Talking Point: Virtual Travel
Do you have a travel bucket list? Have you actually ticked off anything on it recently? Or is it just another page of dreams or “To Do’s” that you never quite get around to? Well, something I read in the news this week got me wondering whether I could tick off some of my travel dreams virtually and whether that might be good for more than just my wallet and my obsession with ticking things off…
What’s on your bucket list?
What’s on your travel bucket list? Riding a Harley along Route 66? A picnic under the Northern Lights? A week relaxing on a Pacific Island? Do you feel there’s a chance of ever achieving it? Or is your a bucket list like my Christmas present list; a column of stuff that’s so unlikely to come your way that even reading it reminds you what you are missing out on?
Why do I ask?
I ask for three reasons. Firstly because I have just found out that I will be spending my forty-sixth birthday taking off my clothes in the village hall in front of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker in a production of Calendar Girls that has been postponed from June. If you’d have told me this a few months ago, I’d have been horrified. I’m not getting any younger and this is not ‘bucket list’ stuff for a woman who doesn’t even like seeing herself in a bikini. You know that episode of Miranda where she falls over putting on a swimming costume in a public changing room because she’s so busy trying to hide behind the towel? Well that’s me. My top bucket list choice to live in a small cottage in Alaska while writing my first novel has to be put aside this year while I pretend to enjoy needing bigger buns in the local memorial hall.
Bemoaning bucket lists
I am bemoaning this to my ‘new best friend,’ blogger Nadine Hill, at a BritMums meet up in Manchester. She confesses that next year is her 40th and she’s currently compiling a list of forty things to do before she is forty. Now Nadine is a human whirlwind. If anyone can complete a bucket list she is the woman for the job. Yet with children and career commitments and a normal family budget, how can she include a raft of travel dreams? Understandably, Nadine feels that flying off to the Maldives to tick an item on a list would be a tad unrealistic, if not massively selfish.
Nadine is a quirky kind of girl, and over several coffees we decide that perhaps she should do an ‘alternative list;’ a Nadine version of some classic bucket list dreams? For example instead of a trip to Vegas, she could take a trip to her local arcade in Leeds with her piggy bank. I suggest a canoe ride on the River Kent with her new partner in crime might substitute for a journey down The Grand Canyon or the Amazon. I have a canoe in the garden waiting to go.
Ok it’s not the same. Kendal, no matter what polarising filter you put it through, will never match up to the wilds of the US. But, if the sun was shining, and the mood was right, and the occasion was special, and the canoe was unsunk, and we had a large cake and a bottle of fizz on board, it might be something she would remember as much as a bucket list trip.
What about virtual travel?
I read on the BBC News site this week that the chaps at Google Street View have been thinking along the same lines. They’ve just announced that The Galapagos can be explored online. The launch marks the 178th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s visit that inspired his theory of natural selection. It’s a joint project between Google, The Galapagos Islands and the Darwin Foundation, and footage was collected by divers over 10 days in May. And in my opinion it’s a brilliant idea. From the comfort of my own sofa I can explore the Galapagos, meet a frigate bird, watch the sealions sunbathing, search for a blue footed boobie. Check out this video to find out more about the project.
Trying it out
I plug my laptop up to our projector and set off to spend an hour in the Galapagos. Projected onto the big screen I find the experience quite immersive and quite different to watching a wildlife doc on TV. Strangely, I feel a little like I am exploring; me and my mouse choosing where to go next as we hop from one island to another.
“It seems to be a little world within itself” said Darwin all that time ago. And so it appears. In my living room. Of course it’s not the same as having tea with turtles. But it is something. And it feels a little like travel. And it’s free and accessible to anyone with access to a computer and the internet. If you’re reading this you could go right now and check out the turtles for yourself. And maybe if more of us visited virtually and less of us cruised passed or trampled all over it, then maybe it could continue to be a little world within itself.
Have you ever tried travelling virtually? Do you think there is a role for virtual travel? Or do you think we should all just keep tramping?
Join the Conversation
Talking Point is our series of Friday discussion posts where we pick a photo or two, post a talking point and invite you to join the conversation. Do leave a comment with your thoughts.