Virtual Holiday: Walk Through Zoos, Museums & Get 360-Degree View Of Giant Causeways
Travelling is one of the most popular forms of relaxation. A holiday spent wandering away from your usual surroundings with a relaxed schedule, experiencing new cultures and tasting the local cuisines is an indulgence we look forward to sometimes for months if not years. It invigorates our mind and helps improve our mental health and productivity. The memories created, stay with us for a lifetime.
However, we know we are in the deep end when we start looking out for virtual experiences to replace real-life ones, in desperation, for hardly any of us have travelled far in almost a year.
Given the mass vaccination programmes happening around the world, you would have thought things would get better rapidly. Yet, the virus is putting up a fight with new variants coming out every few weeks and vaccines take time to become effective too. This translates into ongoing lockdown and travel restrictions local and/or international.
So, in real-life terms, faced with the prospect of spending yet another holiday at home, instead of being able to travel somewhere nice, I started looking at my options to visit places, albeit virtually.
I started with the usual Google maps street views of the places on my list of future holidays. Usually, they work well for planning my travel but proved to be stale snapshots now and did not do much to improve my mood. Instead, a quick search about virtual tours brought up a plethora of interesting options.
Apparently, I am not alone in my desire to find an escape mechanism in these trying times. With the spike in demand, tourist attractions like monuments, galleries and museums are uploading audiovisual tours for public consumption. Others like zoos and natural beauty spots are providing live camera feeds to help connect with the action and capture the mood of the place.
So, if you want to see a bit of the Houses of Parliament or Stonehenge in the UK, amble around some of the corridors filled with precious paintings of Louvre Museum in Paris, see New York from a helicopter or even take in a 360-degree view of the Giant Causeways in Northern Ireland where Shah Rukh Khan sang “Gerua”, it’s all available at your fingertips. If history interests you then what about a virtual trip to the Salar Jung museum at Hyderabad? Else, you may want to check the weather and appreciate the beauty of Mt. Everest, Mt. Kilimanjaro or even Mont Blanc in the Alps.
The kids can join you and watch a live feed of animals at multiple Zoos around the world or even visit the dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum of London via their computer. After all, it’s different and possibly better than watching cartoons or playing games all the time.
Most of this is available for free, although some have an optional donation request now. The idea is to generate some earnings, in the absence of any actual revenue due to lack of or reduced footfall, so they can still maintain the site till things get better.
In the art and culture world, theatre and other performers are providing some free online shows along with a few special paid acts, again to generate some form of income. Majority of them are high profile actors working for a charity, for everyone wants the institutions to survive so we can watch a show when things go back to normal.
I presume they are doing it like a taster session, with the idea being once we have seen a bit, we would want to come back later for the full experience when we are able to.
To be honest, it seems like a smart move for after I spent some time watching the Earthcams and did a few virtual tours of the monuments, I actually wanted to swivel the camera and see what else is around me or walk around the corner to see an alternate view from the balcony or beyond the mountain. I even explored the possibility of buying a Virtual Reality headset to make the experience more credible.
After all, a virtual experience has its limitations. A kid watching animals in the Zoo can see the shape but they won’t feel the awe at the size of an elephant or height of the dinosaur bones. While a webcam will give us a visual of the snow-filled vista, we will miss the feel of the chilly wind blowing into our face while seeking warmth from a cup of hot tea in our hands.
A virtual tour on a laptop or mobile, curled up on the sofa with a cup of your favourite drink during a day off, is relaxing but it cannot replace an actual holiday. It does not recreate the excitement of packing or travelling. It neither builds our confidence, gained by managing real-life problems and uncertainty nor does it create anecdotes and memories of our trials and tribulation navigating the language barrier and unknown lands.
What it does build is knowledge. It helps broaden our horizons of the world around us. We could potentially experience more of it, at a later point or just file it away as information. It also helps create a diversion from our daily routine. Most importantly, it gives us hope. Hope that these places still exist and even if we are not able to go there now, we can take a peek and maybe plan for a full trip at a later point in time.
As for me, I have a few days of holiday coming up. So, I have picked a couple of cities and bookmarked the virtual tours of places to visit around them. While I will enjoy them from the comfort of my living room, I will order food for home delivery. I may not have to physically pack or travel for this virtual holiday but I am definitely planning a virtual itinerary accompanied by a matching culinary experience.