Virtual Traveling During Lockdown

Being an introvert, I haven’t missed people much during lockdown.  What I missed most was traveling.  The Husband and I, late blooming travelers, took some great trips in the last few years – city jaunts to Chicago, Houston and New Orleans, a train from LA to Seattle, a cruise to Alaska.  On deck had been a not yet booked trek to Liverpool and Normandy when the world screeched to a halt.  Heartsick, I watched this insidious virus spreading like wildfire over the earth.  For a while, I thought we might still get to go in fall 2020.  Then maybe spring 2021.  Now I’m praying spring 2022 ‘cause Gray Mare and The Husband ain’t getting any younger and we need to get this show, literally, on the road!

Biking through Budapest at night.

In mid-December 2020, a Facebook friend from England posted about a virtual tour she took online with (VirtualTrips at the time).  Tip supported, guides all over the globe lead live tours armed only with iPhones on gimbals.  In the last six months, I’ve traveled to Paris, Bermuda, Salzburg, Luxor and Tokyo, just to name a few.  The tours last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes on average and the people showing us around their neighborhoods are mainly out of work tour guides trying to stay afloat until travel restrictions are lifted.  “Walking” through the empty streets of Venice, overlooking the pits of the Terra Cotta Warriors and bicycling through Amsterdam and Budapest gave me something to look forward to.  Enjoying street art in Lisbon, tulip fields in a Netherlands suburb and riding a funicular in Kyiv added a bit of joy to my day.  And now I know that if I could afford it, I would travel to St. Petersburg and Venice and Budapest because they were magical and lovely.

Tulip fields outside of Amsterdam.

The guides, for me, complete the experience.  I’m drawn to guides who enthusiastically share stories of the history and people of their regions and have a great sense of humor.  Anna in St. Petersburg loves her beautiful home town and tells wonderful stories.  Aaron and Patrick, out of work while the NYC theatres are dark, lead tours all over their adopted city, sharing historical nuggets and much needed laughter.  Stephan cycles around Amsterdam, cruises the canals of a quaint village and cuddles cows and goats!  And they are troupers—Florent walked through evening Paris in the rain and Anna, Aaron and Patrick ended some of their tours covered with light dustings of snow!

Anna dusted with snow in St. Petersburg.

Maybe the best feature of is the ability to take postcard pictures.  See a beautiful scene?  Click the camera icon and save the picture when it pops up on the screen.  View or send them to social media or friends from your Heygo account.  Scrolling through my postcards as I prepared this blog post I was reminded of all the amazing places I’ve been.  No, it’s not like being there IRL but it’s the next best thing.

A wintry Valentine’s Day carriage ride through Central Park.

I’ve noticed lately that the streets are getting more crowded as the weather gets better.  The Tuileries Garden in Paris, the riverwalk in Kyiv and the waterfront in Bellagio on Lake Como already draw masses of locals.  I hope that when the borders open for travelers that these tours don’t lose their sparkle.  I’m already anticipating reduced schedules once the dedicated guides begin booking live tours again.

Crowds at the Tuileries Garden in Paris.

So, if you’re missing the joys of traveling, need to get a feel for certain places before you book or just want the simple luxury of being an armchair traveler, give a try.  The trip is free, tips ($5, $10 or whatever you can afford) are encouraged and certainly deserved.  Happy Traveling!

Drifting through the peaceful canal village of Giethoorn.

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