They don’t call it the world wide web for nothing. We have plenty of content, stories, and characters to lose ourselves in during this time of social distancing. There is no shortage of movies or television shows or virtual chatrooms to fill every last one of our vacant minutes. And with the help of some drones, fancy cameras, and augmented reality tools, everyone from your local state park to world-renowned museums has been able to provide virtual tours for anyone with high-speed internet to enjoy for a while now.
These virtual experiences, while impressive, didn't seem to find their place in our normal, everyday lives. If you are past primary school, there really is no reason for you to spend half a day taking a virtual tour of the Louvre. For a long time, it felt like surveying these virtual tours was akin to browsing the Wikipedia page of an upcoming movie. Why spoil the experience with a watered-down version of the real thing? The whole point of museums and national parks and adventures is to go outside and no virtual tour, however elaborate, will ever replace that.
But in times when we're confined to the walls of our homes, we must resort to more creative ways of expanding our boundaries and at least give our minds and eyes something new and stimulating to feast on. The virtual tour serves that purpose. Find a quiet spot, put on one of these relaxing playlists, turn off your phone, and just get away from it all. Think of these virtual tours as guided meditations, where you focus on nature and zone out for an hour as your cursor escort you through museum halls and fields and canyons and rivers.
Google Arts & Culture is a great resource for any art fan (with limited access to art with over 2,500 museums) and it's especially handy for those who rely on a quiet museum visit to gather their thoughts. There you'll find comprehensive tours of popular destinations like the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and London's Tate Modern (if you think you hate museums, start with the Tate!).
If it's specific artists you seek, maybe start with a visit to the Frida Khalo Museum, or a check out this Rembrandt exhibit or stop through the Van Gogh Museum. If you love fashion, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (home of the now-postponed Met Gala) offers plenty of online-only exhibits on designers like Rei Kawakubo and Coco Chanel.
Think of a normal Google Earth tour of a block, only every picture perfectly captures the street art of everywhere from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Malmo, Sweden and an art expert's audio tour plays in the background as you scroll through all the images. These virtual walking tours are perfect for those who love art but hate the establishment.
The US National Parks Service partnered with Google (yes, Google again) to follow a handful of park rangers through some of America's most stunning and challenging terrains, from the Alaskan Glaciers to Utah's Bryce Canyon.
At the state level, a handful of conservation efforts have developed virtual tours of some of America’s most emblematic landscapes. Start with the Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma's virtual field trip – you have to see for yourself just how soothing these views can be. Sit by a sunny window and let our eyes feast on clear blue skies, red clay formations, and fields of wildflowers.
Virtual dives are a trippy affair and thanks to the National Marine Sanctuaries, you can explore the blue depths of the American Samoas, the Florida Keys, Monterey Bay, and many others. For real-time adventures, check in with the New England Aquarium to see live feeds of the marine life they take care of.
The World Health Organisation says you can protect yourself by washing your hands, covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing (ideally with a tissue), avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and don't get too close to people who are coughing, sneezing or with a fever. If you suspect you have the symptoms of COVID-19 you should call NHS 111 and stay indoors.