I’m sitting here watching the steam rise out of the coffee mug in my hand, trying not to look out my window. Everything out there is covered in snow.
Not the light fairy tale snow that dances down and coats the trees with powdery-white dazzle, transforming the world into a winter wonderland. Oh no. This is the half-slush, half-ice gray melty gunk that’s sticking resolutely to my windows despite the near-hurricane winds accompanying it. This is winter as only the Midwest can do it.
So why on earth am I here?!!
Well, partly because there’s this little American holiday we call Thanksgiving happening this week. Since I’m in the Continental US, I have no valid reason not to go mingle with distant relatives and try to explain how Charles Manson is getting married before I am while sneakily adding vodka to my coffee from a hip flask.
Plus there’s all those unexpected expenses I occurred while traveling, like my car getting struck by lightning, that I have pledged to get on top of before hitting the road again.
So while it’s taking every bit of self-restraint in my body not to book a ticket to Punta Cana right now (wheeee, credit cards!) I’m here “enjoying” this blizzard from the middle of America’s giant proverbial cornfield.
Getting hit with the wanderlust bug when you can’t do anything about it happens to all of us. (Okay, most of us. To my friends living in Bali right now, I hate you. You’re dead to me.)
The good news is, even if you’re not one of those full-time globe-trotting folks, you can still scratch your travel itch without leaving the country. Or even your house. Travel is a state of refreshed curiosity in which we see the world in a new light. There are ways to duplicate that mindset right where you are, wherever that might be.
(No, none of these are a substitute for real, soul-expanding adventure, but think of them like a travel snack to hold you over.)
1. Try a new hobby
If you live in a town with a community center, sign up for a class. Sushi making, figure drawing, creative writing, hot yoga. It doesn’t have to lead to new career; just pick something that looks interesting and give it a whirl. Trying new things is one of the best parts of traveling, but you can really do it anywhere.
Low on funds? The internet is full of free tutorials. I learned how to code websites through internet tutorials just because I thought it was fun and now I earn a living doing it (okay, so sometimes it can lead to a new career).
Or you can learn to make an origami Yoda and give a bunch to your friends for Christmas. Trust me, it’s the perfect gift.
The point is that the break from your daily routine will engage your mind and give you that same little energy boost you get from travel.
2. Read a book.
I was traveling with books long before I ever set foot out of my door. Books can take you to worlds that only exist in your imagination. Reading, to me, is the ultimate form of travel. You’re not limited by reality. If you need ideas, check out this list of books recommended by travel bloggers.
If you’re not much of a reader, try an audiobook. Audiobooks are my favorite part of road trips. Currently I’m listening to Dan Brown’s Inferno. I love Dan Brown books because he describes architecture and historic monuments so vividly it feels like you’re actually running through the streets of Italy.
3. Write a book
It doesn’t matter if you’re not a writer; it doesn’t have to be any ‘good.’ Just write something! Create a world (check out Jaime Buckley’s epic Advanced Worldbuilding guide) and set your characters loose in it.
Although things have been a bit quiet over here on the blog front lately (sorry about that) I’ve been writing my heart out for the NaNoWriMo challenge, which is to write a 50,000 word novel by the end of November. My book has nothing to do with travel (unless you count traveling through different realms). It’s young adult fantasy that will most likely never be seen by another human.
I don’t even care. Working on this book has reminded me of the simple joy that comes from doing something I love.
4. Create a tour of your hometown
While living in Greece I got to know this fantastic, free-spirited couple from London. One night over beers they were telling me about how they had made up their own tour of the “real London.” Sadly, I missed them by the time I got there, so I never got to experience it, but it got me thinking of what a fun idea that would be.
Even if the town you’re in doesn’t have traditional tourist appeal, put together an imaginary tour that you’d take visitors on. Head out with a camera and a notebook and see your own city from a fresh perspective. Pretend that you’re describing it to someone on the other side of the world.
This is also a great tip for aspiring travel writers/photographers. Start locally and uncover the “hidden treasures” in your own neighborhood. Shoot some pictures of an old building from an interesting angle. Interview the owners of a mom & pop diner. I did this once and got free pie out of it (you guys…free pie!)
5. Play a video game
You might be surprised, but it turns out video games aren’t the giant waste of time your mom said they were. According to Psychology Today, people who play video games actually exhibit increased cognitive skills, social development, and emotional benefits.
Games can also take you through breathtaking, exotic scenery, and while it’s not the same as seeing something in person, it can allow you to escape into another world for a brief period of time. Personally, I love exploring new zones in World of Warcraft. It’s one of my favorite parts of every expansion.
It also stimulates my imagination and gives me a creative boost.
6. Have a staycation
I am the queen of staycations. Sometimes I think I get almost as excited to do nothing as I do to go somewhere.
Go out and try a local restaurant you’ve never been to. Hit up a cheesy Festival of Lights display. Bundle up and watch a holiday parade. Treat yourself to an afternoon at a day spa. Check out a children’s museum (even if you’re an adult.)
Do the things at home that you would do if you were out on the road. This can help break up the monotony and combat cabin fever.
7. Plan your next trip
Even if you can’t go anywhere for months, research has shown that the anticipation of planning a trip can actually be more satisfying than the trip itself. Pull out your bucket list, research the best time to visit the hobbit holes in Matamata, New Zealand (February!) and start planning.
Go into all the details. Think about what you’re going to see, what you want to eat, and what you want to do. Check out a Lonely Planet guide, or reach out to a travel blogger who has written about your destination of choice for some ‘off the beaten path’ advice. We’re friendly. We only bite on occasion.
Note: I have also tried taking my laptop to the airport and hanging around with the hopes that a handsome stranger will come along and ask me to join him for a weekend in Tahiti. The only men this seems to attract so far are suspicious-looking TSA agents, but I’m not giving up.