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10 Min Read

As we make the most of being at home, our thoughts still can’t help wandering to different corners of the world. Using the lens of TV and film, language, literature, food and drink, and music, we’ve explored ways to keep your travel inspiration alive from the comfort of your own home.

You could take a glimpse into the world’s largest natural cave on a virtual drone tour of Vietnam’s Son Doong cave, or go on a ‘sofa safari’ in South Africa. Spend an evening in the kitchen rustling up Japanese gyoza or Peruvian pork belly, or settle down to watch a movie that showcases New Zealand’s ‘majestical’ landscapes.

Food and drink
Follow our specialists’ tried-and-tested recipes

Suggested by various specialists

Peruvian inspired pork belly
Pork belly, Peru

Between them, our specialists have explored every continent, devouring the local food as they go.

Often, they’ll come across a delicacy that encapsulates their experience in a country or place, whether it’s a tasty morsel they tried in a food market, a standout plate in a local restaurant or a dish they learned to make in a cooking workshop. Recreating these recipes back home helps them relive their travels.

Japan specialist Rory likes making this pork gyoza recipe. ‘While living in Tokyo as a student, I got a part-time job as a chef and learned to cook a variety of Japanese dishes, among them gyoza. You can stuff them with different fillings, freeze them for later, or tuck into them straight away for the perfect comfort food.’

For a taste of Peru, South America specialist Nik suggests his recipe for pork belly, inspired by his visit to Michelin-starred restaurant Mil, in the Sacred Valley. ‘The chefs at Mil prepare an eight-course tasting menu, with each dish using ingredients found at different altitudes across Peru. I particularly liked the Andean Forest course, which featured a pork belly dish similar to my recipe. Sip on a pisco sour afterwards and you’ll be transported to the Andes.’

You might also like:

  • Italian chef Massimo Bottura: Instagram cooking lessons to help you rustle up some ragu and perfect your béchamel.
  • Streetfood: Asia: take your taste buds on an Asian culinary journey by watching this Netflix series.
  • Australian lamingtons recipe: learn to make the signature cake of Australia — small squares of buttery sponge cake coated in chocolate and rolled in coconut (a layer of jam and cream is optional).

Language

Take advantage of online language courses

Suggested by our marketing team

Alhambra, Granada
Alhambra in Granada, Spain

The popular language-learning app Duolingo has seen a massive spike since the lockdown, proving we're not the only ones using the downtime to kickstart our language skills. Duolingo builds spoken, written and listening skills, starting with the most basic words and phrases.

You make progress through completing a series of exercises that build on what you’ve already learned — each one only demands about 15 minutes of your time. You can also follow, and measure yourself, against fellow learners.

The app is already available in more than 30 languages, from Arabic to Ukrainian. Several languages are still in beta testing, including Hungarian and Klingon, if your time at home has included bingeing on Star Trek.

You might also like:

  • Slow news in French: these 10-minute podcasts by Radio France International (RFI) serve up the global news at a slower speaking pace, supported by written transcripts.
  • Coffee break lessons by Radio Lingua: a series of bite-sized podcasts in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish and Chinese, covering travel basics to more complex grammar.
  • A learning trip to Spain: take yourself on a mystery adventure to Spain in a series of videos that introduce you to the language.

Literature

Read Suzanna Clark’s A House in Fez

Recommended by Morocco specialist Kerry-Ann

Fez, Morocco
Fez, Morocco

I first met Suzanna Clark when I was living and studying in Fez. Her husband, a white-haired bon vivant named Sandy, ran Tahmis, a restaurant that was popular with the expat community. They were both from Australia and had fallen in love with the city’s dilapidated beauty and camel-trodden streets.

Her book, A House in Fez, is foremost a memoir of her year spent buying and renovating a 300-year-old traditional riad. Her prose vividly describes both the house and the people she befriended, including 18 skilled artisans who helped to recreate or repair the cedar-wood doors, the intricate tile mosaics and the central fountain.

But between anecdotes (and occasional grousing about Byzantine red tape), she immerses the reader into the culture and history of Morocco in general, and Fez in particular. I pick this up whenever I want a reminder of the city where I once lived.

You might also like:

  • Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile, by Sara Wheeler: the author’s six-month epic journey from the North Peruvian border to Cape Horn.
  • Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang: an intimate portrayal of China’s tumultuous century told through the author’s life, as well as her mother’s and grandmother’s.
  • Cloudstreet by Tim Winton: a sweeping family saga that offers an unflinching view of mid-century working-class life in Perth.

Music and entertainment
Listen to a USA road trip playlist

Suggested by social media executive Tiffany

Bixby creek bridge, Big Sur
Big Sur highway, USA

The highway curls around Big Sur’s wave-cut clifftops, ocean glittering to your right, and suddenly the radio starts playing a song that’s perfect for the scene.

For me, it was Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac, one of many hits I had on my playlist when driving California’s Pacific Coast Highway between San Francisco and LA. In that moment, I felt the freedom and pure joy of driving the open road.

During my trip, I learned how to surf on Santa Monica’s beach (a bit of Beach Boys fit nicely here), went wine tasting around Santa Barbara’s sun-soaked vineyards, humming Here Comes the Sun, and cycled the Golden Gate Bridge with The Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up in my head the whole way.

