Let’s talk about armchair traveling

Since being confined to our homes in March, the need for escapism has never been greater. As holiday plans crumbled among the general populous, wanderlust reached its frantic peak, and the armchair travel phenomenon rose in popularity. 

Armchair travelling, as a name, is pretty self-explanatory. You travel the world without leaving the confines of your home, whether that be through film, literature, food, video games or photography. You can imagine yourself somewhere fanciful for an hour or a day and shed the stresses of life while you’re figuratively sunning yourself on a beach in the Bahamas.

You’ve probably armchair travelled without even having realised! Ever watched a film and thought, with all the weariness in your body, “God, I wish I was there right now”? If you press your nose up against your computer screen and squint past the blue-light assault on your eyes, you can imagine you’re wherever you desire.

There are obvious perks to armchair travelling; you can relax in the comfort of your own home, your carbon footprint is virtually nothing, and you can go anywhere you want. There’s little faff involved, which is something that would appeal particularly to the hodophobes of the world (hodophobia – fear of travelling – good one for Scrabble).

We are automatically led on journeys through the content we consume. Whether it be by watching travel vlogs on YouTube, reading articles such as “7 Sausages from Around the World That You Need in Your Life” (no, really), or relaxing to the dulcet tones of a David Attenborough documentary, we are constantly elsewhere.

No one wants to hear about the person in Kent who spent three days on their sofa, or the woman who went up the road for milk. The desire to be whisked away has always been prominent, its significance has just soared recently because of travel restrictions. 

However, the glaringly obvious resides. There is a gap between mentality and reality, and even the most imaginative of us fail to cross it. There’s no tangibility to a screen or page. You don’t get that new-country-air-fresh-off-the-airplane smell. You don’t get the heat of the sun or the bite of the cold. Ultimately, it’s fantasy. It’s filtered. It’s warm-toned majesty, hot Italian summers and arching Icelandic peaks and a romanticized Wes Anderson filter. You are viewing the world through a biased train of thought – is it truly authentic if you only pick the good parts of a trip? And, to follow up, does authenticity even matter? 

If we sacrifice the whole deal for just a sliver of serotonin, I don’t think anyone’s particularly at fault for it. Sit back, relax, and post a nice #TBT picture on your Instagram of your holiday last summer (“Take me back!” caption optional). Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Japan – I’ve always wanted to see the sakura in spring, and now that I know I can look at pictures of it on Google Images, it’s off my bucket list.

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Ally Fowler