Ten things to do when you can’t travel

An outdoor bamboo seating area with fairylights

It’s March 2020 and the world is in the midst of uncertainty and anxiety, but for many it’s also a disappointing time as they cancel or consider cancelling upcoming trips (myself included). Here in the UK the situation with COVID-19 – otherwise known as Coronavirus – is changing every day, and many of us are beginning to work from home and to practise social distancing, so travelling overseas really is out of the question at the moment. Therefore I thought I’d put together a few ideas I’ve had for things to try to fill the gap a bit when you can’t travel, either because of the current worldwide pandemic, or because of other circumstances.

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1. Find some creative ways to save for future travels
We will be able to travel again at some point, so now is a good time to be saving up for a well-earned trip once the world has come out of the other side of this. Putting money away isn’t always the most fun or easy thing to do, so try getting creative with it; if you’re the sort of person who likes to collect loose change until it builds up, get a cute money box to encourage yourself to actually use it – I like this one and this one. If you do all of your saving online, perhaps try an online banking app like Moneybox which rounds your spending up and puts away the change in a savings account.

2. Sort out your old travel photos
You’ve got hundreds of photos from your previous trips just sitting on your phone/camera/computer, haven’t you? What better time to go through them, do a bit of editing, and put them all together in a digital or physical album?

Some brightly-coloured beach huts

Brighton and Hove, England

3. Write about your travels
Have you ever thought that you would like to start your own travel blog? Perhaps now is the time! If you want to do it all seriously, then some established bloggers have written posts about how to get set up; have a read of this one and this one. If you just want to share your experiences and keep a written record of everything you’ve seen and done, then there are plenty of free and intuitive platforms on which to set up a blog – I used Blogspot for my very first travel blog, and WordPress has a free option too. Or perhaps you’ve travelled a lot and always thought you’d write a memoir, or you had an idea for a novel based on a trip you took but have never got round to starting to write it – is today the day?

4. Learn a new language or brush up on one you used to know
How many of you (like me!) have been saying for years that you’re going to learn a new language, do a few exercises on Duolingo, then get distracted and just stop doing it? Now could be the ideal time to get started properly. Alternatively, if you previously learnt another language which you’ve allowed to get rusty due to lack of practice, maybe you could start listening to radio shows and reading newspapers online, to see if you can get your skills back up to scratch.

5. Read a book or watch a film about travel
I don’t mean a guidebook; I mean a novel or memoir from somewhere that you’ve visited or would love to do so one day. Strangely enough (being a bookworm) I don’t seem to have ever written a blog post about my favourite travel-themed books, but plenty of other bloggers have – there’s one here and here. I just finished reading Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts which was an absolute masterpiece (and, incredibly, based on a true story) so I’d definitely recommend that one. As for travel films, again, you can find posts of recommendations. My personal favourite is Tracks, which tells the (again, true) story of Robyn Davidson’s solo trek across the Australian desert.

6. Have a clear-out
If you’re intending on emigrating or embarking on some long-term travel in the near future, then this is probably something you’re going to have to do anyway (so why not get on with it?), but even if you’re not, this could be a really useful way to spend some time. You could sell some stuff that you no longer need, to add to your travel fund, or donate it, doing a good deed (although please don’t do this right now when we should all be avoiding non-essential contact with others). This is also an opportunity to dig out all of those travel momentos – fridge magnets, postcards, those shot glasses you get in all of the souvenir shops – that you’d forgotten about, and put them out on display as a reminder of past trips.

7. Recreate an experience from a previous trip
Did you once do yoga in Thailand or Bali, or wine-tasting in Australia or South Africa, or was there that one tune that was always playing in the hostel bar last time (however annoying it was!)? Why not have a go at recreating the holiday at home; get on YouTube and find some yoga tutorials to follow, for example, or even just look up recipes online and make something you enjoyed in another country yourself at home. It won’t be the same of course, but sometimes we need a reminder of the things that have made us feel good in the past.

An outdoor bamboo seating area with fairylights

The yoga school where I spent some time on Koh Phangan.