Now, even though I’m home, I listen back to this playlist and I’m suddenly transported back to these moments. Try it for yourself and you’ll hopefully be dreaming of California’s blazing sun, salty ocean breezes and golden sands.

You might also like:

  • Music Planet: Road Trip podcast: BBC Radio 3’s podcast transports you to different parts of the globe through song, with each episode focused on the musical culture of a different country or region.
  • Sydney Opera House live: Watch a variety of live performances with the click of a button, from classical to contemporary music, for a glimpse inside one of the world’s most famous venues.
  • Did you know – African Wildlife app: Reminisce on your safari experiences or prepare for your next trip by learning new wildlife facts and testing your knowledge of African bird calls.

TV and film
Experience Touches of Tokyo in Lost in Translation

Suggested by Japan specialist Tesia

Shinjuku district, Tokyo
Shinjuku district, Tokyo

This may be a predictable choice, but Lost in Translation is popular with those who long to revisit Japan, or want to visit one day — for a very good reason. It’s not so much the storyline that evokes nostalgia for me, but the depiction of sounds and sights — the ‘ping pong’ of doors opening, the woman’s softly voiced subway announcements and the beeping of the crosswalk signal.

The interactions between the Japanese and the western protagonists are relatable too, whether you’ve lived in Japan like I have, or are paying a visit. In the movie, Bill Murray looks out of a taxi window on arrival, in awe of Tokyo’s neon nightscape, and the bustle of the city surrounding him. It reminds me of my first impressions in that initial ride from the airport, when you’re looking out the window trying to take in your surroundings, thinking about the adventures to come.

You might also like:

  • Out of Africa: this 1985 award-winning film conjures the beauty and drama of Africa.
  • Amélie: a whimsical modern classic that’s also a loving portrait of Paris’s Montmartre district.
  • Woman at War: light-hearted but powerful, this 2018 film showcases Iceland’s stark volcanic landscapes as the backdrop for a story about an environmental activist.

Wildlife
Take a ‘sofa safari’ in South Africa

Suggested by Christina in our South Africa team

A female lion with her cubs, South Africa
Lion and her cubs, Timbavati Game Reserve

To reconnect with the natural world, I’ve been watching ‘sofa safaris’ offered by Tanda Tula, a camp in South Africa’s private Timbavati Game Reserve on the edge of the Kruger.

Guides Chad and Luke regularly film game drives through the park, which you can watch on YouTube. From close encounters with playful lion cubs to seeing wild dog feasting on prey, the safaris give you a beguiling glimpse into what it’s like to be out exploring the bush. There are lots of options to choose from, including safaris themed around photography or geared towards children, as well as South African cooking demonstrations.

Watching these sofa safaris conjures memories of my own safari there, from the anticipation of the search to the thrill of seeing leopard or rhino up close.

You might also like:

  • Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa: watch some of the largest elephant in the world, as well as other Big Five animals, at a waterhole near the Mozambique border.
  • Galapagos Islands: you might still catch a glimpse of the archipelago’s renowned giant tortoises at the seasonal pools — they usually visit through spring.
  • Wildlife calls in Borneo’s rainforest: Press play, close your eyes and listen to gibbon howls and bird calls echoing above a constant backing track of crickets and cicadas.

Sites and landscapes
See the world’s largest cave in Vietnam

Suggested by Veronica, Southeast Asia specialist

Son Doong, Vietnam
Son Doong, Vietnam

Watching this drone footage of Vietnam’s Son Doong, the world’s largest natural cave, helps me relive my three-night trek through Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park — one of the few areas of the country untouched by humans.

A vast cave network, which includes Son Doong, lies within the park, and trekking here feels like you’ve discovered a lost land. It’s a place where you can completely immerse yourself in wilderness, from gigantic, yawning caves to underground rivers and giant limestone karsts.

While I didn’t visit Son Doong itself, I explored a few other caves in the same network. In my opinion, trekking through these caves is the most incredible experience you can have in Vietnam, as long as you’re up for a heavy dose of adventure.

You might also like:

  • Petra, Jordan: explore the well-preserved remnants of the Nabatean Empire.
  • Yosemite Falls, USA: one of the world’s tallest waterfalls cascades endlessly on this webcam from the national park.
  • Good Morning World clips: See New Zealand through the eyes of locals by watching these short daily clips filmed in one of the country’s beauty spots or attractions.

Art and History

Tour the Uffizi, virtually

Suggested by Kimberly from our Italy team

City views, Florence
Florence, Italy

Many will disagree with me, but I think the Uffizi is perhaps the best museum in Europe.

I first visited Florence when I was studying art in Italy. I’d seen many of these pieces reproduced as posters, prints, even refrigerator magnets: Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo, Caravaggio's Medusa and Raphael's Madonna of the Goldfinch. But viewing them in person was a revelation. For the first time, I could comprehend both the massive scale and the minute details — individual brushstrokes, finely crackled glaze and the translucence of the pigments.

While it’s not quite the same thing as a visit, Google’s Arts and Culture project offers a virtual tour of the gallery that you can take from your own living room (with a glass of Chianti, perhaps). The resolution is fine enough to zoom in and see the brushstrokes that first floored me as a student.

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