If you’re like me, the pandemic lockdown may have taken a toll on your mental health. Virtual travel offers a therapeutic way to cope with the travel restrictions and lockdowns of the pandemic. From virtual tours of museums and national parks, to driving virtually on different roads around the world–to even taking an interactive ride on a dog sled in Alaska–virtual travel has given way to new possibilities in terms of what it means to experience travel.
Creators from all over the world have used the accessibility of YouTube to reach mass audiences and bring virtual travel into the homes of anyone with an internet connection and computer or smartphone.
Beyond the realm of social media, virtual reality apps make it easier than ever to travel to depths unknown–you can travel to the deep of the ocean with TheBlu or you can be like Jeff Bezos and travel to space.
Although these virtual reality apps offer amazing interactive experiences, they do require you to have a VR headset in order to enjoy them. If you’re interested in using any of these award-winning applications, CNet offers a helpful curated list of some of the top VR headsets of 2021.
Mental Health & Accessibility
Whilst being stuck at home during the pandemic, I discovered the website application Drive and Listen on TikTok–due to it becoming a viral sensation.
(You can watch the famous TikTok below–it has garnered over 20 million views.)
The app takes you on a driving adventure through almost any country of your choice. Of course, the cherry on top is the country’s accompanying radio station that plays in the background.
Traveling through virtual reality has proven to have a positive impact on mental health. As stated by Very Well Mind, “mental health experts see similar benefits in experiencing nature through VR.”
The Conversation reports “83% [of respondents] felt more positive after webcam travel.”
Virtual travel goes beyond mental health though, it also provides a means of accessibility to those with physical disabilities.
One commenter underneath this NBC News YouTube video about virtual reality apps states: “This really appeals to me as I am disabled and can’t visit all this in person.”
CNTraveler concludes that “virtual options are indeed making it easier for those with mobility disabilities to see places they might not otherwise see.”
These array of options for travel not only create a way to cope mentally during the pandemic –as it did for me– but they also make for a promising future in regards to providing an accessible travel experience for those with the physical inability to do so.
Virtual Travel Search & Options
A quick YouTube search combining the word “virtual travel” plus the city or country you are looking for will provide you a plethora of options.
(For instance, searching “virtual travel Rome” on YouTube led me to this video that tours the city on foot for two hours, allowing viewers to witness the iconic Italian city–including monuments such as the ever-famous Trevi Fountain.)
Various publications such as The New York Times, Forbes and Travel and Leisure have also curated easy-to-browse lists that offer an assortment of virtual travel experiences in a multitude of places–you can watch the Northern Lights dance across mountains in Greenland or you can take a leisurely walk through the Chow Kit Market in Malaysia.
These publications have put in the work of researching virtual travel options so you don’t have to–just click and enjoy.
My Favorite Virtual Travel Experience
One of my particularly favorite virtual travel experiences is the walking tours of Seoul. These bring back a nostalgia of a city which I visited numerous times–and one that has good memories attached. Being able to immerse myself into this environment again has eased the mental anguish of being in lockdown.
Both YouTube channels Seoul 4K Walker and Seoul Walker take you on hour-long virtual walks through various parts of Seoul on a weekly basis. The point-of-view camera position and high-definition of picture makes for an extraordinary interactive experience for those who want to take in the wonders of Seoul.
I want to hear from you: What do you think of virtual travel? Is virtual travel something you’d be interested in? Or do you already have experience with it? Let me know in the comments below!