Armchair Travel: Take Off Without Taking Off

May 21, 2012

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

I don’t know how many of you like to travel, but I love it. (You may have guessed that from some of my posts.) I don’t do as much of it as I’d like to, and until the day comes when I can take off on a whim for parts unknown, I’ll make do with armchair travel—which, come to think of it, would be good for those who do not want to travel, but would like to broaden their knowledge of the world in general.

Of course, reading books and watching movies set in different cities and countries is one of the best ways to get a taste of a location. My favorite getaway movies include Shirley Valentine, My Life in Ruins and Under the Tuscan Sun.  For books, I often return to old favorites The Enchanted April (also an excellent movie) or one of Mary Stewart’s older novels, set in Greece: This Rough Magic, The Moon-Spinners or My Brother Michael, for example.

Now, however, there are even more ways to get your travel fix without leaving your comfortable home. The internet has brought us closer together in a number of ways—there are websites devoted to cities, counties and nations with photos that can transport you there with the click of a mouse.

If you’re feeling really ambitious, you could learn a language. Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur and Tell Me More are three well-respected, fee-based options. You could also check out free podcasts on iTunes and elsewhere, or check out websites such as

My current method of enjoying armchair travel is Laure Ferlita’s Imaginary Trip to Greece (see for a list of all Laure’s terrific classes). Not only am I improving my sketching skills, I’m also learning more about Greece with every lesson.

Erechtheion Porch of the Maidens
Whether I’m looking at someone else’s pictures or creating my own, armchair travel keeps me (somewhat) satisfied in between actual trips. How do you satisfy your yen for travel?

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  1. I love to travel, but am not able to do as much as I like as well. There's nothing as exciting as finally driving to the airport after all of the last-minute details. Or driving down the road, knowing you won't be back for a week or more...

    I guess I'm like you, I fill the gaps between actual trips by traveling in my mind via books and movies.

    Right now I'm reading a trilogy of Tony Hillerman novels, which are set in the deserts and mountains of southwest United States and are richly woven with Navajo culture. Quite a difference from our flat Florida lands filled with humidity and subtropical plants!

    Thanks for the links on the languages - I had never heard of and I'm off to check it out!

  2. I love Tony Hillerman's novels. He so obviously writes with love about this area. I think he's written some non-fiction about the southwest, too, though I haven't read it (yet).

    You'll have to let me know what you think of I haven't tried it myself, but it looks pretty cool.

  3. Hi Kathy - as you know, I love Laure's Imaginary Trips (and real trips as well). And of course there's books which we also have in common. I just received Enchanted April from Paperback Swap. And I'm currently reading The Postmistress, which is also based on your recommendation. I'm really enjoying it, BTW, and it's a book I hadn't heard of before your post, so thanks for the recommendation. I'll let you know how I like Enchanted April (although I don't know how soon I'll get around to reading it).

  4. Cheryl--I'm glad you're enjoying The Postmistress. I think I heard about it from Danielle over at A Work in Progress. I really liked Enchanted April also, and that's a case of the movie being almost or just as good as the book.

  5. I've been enjoying traveling via Laure's imaginary trips. Reading is another way and my car trips to California are another. Someday it would be fun to spread out a bit more but for now this will do.

  6. Timaree--You've got a good start on the armchair travel. Hopefully you can keep expanding if you want to.

  7. I love to travel, too, and am in need of a real vacation (as in go somewhere else with a new view!), but I've not been able to work it in for quite a while. I agree with you on books and movies being great ways to escape and learn about a different place. I love Shirley Valentine-that's one of my favorite movies. And Mary Stewart is great, too. I think I need to squeeze in one of her books this year. I just started one by Susanna Kearsley and she is also a great escapist writer!

  8. Danielle--One of the beauties of reading is its power to transport us to another place and sometimes another time. Until you can gather the time and money for a real change of view, books (and movies) help! We have similar tastes, too, I see.