By Pieter De Wit

Seven months ago, I was having the time of my life in Morocco, a mere three weeks before many countries went into lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. Although it is possible to travel to some countries, many places are still not accessible. And, with the future so uncertain, I don’t feel like booking expensive tickets to a far off destination. 

Since I am still waiting for my next holiday, I might need to entertain myself on a staycation and opt for virtual travelling.

Enjoying beautiful scenery from every corner of the world from the comfort of your corona-proof living room could be the next big thing. But is virtual travelling really enough and can it fully replace authentic holidays? 

What Is Virtual Travelling? 

Virtual travelling allows you to enjoy your favourite destinations from the comfort of your couch. Slide through online libraries of images and, or take a 360-degree virtual tour that lets you stroll remotely through galleries and national parks. Thanks to technology, you can enjoy ancient architecture, wild nature and new cultures without the hassle of flying for hours, taking expensive taxis, standing in line or being overwhelmed by extreme weather. Sounds good to me!

The Great Wall Of China

Travelling through China is not always easy. When my girlfriend and I visited, it was a huge challenge to figure out the street signs and public transport to get to The Great Wall’s tourist starting point. When we finally arrived, we had to pay an entrance fee, and we felt like ants between the many other tourists. To avoid the mass, we started to hike on a forbidden path and got lost. Two hours after sunset, we finally found a way to a little village where they barely spoke English. From there, it took us another hour to get to the subway to take us back to our hotel. 

If you want to visit The Great Wall, but don’t want to fly, spend a lot of money or risk getting lost, just make yourself comfortable and take this virtual tour. It will show you the best views filmed in high quality without you having to fight through tourists! 

The Northern Lights

I haven’t seen the Northern Lights yet, but it is definitely on my list. If the idea of experiencing aurora borealis sparks your interest too, bear in mind that to maximise your chances you’ll need to arrange your trip for between December and April. You’ll have to visit remote areas in northern Norway and face extremely cold weather conditions. After having paid a lot of money and waiting in the cold ‘til your lips turn blue, some silly clouds might ruin your party and send you home disappointed. 

So why not staying at home cosy under a blanket with a cup of coffee in your hands? By taking a virtual tour and streaming the Northern Lights, all-year-round you will be spoiled with the most spectacular natural light shows, with footage covering 51 miles of tundra. 

The Full Experience

Through virtual travelling, you can see your favourite destinations in the best circumstances and weather conditions, without other tourists, for way cheaper and without the hassle of transport. But when it comes to giving you a deep, meaningful and long-lasting experience, it misses the point of travelling. 

We have five senses, and to taste a French croissant on the Champs Elysse, smell rain in the jungles of Borneo or feel the underwater calmness of scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, you need to actually travel to your destination. 

I have had my share of long flights and bus rides, but it was in those moments that I made new friends, started deep conversations with my girlfriend or just appreciated more of what was to come. It was the waiting, for hours and hours, that made the quick one-minute sighting of a wild tiger in Bardia National Park, Nepal totally worth it. It was by having to sleep at a primitive camping site at the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania that I came to stand eye to eye with a wild lion while going to the toilet in the middle of the night. It was by getting lost on The Great Wall that I realised how majestic this architectural wonder really was. 

Virtual travelling can open doors for many people who like to experience different cultures without the hassle of travelling. It is comfortable, cheaper, and can be accessed at any time.

But for me, the hassle is part of the beauty of travelling. I might enjoy virtual travelling on a lazy Sunday afternoon to wind down until I can hit the road again. But it will never replace the full experience of travelling. By the way, my trip to Morocco was for surfing, an activity that I still prefer to do offline.