13 Things To Do If You Cannot Travel Abroad Right Now

If you’re on this site, chances are you love to travel. A lot. In fact, I’d say most of us love travel in one form or another, and this is evidenced by the fact that we’re doing it more and more with each passing year – in January the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer revealed that international tourist arrivals are up by 4 per cent, reaching a record 1.2 billion in 2015. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but that’s a lot of people shuffling to and from places.

I’m all for travelling as much as we humanly can during our brief stay on this planet, but I also know there are times when we’re all unable to. Perhaps you cannot afford to. Perhaps you’ve just started a new job and won’t be able to take leave for a while. Perhaps you’ve just had a baby.

I must admit, I’m the first to get seriously itchy feet when I haven’t been travelling for a while – I feel restless, uninspired, moody, and every instinct within me screams “GET ON A PLANE. GO SOMEWHERE. ANYWHERE.” When I was younger, I wasn’t good at identifying this feeling, but now I’m older, I get it – I need to travel often to feel happy.

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And for those times when I cannot travel, I’ve realised there are many things I can do to capture a teeny bit of the ‘high’ I feel when I’m on the road. We all love to travel for various reasons, but I believe one of the main ones is the novelty factor of being in an entirely new place – it forces us into the ‘now’ and leaves us in awe of what a fascinating world we live in. It also broadens our minds – we learn so much when we interact with people from different cultures, eat their food, and experience life through a different lens.

I, therefore, decided to put together some suggestions of things you can do to replicate a little bit of the magic we experience when we travel, only in the comfort of our own homes and cities. I hope you find some of these inspiring enough to keep you going until your next big trip.

Cook a new dish

I love cooking and I love experimenting with new recipes. One thing I used to do every weekend (when, you know, I actually had an apartment and a kitchen…) was cook a new recipe from a different cuisine. So instead of hoping on a plane and trying something new while abroad, I brought the food into my kitchen. I fondly remember driving around the Bur Dubai area of Dubai looking for an obscure Thai supermarket in order to make a Thai red curry from scratch – that within itself was an adventure.

If like me, one of the things you love about travelling is all the amazing food you get to sample along the way, I find this is a great way of capturing an essence of this experience, only in the comfort of your home.

Tips:

  • Some of the ingredients required in many ‘foreign’ cuisines aren’t usually found in mainstream supermarkets. If you have a large Chinese community in your city/town, for example, the likelihood of there also being a shop stocking all the things you need to cook authentic Chinese food is high. So think of the main communities that are near you and opt for these cuisines for a matter of ease.
  • If you’re looking for Vietnamese recipes I can recommend Viet World Kitchen, SheSimmers for Thai, and Ja Joint for Jamaican.

Try a new cuisine

If cooking is not your thing and you are lucky enough to live in a cosmopolitan city you’ll be surrounded by restaurants serving all types of cuisine. In Dubai alone, for example, on any given night you can sample Japanese, Greek, Indian, Thai, Iranian, Peruvian and German food. Even my small town of Lincoln has a few options, such as Mexican, Thai, Spanish and Indian.

So plan a night out, check out what’s available in your area, pick out something you’ve never tried before and give it a go.

Check out National Geographic Traveller’s list of where to travel for food in 2016 for inspiration on cuisines to try. If you’re really serious about sampling as much good food from around the world as possible, take a look at 1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die: A Food Lover’s Life – I want this book! My birthday is coming up, hint hint 😉 

I make no secret of the fact that I love to eat (seriously, is there anything better?!) and one of the things I enjoy the most about being in a big, cosmopolitan city like Berlin is the fact you can find cuisines from around the world. The one thing this place lacks, though, is decent Indian food, so imagine my delight when I read that the best place for it is a mere ten-minute walk from my place? So yesterday I took myself there for dinner and it was the best Indian food I've had since I was in India – SO good. This was a veggie thali, complete with my favourite dish of chana masala. I foresee many more trips there in my future… 😉 If you're ever in town, get yourselves to Chutnify. #berlin #prenzlauerberg #germany #india #indianfood #thali #yummy #foodporn #food #travel #wanderlust #instapassport #happy #ontheroad #instagood #instago #like4like #love #look #follow #digitalnomad #liveauthentic #life

A photo posted by Andrea Anastasiou (@andrea_anastasiou) on

Plan your next trip

While I do love a lot of spontaneity while I travel, I also like planning some of the things I want to do, see and experience while I’m on the road. I can spend hours and hours browsing through travel blogs and websites, looking at photos on Pinterest and getting inspired.

