Virtual Travelling: How Your Small Screen Offers a Window Onto the World

Make the most of being stuck inside by expanding your horizons (and your movie trivia knowledge)
Make the most of being stuck inside by expanding your horizons (and your movie trivia knowledge) | © Wavebreakmedia Ltd UC9 / Alamy Stock Photo

Editorial Manager

In these uncertain times, with cinemas and theatres temporarily closing their doors, the need for escapism is greater than ever. Binge-watching your favourite shows is one way to distract yourself during self-isolation, but there are plenty of other options. Here’s our guide to letting the small screen transport you to incredible destinations around the world

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With governments worldwide advising their citizens to avoid all but essential travel, the prospect of a lengthy spell at home can feel overwhelming. The small screen offers some relief, but how to navigate through the multitude of streaming platforms and broadband internet? Here is our pick of views that will give you a sense of global travel, without leaving your sofa.

Just because you’re stuck indoors doesn’t mean you can’t explore the worlds virtually

Disney+: Going to a galaxy far far away

Launching to great fanfare, Disney’s streaming service is now home to the best offerings from the House of Mouse. With the recent purchase of 20th Century Fox adding to the likes of Lucasfilm and Marvel, Disney+ features some of the biggest films of all time. Both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars Saga films have found stunning locations around the world for their blockbusting franchises.

‘Avengers: Endgame’ on Disney+ offers plenty of vivid drama

And if that wasn’t enough, National Geographic is bundled in with the service, which screens some of the best nature documentaries around.

Streaming the days away

Disney is only the latest in a long list of companies to join the streaming market. Apple and Amazon have established themselves alongside market leader Netflix, and we’re sure they’ll all be getting a boost in customer numbers over the coming weeks. There are niche services out there, too. For example, horror fans should check out Shudder TV, which hosts exclusive films, TV shows and podcasts.

Amazon Prime Video is a great resource for box sets, movies and documentaries

If you’re craving the shared enjoyment of watching something with friends, Netflix Party allows you to synchronise your viewings with others and even comment on screen. It’s like being in a cinema, only without the sticky floors and overpriced popcorn. You could argue that this is the ultimate shared viewing experience, as you can invite people from all corners of the world and speak to them in real time.

Globe Player: Shakespeare’s home from home

This exhaustive resource is a tremendous way to enjoy stage performances from London’s historic Globe Theatre and beyond. The majority of plays available here were recorded at the brilliant reconstruction of Shakespeare’s beloved Elizabethan playhouse.

The platform includes some free content, and plenty that you can buy. The app is available for download from all the usual outlets and also features interviews with some of the biggest stars of stage and screen. These performances won’t just transport you a different place, but a different time, too.

For a spot of period culture, stream stage performances from the Globe Theatre in London

Gaming the system

Many people are dusting off their old video-game consoles and rediscovering forgotten favourites. There’s certainly something to be said for the sense of nostalgia these retro classics can evoke, but don’t overlook the games industry’s current offerings. Online gaming has become the standard way to play, where once it was seen as a fanciful addition that only a few tech-savvy experts could access.

Playing with friends (and rivals) across the globe is an exhilarating concept, and offers a glimpse of different cultures and countries. The detailed race tracks of Asphalt 9: Legends capture real places across continents, while the virtual New York City seen in the latest Spider-Man game includes several Manhattan landmarks.

Keep your brain sharp by digging out your old Playstation or Xbox

Learning languages online

Picking up a new language is one of those lofty ambitions we all have but few of us act upon. Wouldn’t it be great, when we’re all back out in the world again and travelling to our favourite destinations, to communicate with locals in their own language?

There are some great online courses available; the latest trend even allows you to learn by conversing with native speakers. What a great idea – and one that can be easily realised from the safety of your own home. Lingoda has three levels available, and a free trial if you want to sample it before committing.

Explore the world virtually

One final tip is to explore the world of virtual tours. A number of popular museums and galleries have been testing this form of visitor access for years, and as the technology gets better, so does the experience. If you’re already planning ahead and want to have things in place for when you’re back up and travelling, this is an innovative way to beat the crowds and pick somewhere that suits your tastes.

Google Arts & Culture has teamed with thousands of locations – a number that’s growing all the time – to offer tours of an incredible range of cultural venues, including the British Museum, the Guggenheim, the Van Gogh Museum, the Uffizi Gallery and the Smithsonian.

Take a virtual tour of the British Museum with the help of Google Arts & Culture

Virtual culture is fast-becoming the best way for artists and musicians to keep in contact with their fans. We recommend keeping an eye on social media for real-world events being held online that you can view from home in the coming weeks.

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