Virtual Travel: How to Explore the World Without Leaving Home
Women over 60 love to travel. Unfortunately, there are so many places to see and not always enough time or money to see them. What if your travel budget doesn’t allow you to see all of the places in person that you might like to visit? What if you could indulge your curiosity and experience more of the world without actually leaving your home?
Fortunately, the Internet makes it more possible than ever before for people to read about, see and hear about more international destinations and foreign cultures than ever before. There are ways to travel virtually using your laptop or tablet PC that put you in an immersive online environment where you can vicariously experience the sights, sounds, history and culture of other places all over the world.
Would you like to make better use of your digital devices to be able to “virtually travel?” Here are some tips, pointers and recommended websites to help you get the most out of the virtual travel technology available today:
Google Street View Collections and Google Earth
Explore Google’s Street View Collections. Make sure you are using Google Chrome browser and get on a journey! Explore famous landmarks and natural wonders with beautiful 360-degree panoramas. See this world from every angle – you will be blown away! This is probably one of the most amazing projects I have ever encountered.
In Google Earth you can also click around, zoom and explore various maps of the world, including historic topographic maps and even images from space. If you enjoy cartography, geography, or just like to get a better sense for how vast the world truly is, check out Google Earth.
Panoramic photos of cities
360gigapixels.com is a website that shows massive panoramic photos of cities around the world. For example, here is a photo of Tokyo (the largest city on Earth) taken from Tokyo Tower – it’s amazing how you can zoom all over the city and see into windows and see down individual streets. There is so much life happening everywhere in this photo. Check out some other amazing panoramic scenes at 360cities.net.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
UNESCO is a United Nations agency dedicated to preserving and promoting the world’s most unique cultural heritage. The UNESCO website has a list of 981 sites that are considered to have “outstanding universal value.” Many of these cultural sites, such as the Taj Mahal in India, have online virtual tours that enable you to see panoramic photos up close, while reading all about these fascinating places to appreciate more about why they are so important.
In addition to these sites, many tourist destinations run their own “virtual tours” on their websites nowadays, so it’s easier than ever before to get a sense of what a place is like before you travel there – or even without traveling there at all.
Of course, there’s no way to fully replace the experience of being on the ground in another country or in an exciting travel destination – the sights, sounds, tastes and scents all add up to a full sensory experience. But online virtual tours are becoming more sophisticated. There are more tools and resources online that help us experience the world from the comfort of our own homes – and perhaps this spirit of curiosity will encourage more people to travel, and go see the “real thing” in person.
Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that is constantly updated by thousands of volunteers from all over the world. This “crowdsourced encyclopedia” has become more than a fascinating social experiment – it’s a real-time look into the combined knowledge and experiences of billions of people.
Wikipedia is great for virtual tourism because you can look up almost any destination on Earth, no matter how remote, forbidding or obscure, and find detailed descriptions and often photos. Would you like to see the summit of Mt. Everest or the beautiful temples at Angkor Wat in Cambodia? Have you ever wanted to see Easter Island or Ayers Rock (Uluru) in Australia? You can quickly get a sense for what each of these places is like, just by “touring” on Wikipedia.
Have you experienced “virtual tours?” What are some impressive websites you’ve found to truly get a new impression of a part of the world that you hadn’t visited before? Please join the conversation.
Watch my interview with the fabulous Evelyn Hannon for more tips on traveling and exploring new cultures.