small towns and cities across North America. 

And, if like us, you've given in to the seduction of Netflix's Tiger King and want to support the work of legitimate animal sanctuaries, Trunk Travel is coordinating "dates with an elephant." For $60, you'll get to meet and virtually "feed" a rescue elephants from a sanctuary in Southeast Asia, all while supporting their long-term care. 

5. Study “abroad” from home

We’re not going to put pressure on you to turn your self-isolation into productivity—there’s enough Internet memes out there already doing that. But if you were planning on spending a semester abroad and that’s no longer on the table, this is the time to upskill by enrolling in courses at home. 

To investigate your options, visit Udemy, Skillshare, Alison, MOOCs or Class Central. All offer free or low-cost courses, including some of Ivy League calibre.

6. Volunteer remotely

Travelling abroad to lend a hand on a project or service may not be an option for the time being, but that doesn't mean that the needs of the organizations you might be helping have stopped.

From collaborating with communications, marketing, fundraising and website design, to contributing business and professional advice, there are many valuable ways people can contribute while volunteering from home.

In the weeks to come, we’re going to see more opportunities to volunteer “abroad” from home. Canadian volunteer-sending agencies are currently in the process of developing new ways for volunteers and interns to contribute to ongoing work in global communities. Until then, here's just a small selection of sites that can help you get started:

UN Volunteers (UNV)
The UN's online volunteer programme offers numerous ways you can get involved in projects around the world that are working to meet the sustainable development goals.

VolunteerMatch
A clearing house of listings for non-profit organizations and charities seeking volunteer help. You can select the type of volunteer skills you're best qualified to contribute or the sorts of projects you would like to contribute to then, under "narrow your search", click the "virtual" check box.

Idealist
An enormous directory of job, internship and volunteer listings for anyone looking to contribute their skills with non-profits and charities working in the community. There's an option to select remote or online placements in the filters sidebar.

Create the Good
Create the Good aims to connect volunteers who have skills and a bit of time to offer, with organizations working in the community. Click "Find Volunteer Opportunities" in the top menu, then refine your results by clicking the "show only home/remote opportunities" box.

Cuso International
Development organization Cuso International has an active E-Volunteering program, where individuals can spend between two and seven hours per week lending their skills to support those in developing countries. New E-Volunteering opportunities are advertised on the Cuso Job Board.

7. Have a family getaway—just for one day—to any country of your choosing

If you’ve got a young family, you’ve probably already exhausted all the obvious entertainment options. So why not let the kids pick a trip to a destination of their choice? For a vacation to the Ukraine, put on Gogol Bordello, learn how to say "dobryj den" and make some pierogies from scratch. Or head down to Mexico, where you can serve up quesadillas and spend the night watching Disney’s Coco. (Bonus points if you watch it in Spanish with English subtitles.)

For older kids, see if you can set up a video chat with someone who is from your destination, or who has recently travelled to that destination. Be sure to come armed with questions about the country’s history, language and culture. This is also a good opportunity to introduce kids to the idea of a cultural iceberg—a concept that will prove useful when we’re actually able to get on a plane again.

Not sure where to go? Roll the dice and let Google Earth transport you off on a mystery trip of a lifetime using the “I Feel Lucky” button. 

8. Join a like-minded community of travellers

If all this virtual tourism is leaving you yearning for the days of hostel room yarns, why not connect with other travellers who are in the same boat?

A couple of our favourite communities include TravelMassive. Although geared to travel industry professionals, media and bloggers, anyone who is interested in responsible tourism is welcome to join. It is currently hosting TravelMassive Live Events, where you can connect with others. CouchSurfing hosts active forums of travellers off-the-beaten-path. Then there's Wanderful, a community of female-identifying travellers, which is giving away 600 memberships for people who need it most during social distance. 

9. Recreate the in-flight experience

First, find your most uncomfortable chair and put it in the smallest room of your house. If you’ve got a tiny bathroom, that’s ideal, as it will add an olfactory element to the experience. Make sure that when you sit on the chair, your knees come within one centimetre of the wall. Next, cue up some audio of a baby wailing and play it at full volume. Make sure your air-conditioning is running—for the full experience, only sub-zero temperatures will do. A dehumidifier also helps. Once in the room, watch a bad romantic comedy on your tablet and ask a family member to bring you a reheated microwave dinner midway through.

Do this for eight hours straight to simulate travel to Europe or 15 hours if you’d like to pretend you’re flying to Australia. Repeat as necessary. 

While you might be tempted to skip this last activity, it’s perhaps the most important one, because it will remind you about all the unpleasant aspects of travel—which might put you off the idea long enough until it’s safe enough to do so again. 

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