If you have no idea where you’re planning on going next, the first step is to figure that out, which is exciting within itself. In my post on how to make your travel experiences more meaningful, I recommend going to the one place you’ve always wanted to visit, so use that as a starting point.

If you’re totally clueless on where you want to go, though, hopefully these links will inspire you: Condé Naste Traveller recommends these 10 destinations for 2016, Lonely Planet has this list for 2016, while The New York Times recommends  52 places to go in 2016 (I always love the NYT’s list).

Get plotting and planning!

Get plotting and planning!

Read a book that’s based in a different country

A well-written book always transports me to a different place and is a cheaper alternative to hitting the road. Whether it’s a travel memoir or a piece of fiction that’s based in a different country, I find that reading helps to fill the void that I feel when I’m not travelling.

Your Guide To Reading The World is a great place to start, as it lists one book from every single country on the planet. Travel blog Girl Versus Globe lists 20 inspiring female travel memoirs while Caroline in the City talks about some of her favourite travel memoirs. Finally, Condé Naste Traveller offers a comprehensive list of what it calls the 86 greatest travel books.

There were a lot of cosy nights at home

A good book always takes you places…

Take a day trip to a different town or city

Hands up if you haven’t seen most of what’s on offer in your own home country. Yup, thought so. I for one readily admit there are massive chunks of the UK that I haven’t visited. I’ve barely seen Scotland, I’ve seen bits of Wales, and I’ve never been to Northern Ireland – oh, and yes, I’ve also not seen everything England  has to offer either. I’ve also not even explored all of Cyprus, which is a pretty small island.

Point being, you don’t have to get on a plane to travel. Plan a day trip to a town, city or place of interest that’s close to where you live. You may be pleasantly surprised by what is on offer on your doorstep, and you’ll get to enjoy all the excitement of discovering a new place without having to leave the country.

This article from BuzzFeed on 25 stunning British places that you can reach from London will give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

If you live in a big city, explore a new neighbourhood

If even getting out of town is a no go right now and you happen to live in a big city, why not just hop on public transport and head out to a neighbourhood you’ve never explored before? One of the things I loved about Berlin was how every neighbourhood had an entirely different vibe to it. It felt like I was exploring different cities at times, and there were always new things to discover and see.

So, head across town and see what you can uncover.

Friedrichshain in Berlin was very different to Prenzlauer Berg

Friedrichshain in Berlin was very different to Prenzlauer Berg

Attend a cultural event in your city

Again, this is probably one reserved for the lucky peeps among you who live in vast, cosmopolitan cities. Big cities like London, Berlin, New York etc have great cultural events on at any given time of the year. For example, why not find a travel photography exhibition? Or a food festival where you can find cuisines from around the world? Keep an eye out on the ‘what’s on’ sections of your local newspapers/magazines to see what comes up.

Watch documentaries on foreign lands

I love a well-researched and put together documentary, especially ones that teach me something new or make me curious about a culture or place. For some inspiration on what to watch, check out Matador Network’s recommendations on documentaries every traveller should watch. Another list you may want to check out is this one of 11 documentaries to inspire your travels.

If you already have a destination in mind, have a look for documentaries relating to that place and get inspired before your trip.

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Lake Fuschl, Austria

Watch your favourite travel movies

Similar to the above, but for those who don’t really enjoy documentaries – watch a travel movie instead! There are some amazing movies out there that will transport you to a given city or country and give you an incredible sense of place while exploring various themes. Some of my favourites include Lost in Translation (Japan), Up in the Air (US), The Motorcycle Diaries (South America), A Map for Saturday (all over the globe!) and Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Spain).

Nomadic Matt has a great list of movies to inspire you to travel to help you get started. This list on IMDb is also good.

Learn a new language

I’ve decided that 2016 is the year I will learn a new language. I started out by wanting to learn German, but I now think I’ve settled on Spanish as I want to explore South America one day and I don’t want to do it without knowing some of the local lingo.

Apart from obvious benefits of being able to talk to locals when you’re on your next big trip, learning a new language has myriad other benefits, too. Research shows, for example, learning a second language slows brain ageing. Plus, it can be a great way of building up some excitement for your next trip.

If you’re not ready to commit to classes, try one of the free ones on websites such as Duolingo – a free online tool for learning languages. They have most of the popular ones covered – German, Spanish and French – and they’re adding beta versions of many others all the time. Memrise is another good option, and you can also download their app on your phone and learn while on the go.

