12 Ways to Cure Wanderlust When You Really Can't Travel (Video)
Even full-time travelers sometimes need a break. By choice or, well, external circumstances, like a dwindling bank account. Travel is incredible, but it’s also hard on your body and your budget.
Being stuck at home when you’re dreaming of visiting the next place on your bucket list or returning to Europe to taste that life-changing tomato can feel pretty grim when you’re used to circling the globe. We asked the experts the best ways to cure, or at least, semi-indulge your wanderlust when you really can’t travel.
Bonus: You don’t have to brave TSA.
1. Take a language class
Immersing yourself in a new language (or a language you studied in school and subsequently forgot after final exams) can give you that mental escape or the different way of thinking you crave while exploring a new place.
"Language classes are a great way to travel without getting on a plane. In class, you're immersed in a foreign language and culture,” said David Del Vecchio, owner of New York’s travel-focused Idlewild Bookstore, which offers conversational language classes. “And for languages like Spanish especially, classes also increase your ability to understand and connect with people from other countries living right here in the U.S." Streaming media (like podcasts or foreign TV series), reading in another language, and perhaps even discussing current events with a language partner can also offer “a great form of armchair travel,” suggested Del Vecchio.
2. Plan a bucket list trip
When I was a teenager and feeling very stuck, my best friend and I made a “New York Binder” which highlighted all the tourist sites and America’s Next Top Model shooting locations we wanted to visit once we saved enough money to pose under the bright lights of Times Square. Well, that trip never happened because I moved to New York, but the thrill and memory of planning it remains.
Maybe you have a honeymoon in the near future (or not!) or maybe you’ve always wanted to go to Australia and finally have the time to read some guidebooks, watch a few documentaries, and compile a Google Doc or Pinterest board to structure your upcoming dream trip — even if it’s not until 2022.
3. Meet other travelers
“One of the best things about travel is the people that you meet because of the connections you make,” said Debbie Arcangeles, host of the podcast “The Offbeat Life.” “Try Bumble friends, check out Facebook groups, and attend travel meetups. You never know, maybe you’ll find a new travel buddy for your next adventure.”
You don’t even have to leave your house to meet visitors to your town. Maggie Turansky, writer and co-founder of the website The World Was Here First, recommends hosting Airbnb or Couchsurfing guests when you’re stuck at home. “Not only will you make some extra cash, but you have the opportunity to meet and chat with people from all over the world,” she said.
4. Taste a cuisine you’ve never experienced before
"Just as how traveling is about broadening horizons and having a different experiences, the same concept applies for food. To have the holistic understanding of why people are who they are, we must not only see, but also feel, taste, and listen. So while food is nourishment, it's also a vehicle for compassion and comprehension,” said chef and restaurateur Simone Tong, of New York’s Little Tong Noodle Shop. “Eating and appreciating something new reduces our fear of a foreign place, there's a sense of familiarity when we've tasted a community's food before we visit that community — and there's a pre-incepted interest in the people, culture, and history as a result. Fundamentally, it makes us happy when we taste something different — there's a moment of enlightenment, of realizing that there is something else out there in the vast universe that we've suddenly grasped — and it's for that instant, the one that sparks an even greater hunger for understanding, that we taste new cuisines."
Think you’re well acquainted with cuisines from around the world? Opt for a regional speciality, like lesser-known pasta dishes from Southern Italy or spicy curries from Northern Thailand or mixian noodles from China’s Yunnan Province.
5. Be a tourist in your own city
Like Chandler Bing at the Statue of Liberty, you too can revel among visitors in your hometown. Shamelessly break out your selfie stick and plan your day as if you were seeing your city for the first time — get on that cheesy tourist bus, catch a tour of a renowned museum, hit up two lunch spots to see which has the best burger in town. You’ll see what you see every day (or ignore, because you’re too caught up in whatever you’re doing) from a visitor’s eyes and you’ll be surprised by how refreshing it can feel.
6. Reminisce on a past trip
Don’t let the highs of former trips disappear just because you don’t have a rival itinerary coming up. Online photo services like Artifact Uprising or Blurb allow you to arrange your photos from a special trip into a coffee-table worthy book that can help you relive that bucket list vacation. If you’re crafty, consider scrapbooking photos and souvenirs like ticket stubs, paper menus, and other collected flat objects for a unique memory book.
7. Mimic the hotel experience
If room service is what makes or breaks a trip for you, order breakfast, lunch, and dinner delivery one day. If you love not being bothered while lounging in your hotel room, turn your phone on airplane mode, lower your shades, and consider buying new hotel-worthy pillows or sheets.
Design-savvy travelers can also replicate the hotel style for a wanderlust-worthy living space. “Incorporate an element of the unexpected,” said Ave Bradley, senior vice president of design for Kimpton Hotels. “Whether it’s wallpaper with a subtle surprise in the pattern or an irreverent artwork, like a playful portrait or piece with a cheeky message, we like to use design elements that inspire a second look. Incorporating that touch of whimsy keeps a space from ever feeling stale. Bringing in accent pieces and decorative objects that reflect who you are imparts a well-traveled aesthetic.”
8. Read a great travel book
Get cozy and let a book transport you to a new destination — or several! Indulge in a humorous and epic worldwide trip around the world with protagonist Arthur Less in the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Less by Andrew Sean Greer or immerse yourself in a series set abroad, like Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians trilogy or Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels. Or go the nonfiction route with empowerment epics like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love or Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.
Committing to a page-turner will take you places without ever having to leave the house. Better yet, start a travel-themed book club, where you can discuss your travel reads with other home-bound travelers.
9. Master an activity you can enjoy on vacation
Are you used to passing up horseback riding, tennis, or scuba diving? Change that, stat. You don’t need an ocean to learn to deep-water dive — a community pool will do, and many offer scuba certification classes — nor do you need a lush tennis court to take a lesson. Consider working with a trainer to build up stamina and strength for a big hiking trip or check out classes at your local REI to learn some handy outdoorsy skills.
10. Change up your routine
Monotony is often the bane of any travel lover’s daily life. So don’t let routine get to you! “When I'm home, there are times when serious PTD (post travel depression) sets in, and I'm forced to find ways to scratch the itch,” said frequent traveler and publicist Christina Cherry. “Wherever I'm going, whether it's to a coffee shop or the grocery store, I take a new route. I leave my front door — without the use of GPS — and I try to find my way. It gives me those same butterflies I get from traveling to the unknown. Will I get lost? See something new? Meet someone? I don't know. And I love it.”
11. Plan a day trip
Avid travelers may forget the joy of traveling short distances for a short periods of time. A train or bus ride a couple of hours from where you live may take you to a charming historic town, State Park, or artistic installation you never would have seen otherwise.
“While you're dreaming of tropical beaches and exotic cities, don't forget that adventure can happen in any place and at any time. You don't have to be a million miles away from home to release your inner traveller,” said Nikki Scott founder and editor of the website South East Asia Backpacker. “Appease your travel melancholy by exploring your own backyard, an activity that many wanderlusters fail to take advantage of.”
12. Take care of your future travel needs
Getting a passport renewed isn’t the most exciting activity, but renewing travel documents long before an upcoming, or even last minute (!) trip, will remove some stress for future you. Get that broken zipper on your suitcase fixed, research travel credit cards with rewards miles, repack your dopp kit, and do whatever looming tasks you typically hate doing before a trip.