Travel-themed things to do when you can't travel | Girl with a saddle bag travel blog

8 travel-themed things to do when you can’t travel

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Discover eight entertaining and enjoyable travel-themed things to do when you can’t travel. Whatever the reason for staying home, there’s plenty to do to appease your wanderlust without heading beyond your front door.

As I’m writing this, we’re in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis and it feels like the world is at somewhat of a standstill. Living in the UK, local – let alone international – travel feels like a distant dream. And writing about travel feels a little uncomfortable right now. I certainly don’t want to encourage anyone to leave home, and I recognise it may be some time before we have the privilege to do so again.

So what I want to share in this post is some travel-themed activities that you can enjoy now, at home. The current global situation aside, there are many times in life when we might want to explore the world around us but it simply isn’t possible. And at these times, there is a lot of pleasure to be found in three delightfully simple things; looking back on adventures we’ve enjoyed, looking forward to future ones and escaping on fictitious ones.

Our imaginations are incredibly powerful. When we can’t enjoy the experience of being somewhere else that we’d like to be, it’s incredible to realise how much we can conjure up with the power of photographs, memories, a great book or film that transports you elsewhere for a moment or two.

Here’s my eight favourite ideas for travel-related things you can do at home. I hope it offers a little inspiration and escapism at this difficult time.

Keep travel documents, souvenirs and keepsakes in a handy envelope or wallet. It'll keep your luggage under control and make it easy to sort when you're home | Travel tips | Girl with a saddle bag blog

1. Create a scrapbook or photobook of past travels

I love printed photos. And in particular, I love to print photos from my travels.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy instagram, blogging and sharing pictures digitally as much as the next person. But printing a book is one of my favourite ways to celebrate and look back on adventures past.They’re a lovely thing to pick up and flick through, share with others and display in your home.

They’re also much easier to make than you might think. The beautiful thing is that you can choose to keep it as simple as you like, or more complicated if being creative is your thing.

I love to create annual ‘yearbooks’ that feature all my trips and other memorable moments. Laying out a myriad of pictures and adding a commentary is my idea of fun. But if that sounds too daunting, you could make one to immortalise one particularly special adventure. Or, if you’re a frequent traveller and want to capture multiple trips in one book, choose your absolute favourite photos from each adventure to display on a single page or double-page spread. It’ll quickly add up into something covetable and highly memorable.

I’ve used and would recommend Photobox UK and Bonusprint. They both offer easy to use online tools for creating your book, and frequently offer big discounts on printing (I like to take advantage of this and upgrade to premium features, like hardback covers, without adding extra costs).

Read my comprehensive guide to creating a beautiful travel photo book here

Printed photobook with pictures of the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland

2. Organise, store and display travel souvenirs

We’ve all held on to something from a trip as a reminder.

Foreign currency, postcards, ticket stubs, old maps … the list is endless. Now’s the time to pull these together in one place, filter out out the oddments that don’t bring joy any more, and give those that do a proper home.

You could pull all of these items into a box or drawer to enjoy rifling through when you want to be reminded of past trips. But even better, consider displaying or storing some in a way let’s you enjoy them all the more. Pinterest has endless good ideas to get creative juices flowing, but here are some of my favourites;

Scrapbook of old travel tickets
  • Create a scrapbook with old tickets
  • Frame items – not just photos – to create home decor that’s truly personal. I have a dozen ski passes framed as a reminder of our winter trips, but I’ve also seen coins displayed beautifully
  • Treat yourself to a decorative scrapbook, binder or album to corral postcards and paper souvenirs
  • Use a decorative keepsake box to store treasures. Jars and vases can also work brilliantly for things like shells, coins, corks or even bottle caps
Ski passes framed as home decor wall art

3. Get stuck into some great travel books

In my mind, there’s no greater escapism than picking up a good travel book.

And whatever you like to read, there are almost endless options to help your imagination run wild. Whether it’s tales of a epic journey, real-life experience of moving abroad or fiction set in a famous location, there’s a never-ending world of experiences you can enjoy from your armchair.

Why not try out a new author or give a novel a go that’s set in a destination you’ve recently visited? You could even start research for a future trip.

My personal favourites? Well, I’m rather partial to indulging in fiction set in some of my most-loved European cities. And I can’t resist romantic-sounding accounts of packing up and heading off to enjoy a new life in an unknown location. A Year in Provence still has a lot to answer for.

P.S. It’s worth remembering that if you’re at home and unable to visit your local bookshop or library, you can buy or borrow (from certain libraries) in digital format many books, travel guides and print publications like National Geographic.

Check out some of favourite travel reads in 8 extraordinary travel books to inspire your wanderlust

Stack of travel books

4. Escape with a travel documentary, box set or or movie

I can’t mention travel books without mentioning great things to watch.

Whether you love films, documentaries or dramas set in unfamilar (or more familiar) locations abroad, now is the time to put your feet up and indulge.

For pure escapism, there’s nothing I love more than a film or TV series set an exciting location. For a different perspective on places, try a foreign language masterpiece (with subtitles of course). Or try a documentary series that looks beyond the obvious.

