Tara Bolt misses travelling.
Before COVID-19, the St. John’s, NL woman travelled the world multiple times a year for leisure with her husband and her then-two-year-old.
“It’s been really hard to not be able to travel or even plan a trip,” she says.
Now, she’s making herself content by looking back at her photographs from past trips, while dreaming about a time she can travel again. So even though she can’t book anything right now, Bolt has been researching their next adventure and finding ways to bring the world to her own home.
Like the thousands of others who dream of travelling, many are finding creative ways to virtually travel and learn about other cultures from the safety of their own homes.
For Bolt, this involves watching travel shows. Her favourites include “Travel with Purpose” on Amazon Prime and “Somebody Feed Phil,” a funny food travel show on Netflix. These shows, she says, are enough to give her a taste of a different place, even they can’t physically be there.
World at your fingertips
Leah Jessalyn Stultz, also from St. John’s, is getting her travel fix a slightly different way. She and her children have been using Google Earth to street-view new places. Sometimes, she says, they look for something specific, like the pyramids, and other times, they are just looking to see what the houses or the landscape looks like in far-off locales. So far, their favourite countries they’ve visited virtually include Egypt, New Zealand, and Antarctica.
Through her St. John’s Girl Guide/Sparks unit, Karleena Squires has had the girls following journals of a girl who travels around the world learning about Guiding in different countries. Each week, they play games from each country, make crafts of various landmarks, and learn some words in new languages.
So far, the Sparks have enjoyed going on a lion hunt in Kenya, surfing in New Zealand, and listened to music from different countries.
How do you hit the waves from halfway around the world? It’s all about imagination, says Squires. The girls laid on their bellies, ‘paddled’ out to a wave, and followed all the actions as if they were learning to surf while she played some classic surfing music.
All about the food
For John van Gurp, who lives in the west end of Halifax, N.S., it’s all about the food.
He’s been eating his way through the various small, locally-owned international restaurants in the Quinpool Road neighbourhood. From sushi at Wasabi House to Seven Peppers‘ Syrian halal, Song’s Korean to Heartwood and Wild Leek for vegetarian and vegan food, he’s trying it all. This week, it’s spicy chana masala and vegetable biryani from Naan ‘n Curry.
“You can travel the world’s cuisines within walking distance in this great town. We love it,” he says.
That’s exactly what the P.E.I. Community Navigators team is doing through their Cooking with Culture initiative. The group’s mandate is to support new residents and work with community members to build welcoming communities in rural Prince Edward Island and to deliver educational programs to the community on the value of newcomers. So, they have created a virtual, global cooking series.
In the past, Scott Smith, the Western P.E.I. Community Navigator, had hosted a weekly class called 10 countries in 10 nights, which showcased the culture of new residents to the area through photo presentations and food sharing.
The group knew this concept was already of interest to residents, explains Peggy Myles, the coordinator for Central P.E.I. So, when COVID-19 hit, Myles said they decided to take the courses online and offer a weekly series of cooking classes featuring cultural dishes as a way for long-time Islanders to connect with newcomers.
Classes are hosted at community venues with a kitchen, halls, museums, and performance theatres, or even in the chefs’ homes, following COVID-19 protocols, says Myles.
Over 100 people from across PEI registered to attend classes, tuning in to cook alongside at home or to watch how to make featured foods such as Congolese, Filipino, Pakistani and Japanese. Ingredient lists are sent out ahead of time to those who pre-register and want to try cooking along.
Upcoming classes include Brazilian, German, Indian cooking, alongside some long-time Islanders, including a Mi’kmaq presenter, a sixth-generation dairy farmer, and possibly some Acadian or seafood cuisine, says Myles.
“The sessions are interactive, and it’s been really wonderful to see the participants asking questions – both about the food being cooked, as well as about the culture of that evening’s presenter,” says Myles.
Myles adds that these sessions have also helped to educate all Islanders on the food resources that are available from tip to tip.
“It’s an opportunity to share information about Asian grocery stores, local vegetable producers, and even what’s at the regular grocery store that participants may not have noticed before,” she says.
Larissa Newell, who is the branch manager of Maritime Travel Charlottetown, P.E.I., is encouraging everyone to keep dreaming and planning because travel will return when it is safe to do so.
“We are hopeful with the news of vaccines on their way that we will soon be able to travel within Canada, maybe even later this year,” she says. “We are also remaining optimistic for sun destinations next winter.”
To help people travel the world from the safety of their homes and to get inspired for their next trips, Maritime Travel has been offering a series of free virtual experiences. These experiences give everyone the chance to learn about new destinations, experiences, and overlooked hidden gems around the world.
Coming up, Newell says they will virtually take part in European River Cruising, because a lot of people are really interested, and it is a unique way to experience these countries. Anyone interested in hopping on board, Newell says to follow their Facebook page or contact them to be added to the mailing list.
“You never know what you might discover,” says Newell. “There may be a destination you never considered before and learn it has to go on your bucket list.”
In the meantime, Newell is bringing the world closer to home through a fun photography series. For the next six weeks, Newell is posting travel-inspired photographs to keep people dreaming about travel. So far, these have included Paris, an African safari hot air balloon ride, and beach shots, all shot in her snowy backyard.
“Although there is nothing like experiencing a destination in person, we are truly lucky to live in a technological age and can visit destinations virtually,” says Newell.
For now, virtual travel is a lot safer and cheaper, so take these opportunities to explore the world.
IF YOU GO:
Cooking with Culture classes with the P.E.I. Community Navigators are free and people can email Info.[email protected] to check the availability for signing up. Classes take place every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. AST time, and they prefer for people to tune in live. An ingredient list and a few basic instructions are sent to each participant before class so that they can prepare.