One thing I’ve realized from finally having the time to catch up on my media queue is how much of the joy of travel comes from anticipating it, the sweet spot between the moment you find out about a place and decide to start planning a visit and your actual departure—all the dreaming that happens in between. While we collectively retreat and wait out this homestay, these are the travel films, books, podcasts, and other immersions that we’re turning to for inspiration and escape.
Take a digital hike with help from Google Earth’s tours of 31 national parks, ranging from Acadia to Zion to Denali. Or check out Google Trekker from the Conservation Fund; staffers hiked through over a dozen protected destinations—like Lewis and Clark National Historical Park in Oregon and DuPont State Recreational Forest in North Carolina—and used Google Maps video technology to capture their wanderings. Then there’s Lights over Lapland, an outfitter that leads photography tours in Sweden’s Abisko National Park, which recently launched a series of virtual tours of the northern lights.
If you’d rather join others on their journeys, there are a number of documentaries available on YouTube that allow viewers to follow along on long-distance treks, like Chasing Shadows, which chronicles the adventures of three Marine Corps vets as they hike along the 96-mile West Highland Way in Scotland. Or accompany professional mountain biker Sam Seward, photographer Dan Milner, and H+I Adventures CEO Euan Wilson as they explore a route through the soaring Himalayan peaks of Bhutan.
For fans of livestreams, the options are endless, from YouTube series of thru-hikes and nature cams that bring the outdoors to you in real time to this soothing jellyfish webcam from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California to this one of sea otters at the Seattle Aquarium.
Don’t miss Outside Magazine’s recommendations for what to read, watch, listen, immerse and learn.
-Megan Michelsen, Outside Magazine