8. Get on top of your travel-related admin
If you’re anything like me, you don’t give much thought to this ordinarily, and you may actually be missing out on saving money or getting some good benefits. If you take several trips per year but buy single-trip insurance for each one, would you actually be better off purchasing an annual policy? Are you even with the best insurer for your travel style and circumstances? If you always travel with the same airline, train company or tour operator, or like to stay in one particular chain of accommodation, are there loyalty schemes or memberships which it might be worth joining? Take the time to do some research and comparisons and the effort may well pay off in the long run.

9. Go out for a meal which reminds you of a previous trip
I suspect many of you who like to travel as much as possible but don’t have a trust fund or lottery win to pay for it usually live quite frugally on a day-to-day basis in order to save the money for your trips – no takeaway coffee or eating out – I certainly do. If you’re missing out on an upcoming trip, perhaps now is the time to find a restaurant in your city offering cuisine from one of your favourite countries, and treat yourself to some lovely food and happy memories. This is, of course, only if it’s safe to do so. In the current situation, some establishments are closing their doors and people are being asked to stay away from each other. Please follow local advice in your area and don’t risk your own or anyone else’s health.

Edit on 20 March 2020 – do not attempt to do this. In the UK all pubs and restaurants have just been shut down, and in other countries you should now be practising social distancing even if places are open. This is a tip for a future situation when circumstances other than a worldwide pandemic prevent you from travelling.

A plate of vegan burrito and mango sauce

Delicious vegan food that I enjoyed in Tallinn, Estonia

10. Plan that hard-to-pin-down trip
Is there that one place you really want to visit, but you’ve just not managed to get there yet, because it’s going to take a lot of planning – it’s difficult to get there, you’d need to plan a careful itinerary in order to see everything you’d want to see, or it just seems a bit daunting? I know I have several such theoretical trips in my head! Maybe now is the time to actually sit down, do your research, and plan it out properly, so that when we’re able to travel again, you know exactly what you need to do and can finally go ahead and book it.

Please take care and stay well and safe in these uncertain and strange times. If you have any other ideas to share with your fellow travellers, do feel free to add them in the comments.

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  2. Ingrid

    I always love to read a good book set in someplace I’ve been to or dream about getting to. And I think this can be a perfect time to reflect and plan for those future amazing vacations you’ve never got to plan for.

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  4. Jasmine

    It’s such a crazy time in the world right now – I’m hoping it’ll calm down soon. We didn’t get the choice to cancel our trip in June, we got an email saying our flights had been cancelled 🙁 These tips are going to come into great use for me!

  5. Emma

    I’m all for the trip planning right now. 2020 is going to be a write off so 2021 is gonna have to be awesome instead!

  6. Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad

    Great ideas! I definitely need to go through all my photos from the past year lol. I’ve basically edited all the ones I’ve put on my blog, but haven’t gone through the rest and put them on Facebook or anything!! I’m so bad at that, haha. Hope you’re keeping safe!

    P.S. for #9, how about cooking a meal from a country you love / want to visit, now that restaurants in the UK are shut? Nothing to stop us getting a good old takeaway either!

    1. The Imagination Trail (Post author)

      Good idea re: #9 Clazz! Thanks for reading and commenting. I am fine – hiding away in my little studio flat in London and doing the day job from home now as well. Hope you’re doing OK too 🙂

  7. Farrah

    Since everything’s effectively been closed, I’ve definitely been saving a lot more money lately! Thanks so much for putting this together! I’m definitely doing a lot of future-planning at the moment!

    1. The Imagination Trail (Post author)

      Definitely a time for future-planning. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Farrah.

  8. Lynne Nieman

    Great ideas! I love the ideas of going through your photos and re-creating an experience or even a meal at home. And the language idea is one that has been on my mind. I need to brush up on my Italian. Italy needs us there when this is over. There are lots of things we can do. I’m going to create a bucket list (the one that’s in my head!). We’ll all get through this.

    1. The Imagination Trail (Post author)

      We will indeed Lynne. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  9. Michelle

    Really love the idea of recreating a travel experience one has had before. I can imagine using a projector to display an old travel photo from our visit to the Grand Canyon large against the wall and setting up a picnic in front of it lol Can’t wait to surprise my partner with it now 😀

    1. The Imagination Trail (Post author)

      Oh I love that idea Michelle! Brilliant! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂


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