34 Ways to Scratch the Travel Itch – When You Can’t Travel

A cat scratching his face!

If your circumstances right now mean that you can’t leave your hometown… what can you do to scratch that travel itch? We put together a list of fun and unique activities you can do at home that will bring the spice of travel to your life!

1. Watch a travel movie

Whether it’s a cult classic like The Beach or Into the Wild or a documentary like Samsara, there are plenty of ways you can travel vicariously from your living room sofa! Wondering which movie to start with? Check out our list of the 50 Best Travel Movies of all time for some inspiration! Or, if you’re planning a trip to South America one day, then don’t miss these classic South American movies!

film cue card jakob-owens
What’s your favourite travel movie?

2. Cook an exotic dish

Cooking up your favourite Thai street food or Vietnamese dish is a great way to recreate the flavours of Southeast Asia in your own kitchen! Most Asian herbs and spices can be bought in dried versions online. Don’t forget lots of extra Thai chili and lashings of fish sauce! Once you taste that Pad Thai you’ll be transported to the bustling streets of Bangkok! 

Pad Thai, Thailand.
Pad Thai is one of the trickiest dishes to master in our opinion!

3. Find Your Favourite Travel Vlogger

We had so much fun putting together this list of 16 entertaining travel vloggers whose video content will have you reminiscing about past travels and eager to hop on the next plane! We are particular fans of the YouTube channel ‘The Budgeteers’ and spent one evening binge-watching their Sri Lanka series! Do you have a favourite YouTube channel we haven’t mentioned in this best vloggers list?

The best travel vloggers on YouTube.
Who is your favourite travel vlogger?

4. Have a Microadventure

Microadventures by Alaistair Humphreys is a fascinating book full of inspiration for finding adventure in your own backyard. This could mean literally your own back garden, or if you’re able to go for a walk around your neighbourhood, why not take a different route to the local supermarket and discover a road you’ve never walked down before! As Alaistair says “Adventure is more of an attitude than anything else. And if that’s true, then surely you can find adventure anywhere!” 

YouTube video

5. Read a classic travel book

There’s no better form of escapism than a good travel book! Make a hot drink and cosy on down with an author whose words will transport you to far-off lands! Choose a book about a country you’ve always wanted to travel, such as these 55 books about Southeast Asia, or work your way through some of the best travel books from the last century! Better get started…

Old books piled up.
Work your way through the best travel books of all time!

6. Start a travel blog

Whether you already begun your travels and had to cut them short, or you’ve yet to get started, why not get set up with an online presence from which you can share your thoughts about travel! A travel blog can be simply a portal to share updates with your family and friends, or if you’re serious… it could be the start of a whole new career! (Could you be the next Nomadic Matt?) Get yourself set up with a Wordpress website and you’ll be all ready to go once you finally hit the road! Learn how to start your own travel blog here.

Could you be a travel blogger?

7. Make a Spotify playlist of world music

Ever heard the spiritual sounds of the Indian sitar or an Indonesian gamelan? Explore some new exotic sounds and delve into the rich cultures of Asia right from your laptop or phone. Music, like food, can be one of the best ways to satisfy the senses and recreate that travel experience from home.

Local Music - Bali Spirit Festival.
Play some Balinese music in your living room!

8. Take a virtual tour

Did you know that you can visit many museums and UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the world from your sofa? Virtual Tours are becoming more and more popular and while they’re a far cry from experiencing the real thing (we’re not going to lie!) they can help to scratch that travel itch for a short while. Check out Google’s Arts and Culture who partnered with museums and landmarks across the world to offer 2,500 virtual tours! 

Google Arts and Culture.
You can explore loads of places on Google Arts and Culture!

9. Take an online course

Always wanted to learn the art of Thai massage, Vinyasa Yoga, Vietnamese Cooking or Muay Thai Boxing? There are a surprisingly varied amount of courses available online these days to keep you occupied in times of boredom. Try Udemy.com or Masterclass. You’ll come out at the other end with a brand new skill!