I’m a huge fan on Simon Reeves on the BBC for his genuine sense of wonderment and inquisitive yet sensitive approach to the darker side of some well-known locations. Try his Mediterranean series for starters. We’re also loving skyrunner Killian Jornet’s documentary series Summits of my Life (currently free to watch on YouTube). It’s packed with lush mountain scenery and extraordinary achievements.

If box sets are your cup of tea (like us), here are some of our favourite’s set across Europe. You’ll find most on Netflix.

  • Borgen – A Danish political thriller with a stellar cast and strong female lead
  • La Casa de Papal (or Money Heist) – Season 4 of this hugely successful Spanish crime drama has just been released on Netflix. Set in Madrid, it’s compulsive viewing
  • Inspector Montalbano – Come for the stunning Sicilian countryside, stay for the curious crime and endlessly amusing love life of the title character. This Italian crime drama has attracted a cult fan-base and is an easy watch that’ll have you dreaming of an Italian escape
  • Engrenages (or Spiral) – A gritty French drama set in Paris that shows the other side to the capital. Engrossing and a great insight into modern French culture
Travel-themed movies on DVDs

5. Go through your travel gear

Whether you have future plans or not, it’s never a bad time to have a good sort through your luggage, travel accessories and kit or clothing you only use when you’re away from home.

Pull out any items you no longer use or need, and either sell online, pass on to friends or family who could make use of it or consider donating. Make a list of any items that need replacing or upgrading, and research what you might like to replace them with.

If you don’t already keep a travel washbag packed and ready to go, now is a great time to get this set-up to speed up packing in future. And to really get ahead of the game, consider printing or preparing packing lists for future travel so you’re ready and raring to go.

Find all my printable packing lists here.

Packing small toiletries not only saves space and weight in your luggage, they also mean you can carry your washbag as hand luggage | Travel packing tips | Girl with a saddle bag

6. Learn a language

Learning another language is one of those things we all say that we’d like to do, but rarely find the time to.

But even a little time invested in language learning can reap rewards next time you travel. Whether it’s learning how to ask for directions, that pastry you’re eyeing in the shop window or a seat at the table with the picture-perfect view, a simple sentence in another language can unlock whole new experiences.

In my experience, the key to languages is finding a learning method that works for you. Personally, I find it helpful to have the accountability of a teacher and a class, so I relished taking structured French lessons at my local University for several years. For me, the formal structure and grammar exercises (yawn!) really helped key points to stick for me.

But don’t despair if this isn’t your cup of tea! There are so many other options to try – many without leaving your living room. Apps like Duolingo are great for getting in a few minutes practice here and there. A friend of mine determinedly finds five minutes every single day to practice his Spanish. Alternatively, you could join a conversation class and practice with others, listen to podcasts or indulge in box sets or movies in your chosen language. There’s no limit to the ways you can learn online, so explore some different options until you find one that works for you.

Top tip: Try watching films or TV shows with the subtitles in their original language. It’s a great way to bridge the language barrier and better understand how words are pronounced, as well as learn slang and colloquialisms (it’s how I’ve learned far more French insults than I really ought to know)

French language learning resources

7. Get fit for your next adventure

If you love active adventures like us, don’t wait until you’re counting down the days to your next trip before you start training for any activities planned.

Working on your base fitness is great preparation for any trip (we all know how easy it is to notch up a lot of miles exploring a new city!). But you can also learn new sports and skills at home before trying them out in your destination. For starters, if you’re interested in winter sports, check out a local dry slope or head to a ski centre. It’s a low-cost way to find out if you prefer skiing or boarding, and with a bit of practice can give you a huge head start (and let you skip ahead) with ski school on the actual slopes.

Take a PADI diving course at your local pool, practice map-reading on your local trails, give an online workout a go or get bike-fit for that ride of a lifetime. It’s never too soon to try something new, and it might just inspire your next adventure.

8. Plan your next trip

Because you don’t need to book it right now.

Whether it’s planning that dream trip you’ve long yearned for, or simply making a list of nearby places to explore, you needn’t have a date in mind to allow yourself the luxury of making plans.

Now’s the time to do all the research that feels like hard work when you’re trying to make a booking. Make the most of having the luxury of time. Trawl through train timetables, follow your nose and investigate new destinations. Read reviews, find the best neighbourhoods to stay in, look out for unexpected ideas that excite you. These are details that can make a good trip great.

Printed travel book with photos of Tallinn, Estonia, in the snow

I hope this post has given you some inspiration and little light relief in these difficult times. Re-framing staying at home – for whatever reason – as an opportunity to get creative, get organised, learn something new or enjoy some escapism, can feel positive.

Whilst I’m fortunate to be working full-time from home at the moment, waving goodbye to commute has given me more time. And I’m trying to make the most of this working on my fitness, organising my home (yes, there has been a lot of travel mementoes sorted through – inspiring this post) and catching up on the blog. Next up, I’m planning to catch-up on some photobooks. I can’t wait to eventually receive them through the post.

I’d love to hear from you if you have more travel-themed ideas for staying busy at home. Share below in the comments, or head over to the Facebook group. A little inspiration can go a long way, no matter what the situation.

Stay safe, stay home, and take care of yourselves.

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8 travel-themed things to do when you can't travel | Girl with a saddle bag travel blog
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