Is there more to virtual travel than social media and YouTube?

When I first started traveling solo years ago, social media didn’t exist yet, and I mostly kept in touch with my family and friends via email. My dad was especially interested in my travels: always fascinated with faraway places yet never able to leave because he lived on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain for most of his life, my father traveled instead in books and maps. He was so obsessed he had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the world, and we’d sometimes play a game where I’d send him a photo of where I was and he would guess the country or the region. This is before Google, so I knew he didn’t cheat – and he’d get the place right almost every time. “Laurelei Rock, River Rein, must be near Frankfurt?”, he replied when I sent him a pic of me standing atop a nondescript boulder near a river. Spot on. “Chilean Patagonia, south of Coyhaique?”, he guessed after receiving a blurry image of my little bike parked near a glacier-blue lagoon. Because dad studied so many maps, explorers’ and travelers’ descriptions of topography and landmarks all over the world, he could figure out where the photo was taken without ever visiting the place or doing an internet search. To this day, he refuses to use GPS or Google Maps but can find his way just about anywhere by following landmarks, signs, and good old fashioned orienteering.

Since we are all more or less stuck for the foreseeable future and unable to travel, maybe my dad’s old school skills can come in handy. Virtual travel isn’t just about following travelers on social media, reading ride reports, watching YouTube videos, or bingeing on ADV travel films. It could be about creating your own world travel. Here are some ideas:

  • forgetting the GPS and relying on paper maps to plan your future trips
  • making your own roadbooks for local trails
  • reading about different countries and tracing the locations on a paper map instead of relying on visual media such as video or photos
  • looking at topography maps and trying to plan routes according to terrain and landmarks rather than GPS lines
  • plotting an off-road ride following natural land features such as river networks or mountain passes instead of roads

What does your virtual travel look like this year? Let me know in the comments below.

Featured image: Pixabay

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