Couple stretching during Thai massage
Learn the art of torture… er, I mean Thai Massage with your partner!

10. Learn a new language

“Poot passah Thai dy my ka?” or ‘Do you speak Thai?’ Well, you will be able to by the time you actually get to Thailand if you start learning right now! Choose a language of your choice and begin with some basic phrases, like these Thai phrases to order food, for example. Try YouTube videos, podcasts or get yourself a complete language course on Udemy.com. Imagine how much you’ll be able to impress people when you arrive!

Two girls teach English in a classroom in Thailand
Learning a new language is a great way to get to know a culture.

11. Camp in your own back garden

Due to COVID-19, Jack and Hannah from the UK had to cut their journey short by 10 months. However, they kept momentum up by having a little adventure once they returned home. Back garden camping for the win! While it’s not quite the warm, exotic atmosphere of Southeast Asia, they said – “We have an extension lead running from the garage to the tent with an electric blanket keeping the bed warm in the evening. Plan B was hot water bottles. Returning from Sri Lanka doesn’t have to end the fun!”

A couple camping in their back garden.
Camp in your back garden like Jack and Hannah!

12. Learn to play the ukelele

The ukelele – every backpackers’ favourite instrument! If you start learning now, maybe you’ll be able to play more than just I’m Yours by Jason Mraz the time you get to Southeast Asia. And the best thing is, as it’s lightweight and easily transportable, once you’re ready to make that trip, you can just strap your ukelele to your backpack and take it with you. You’ll make music and friends wherever you go!

Ukeleles are the best instrument to take travelling!

13. Read travel blogs

Unsurprisingly, professional travel bloggers are really struggling to drive traffic to their websites, and therefore make a living, at the moment. Use their content to help plan your next trip and help them at the same time! Share content on social media, read articles and sign up for their newsletter – they need your support through this crisis and you’ll want them in the future when the world starts to travel again. (Sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of this article!)

Use travel blogs to plan your next trip!

14. Bring the jungle to you!

Being stuck in your house, away from sunshine and nature can be draining. It doesn’t have to be that way though. Buy yourself a few exotic looking house plants and bring the deep green of jungle into your own home. According to this article in Vice, plants are a great alternative to therapy and they look great, win-win!

House plants
You can’t ever have too many house plants – or can you?

15. Take a virtual walking tour

You don’t have to jump on a plane to see the world! Why not check out a virtual walking tour on YouTube? We love the Wind Walk Travel Videos, especially their content from the Philippines, like their beach walk in Badian, Cebu (below). So, slap on some sunscreen, put on your beach hat, make yourself a piña colada and be transported to a warmer place!

YouTube video

16. Make a travel scrap book

Instead of simply uploading your travel snaps to Facebook and forgetting about them, why not get creative! Print out your favourite travel photos, mix them together with all those tickets and receipts you’ve kept scrunched up at the bottom of your backpack and make a book of travel memories that you can bore the grandkids with one day! 

Photo Album Scrapbook, Our Adventure Book, DIY Handmade Album Scrapbook Movie Up Travel Scrapbook for Anniversary, Wedding, Travelling, Baby Shower, etc (Travel Scrapbook)

17. Sketch or paint your travel photos 

When backpacker Steph Carr had to pause her travels because of COVID-19, she decided to keep the travel dream alive by drawing photographs that she’d taken on her travels. As the days went by and she began to run out of content, she posted in the South East Asia Backpacker Community to ask fellow travellers to send her their pics so that she could draw them too! So if you like her work, why not get in touch, or try your hand at sketching your own travel pics.

A sketch.
Why not sketch your favourite travel pics!

18. Research cameras for your next trip

When we go travelling, we all want to make family and friends jealous with our amazing photos, but it takes time to learn how to use your camera, not to mention choosing which camera to buy in the first place! So what camera can you get that isn’t crazy expensive and will give you professional looking photos? Use your time at home to do your research and pick the perfect camera for your next adventure! Then, hope over to Udemy or Masterclass and start learning how to use it with a photography course!