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Skyros, Greece

Read travel blogs

Travel blogs are what inspired me to hit the road; I vividly remember being sat in my apartment in Dubai and reading blog after blog. At the time, I believed that solo female travel was dangerous – this wasn’t a belief of my own, rather a very Cypriot attitude to women travelling without company (the shock and horror of it!). It was so deeply ingrained that I didn’t even realise that there was no real basis for it, and once I started reading the stories of women who were on the road solo – Adventurous Kate, Never Ending Footsteps and Flora The Explorer to name a few – I couldn’t stop. It opened my eyes to the fact I could do it on my own should I want to, and once I opened that can of worms I couldn’t rest until I did it for myself.

That’s why I still have a deep running love for travel blogs – so it’s unsurprising that I started my own! When I’m not travelling, I read my favourite blogger’s posts and live vicariously through them. I also get tonnes of inspiration on where to travel to next.

Some of my favourites that you may want to look up include Legal Nomads (a great blog from an ex-lawyer who documents her travels through what food she eats), This Battered Suitcase (a solo female traveller who is currently based in London) and Bridges and Balloons (a couple that loves to travel).

Take a cookery class

If you enjoy taking cookery classes when you’re travelling, doing one back home could be the perfect antidote for post-travel blues. I love connecting with a place through its food and by learning the stories that surround the dishes that have been passed down from generation to generation. I’m always particularly fascinated by the dishes that we make during celebrations or holidays, and the rituals that surround many of them.

Taking a cookery class in a different cuisine is a great way of becoming immersed in a foreign culture while at home.

Print and frame your travel photos

I’m making myself a promise as I type this out: when I finally have a flat again, I’m going to take my own advice and print and frame my travel photos! If you’re anything like me, you probably have hundreds and hundreds of photos that you’ve taken while on the road, and yet you’ve never printed a single one of them.

I recommend picking out your favourites and first doing a little bit of editing on them if you haven’t already (I use Lightroom, although here’s a rundown of great free options). Printing, framing and putting your photos up will remind you of all your past trips; the hanging pieces will also form great conversation starters when you have guests around to your house.

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One of my favourite photos – definitely one that will make the wall some day


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What do you do when you’re in between trips to feed your wanderlust?


  • I love this list! I’ve been in KL for a little over a month now, and I’m definitely getting the itchy feet feeling!! I’m not ready to fly anywhere yet (as I’m trying to focus on work at the moment), but these are great ideas to hold me over until my visa run!

    • Andrea

      Thanks, Anna – I’m glad you enjoyed the list! Where are you heading to next?

  • I’m a bit behind on catching up with my favourite blogs (yours is definitely high on this list).

    I just wanted to say I enjoyed this piece.

    I’m also learning Spanish on Duolingo, slowly, but it seems to be working! It has been a daily habit I’m sneakily rather proud of sticking to, and I am currently standing at a 195 day streak.

    This week was my birthday – 39th (eek!) – and I’ve begun my countdown until I hit 40, when I have no intention of still being here in the UK. Your list is full of things I seem to spend much of my time doing – and they are great – but I cannot wait for the real thing.

    Thanks for your posts, I may not read them instantly, but I always catch up. Keep up the excellent work! 🙂

    Alex

    • Andrea

      Hey Alex! Thank you for the lovely comment. Good to hear that you’re learning Spanish – is it a difficult language to learn?

      Happy belated birthday – we’re both May babies!

      This time next year who knows where you’ll be!

      • Eek! I only just spotted your reply, so sorry!

        I think, for me, the difficult part of Spanish is getting the pronunciation correct – I think I really need to find people to talk to in the language to progress as I would like. Knowing some French and, of course, English has proved quite useful in learning it too, it is always a wonderful thing when you realise how connected certain languages are.

        May is DEFINITELY the best month to be born, but I guess I may be biased. 😉

        It is odd, thinking about where I’ll be this time next year – but also hugely exciting (and scary – but that’s not always a bad thing).

  • Such a great article, tips like these are definitely needed at times when you can’t go anywhere! I’ve currently got six guide books and a text book fr a language I’m learning (Portuguese) sprawled on my couch, so I guess I’m doing something right…

    • Andrea

      Thank you so much, Elina! And good for you for learning Portuguese – I hope it’s going well 🙂

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  • I’m in south California at the moment and already dreading going home in two days 🙁 will be getting right back into planning!

  • This is a really good list! 🙂 Definitely given me a few ideas. (somehow I missed this post when you put it up, whoops!)

    • Andrea

      Thank you so much 🙂 I’m glad you liked it.