Stuck at home? Take a 'virtual vacation'
May 1, 2020
If one thing is certain in this time of uncertainty, it's that humans love to travel. The World Tourism Organization reported that 1.4 billion people traveled globally in 2018, taking boats, planes, cars, and even their own two feet to see what the rest of the world has to offer.
Here in the United States, the month of May is often considered a kick off to summer travel, when schools let out and traditional vacations begin. But 2020 has so far been anything but traditional, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving those of us with the wanderlust wondering if there are any options to explore that won't break travel mandates or worse, leave us ill, especially if we are over age 60.
Fortunately, the travel industry has responded with a new buzz phrase, "virtual vacation" that, while not exactly the same as physical tourism, does provide some respite from grim statistics, face mask tutorials, and the search for hand sanitizer. Take the below attractions and destinations to heart, and maybe start planning that next trip when we're allowed to pack the suitcases and roam where we want to, again.
Alaska: The state's tourism and travel arm aptly called Travel Alaska has a fantastic lineup of beautiful scenery and dramatic wildlife on their website. Also included are links to video tours of museum collections like those at the University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks and the Anchorage Museum. https://www.travelalaska.com/GetInspired/Blog/March-2020.aspx
Smithsonian Museums: World-renowned, all of the Smithsonian collections are stunning, but it's the National Museum of Natural History that caught my eye. This room-by-room tour of the permenant and traveling exhibitions is a powerful reminder that life on planet Earth has been, and always will be, ever-changing and always dramatic. https://naturalhistory.si.edu/visit/virtual-tour
Aviation: Flying and airplane nerds, here's your chance to lurk around some of the nation's best aviation museums. Seattle's Museum of Flight (https://www.museumofflight.org/vr) has an excellent tour of their aviation pavilion, while the National Naval Aviation Museum (yes, home of the Blue Angels) in Pensacola, Florida has a detailed virtual tour of exhibitions and several "in-cockpit" opportunities. https://www.navalaviationmuseum.org/education/virtual-tour/
Real-time wonders: Google's Arts and Culture street-view links provide a look at what's happening at some of the world's man-made wonders (I enjoy looking at the Eiffel Tower in Paris - no lines!). Google also has street art links and natural wonders. https://bit.ly/3eZBVVF
Zoos and aquariums: Watch live feeds of varying species at several facilities, like the Georgia Aquarium (https://www.georgiaaquarium.org/webcam/beluga-whale-webcam/) or the San Diego Zoo ( https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/ )
Natural spaces: The National Park Service was gearing up for another busy summer at many popular parks around the United States, but now their staff are preparing live feeds and video chats along hiking trails, in visitor centers, and at scenic overlooks. http://www.nps.gov.
Erin Kirkland is a freelance travel journalist and staff writer for Senior Voice Alaska. She lives and works in Anchorage.