Best Backpacking Camera
Learn which travel camera to get and how to use it!

19. Treat yourself to a travel gift

We all deserve a treat every now again! Take your pick from these best travel gifts and buy yourself something that will be really useful on your next trip. These plastic-free travel essentials also make great gifts for yourself or for a pal! We recently invested in a filtered water bottle and although we’ve yet to use it on an actual adventure as we’re stuck on lockdown, we have been successfully drinking from the toilet the past few weeks. Just kidding! 

Metal Straws
Invest in a metal drinking straw and save plastic at home and on your travels!

20. Buy a bum gun

With the recent global toilet paper shortages, the world has been looking to Southeast Asia for toilet paper alternatives! Look no further than the genius tool that is known lovingly as the Bum Gun. This trusted device has been sitting unassumingly at the side of toilets in Asia for decades. It wasn’t until 2020 when the world run out of loo roll, that the bum gun truly got the praise it has always deserved. So if you’re currently reading this with a dirty bum, recreate the Southeast Asia toilet experience by buying yourself a bum gun for your own home!

The Bum Gun, it all of its glory!

21. Whip up a drink that reminds you of your travels

Have you been to Singapore if you haven’t tried a Singapore Sling? Imagine you are still there with a recreation of your favourite cocktail in the home! From a fresh coconut to sugar cane juice to teh tarik (Malaysian pulled tea), one sip and your taste buds will take you back to happier times when you were backpacking Southeast Asia. Check out these Top 10 Southeast Asian Drinks for some mouth-watering inspiration! Have we missed your favourite? Get in touch and let us know! And if you’ve worked your way through those, why not check out these delicious South American drinks!

A coconut on a beach.
What’s your favourite travel drink?

22. Get a coffee subscription

If you, like me, need your morning coffee to function in the mornings, a coffee subscription set could be everything you’ve been looking for. Enjoy amazing coffee from South America or sip on your favourite brew from Indonesia or Vietnam! We recommend Atlas Coffee Club who give you a world tour through coffee! The other thing you could do is whack an egg in your Nescafe and enjoy an authentic Vietnamese egg coffee! (Okay, so there’s a little more to the recipe than that.)

Vietnamese Egg Coffee.
Vietnamese Egg Coffee.

23. Listen to travel podcasts

From interviews with legendary travellers to step-by-step series on how to plan a backpacking trip, travel podcasts are a great way to keep the backpacking spirit alive when you can’t leave your home! There are some amazing travel podcasts out there, the hardest thing is knowing which travel podcast to start with. That’s why we put together this list of some the best travel podcasts that we’re listening to right now.

The 13 Best Travel Podcasts
Podcasts are a great way to travel vicariously.

24. Use your favourite travel quotes to make art

When you begin to get itchy feet, looking at travel quotes can be a great inspiration. They are also great for bringing travel into your home. Put your favourite quote in a frame and decorate with photos from your most recent trip! Also check out these Asian quotes if you’re looking for some words of wisdom to get you through difficult times.

59. ‘People don’t take trips, trips take people’ - John Steinbeck
What’s your favourite travel quote?

25. Learn a traditional dance

Stay fit, conjure the spirit your travels and impress a friend: get on Youtube and learn a traditional dance from one of your favourite places! If you enjoy it, this could be a great thing to incorporate into your daily workout! And, you’ll sure be able to impress the locals when you finally get to your destination!

Cambodian Apsara Dancer
Cambodian Apsara Dancing is an ancient art form.

26. Binge Antony Bourdain shows

A travel icon and legendary chef, there are few places Antony Bourdain did not explore. Work your way through Bourdain’s back catalogue of TV shows as he takes you on a culinary and cultural adventure. Warning: will induce hunger! Most shows can be viewed for free on YouTube. https://youtu.be/zRsCRMaUlak

27. Prepare for a career move

Everybody knows the worst thing about travelling is coming home. Well, what if you didn’t have to? There are plenty of travel jobs out there, you just need to find the one that suits you. If you’re looking at seasonal work, start browsing the web for vacancies at least six months in advance. If  work/accommodation exchanges are more your thing, make sure you sign up to Workaway or Worldpackers to start searching for future opportunities. For those of you looking for something more permanent, this could be the perfect time to crack on with a TEFL course and start teaching English online!

Teaching English Online - Interview
Start prepping to bag the backpacker job of your dreams!

28. Write your travel memoir

Who doesn’t have a great story to share from their travels?! Take this time at home to reflect on all your travels and pen your memoir! While it’s time consuming, it’s not expensive or difficult to get your own book self published on Amazon via Createspace. Oh and while you’re there, check out Backpacker Business by founder of this website Nikki Scott – this is exactly what she did a few years ago! 

Backpacker Business By Nikki Scott
A travel book about backpacking in Asia!

29. Catch some rays in a hammock

You might not be lazing on a Thai beach anymore but there is nothing stopping you from relaxing and enjoying a little bit of sunshine in your own back garden or patio (when there is some of course)! Sunshine is a natural source of Vitamin D which is an immune system booster! For a full-on Southeast Asian experience, invest in a portable hammock. Then, when lockdown is over, simply pack it up and take your hammock with you!

There’s nothing like a hammock to recreate that Southeast Asian vibe!

30. Adopt a Hostel

Most hostels are small family-run businesses that depend on a constant stream of travellers to stay open. The COVID-19 crisis means that many hostels will not survive and will be forced to close their doors. Adopt a hostel is a brand new initiative where you can play your part in saving the backpacker hostel scene! Through the initiative, you can purchase vouchers for future stays in the hostel and redeem them once we are all allowed to travel again. Check out the website to see if one of your favourite hostels in on the list!

The 20 Best Hostels in Koh Tao, Thailand
Hostels are an important part of backpacking life.

31. Get in touch with old travel buddies

Says Vivienne Hollywood from the UK… “We’re coping by keeping in touch with fellow travellers that we met along the way. We follow them on Instagram, Facebook and we also chat with fellow travellers and reply to comments in the South East Asia Backpacker Community. We’ll meet again… maybe not the same travellers but a brand new set of like-minded people, where the camaraderie is in abundance!” Another great idea is to create a Whatsapp group with your old backpacking crew and even arrange a video call so that you can reminisce about the old days when we were free!

Group of backpackers watch the sunset in Thailand.
Reconnect with your old travel buddies – from a distance of course!

32. Start planning your next trip!

Hands down, the best way to get over a travel heartbreak is to… that’s right, you guessed it… start planning your next one! Don’t know where to begin? Check out our 15-step trip planning guide to Southeast Asia and have a browse through this Southeast Asia itinerary to start getting those veins pumping! While it’s maybe a touch too early to start packing, there’s no harm in getting some ideas and tentative plans together for the time when you can leave your home. The world will change after COVID-19, but one thing’s for sure… travel will be waiting for us when all this is over.

Bottle Beach
Where will you travel when all of this is over?

33. Recreate the travel experience at home!

Are you missing the sensation of an itching mosquito bite or perhaps the intense burning on the soles of your feet due to walking on a hot sandy beach? British travel vloggers Tamsin and Alex, AKA After the Calm, shared this video on our YouTube Channel educating us on how to recreate that backpacking experience from the comfort of your own homes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mAZ1-_03r8&t=1s

34. Sign up for our Newsletter!

Want to get updates about Southeast Asia along with trip planning advice and inspiration? Together with our wonderful Facebook community, we’re keeping the spirit of travel alive in your inbox!

Nikki Scott - Founder South East Asia Backpacker
Nikki Scott | Founder & Editor

Nikki is the founding editor of South East Asia Backpacker and The Backpacker Network. In her early twenties, she left her home in the North of England on a solo backpacking adventure and never returned! After six months on the road, she founded a print magazine that became legendary on the Banana Pancake Trail. The rest is history.

Find me: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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