Over the past few weeks, we’ve gone from carefree to quarantine and lockdown by government order over COVID-19. What seemed a distant thought is now reality, and we face further weeks in isolation. Yesterday, the Illinois governor announced state lockdown until at least April 7, something that is happening across the world. So, while my wanderlust is making me insane, I figured I should direct some of that energy into productive things I often put off. No, I don’t mean cleaning the house or organizing the spice cabinet! We can at least have some fun, so here’s a list of things to do during quarantine and lockdown!
Books to Inspire
I’m an avid reader and find books often inspire my travels. From historical fact or fiction to plain adventure stories, I tend to find travel inspiration everywhere I look. Here are a few suggestions. I’m compiling a large reading list for a future post, but until then, these should tide us over until quarantine is done!
She Explores: Stories of Life-Changing Adventures on the Road and in the Wild
Gale Straub- A beautiful book, She Explores contains lovely photography and inspiring tales of women’s adventures. Yes, it’s mostly outdoors focused, but the theme can hold true across the board.
The Sunne in Splendour
Sharon Kay Penman- This historical novel centers on Richard III, perhaps the most maligned king of England. It’s fascinating, and relatively historically accurate. It colors the historical characters in way that brings the story to life, a great tool if you’re visiting England anytime soon.
Elizabeth Kostova- I didn’t want this story to end! It’s a long book, and covers history, Dracula lore, travel, romance and more. It lit my fire to visit Romania!
Podcasts to Teach
I joined the podcast craze pretty late, but now I look forward to the drive home so I can spend an hour or so with the podcast of the season. These also fuel my travels, as I’ve sought podcasts related to my destination. It makes a massive difference to visit a place and have the background to understand it’s significance. As you’re standing in St. Peter’s Square, realize that obelisk is the same one Peter would’ve seen when he was executed, or if you’re read and loved The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, you’ll be much more thrilled to sit in a booth at the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford. Without that background, the obelisk is just some old monument, and that pub is just one of thousands in the UK.
The History of Rome
I’ve always loved Roman history, but when I booked my Italian trip last May, the podcast seemed a great way to brush up and further my understanding. It’s in depth, entertaining, and accurate. Mike Duncan is great, easy to listen to, and I honestly missed him when I finished the podcast!
The History of World War II
I’ve been digging into the D-Day Invasion, more on that below, and figured I should have a robust understanding of the entire World War II, not just the European conflict. I haven’t finished it yet, but so far it’s kept me on my toes. It’s on multiple ‘best of’ podcast lists, and honestly, it’s a topic most Americans could use a crash course in.
If you’re feeling motivated, check out the list of my DIY projects, or dive into something you’ve been interested in. This winter I’ve finally delved into the hundreds of rocks and bit of sea glass I’ve collected over the years. I’ve been trying my hand at jewelry making, creating necklaces that remind me of places I’ve been. I have a lovely Sardinian sea glass pendant, from our honeymoon to the island, and a hefty rock necklace collected during our trip to the Leelanau Peninsula over the 4th of July.
How about starting a blog, gardening, painting or whatever floats your boat? If you can’t go somewhere, now is the perfect time to get your creative juices flowing!
Research You’ve Been Putting Off
For me it’s been family research. Well, in particular, research on my grandfather’s military path through World War II. It’s always been on the back of my mind, something I’d like to learn more about. He passed away when I was a teenager, but I’d heard bits of his stories. One of my favorite periods of historical study is World War II, and I wanted to know his personal story. I know he was part of the D-Day Invasion at Normandy and through contact with Normandy Discovery Tours, I began to uncover some answers. Steps led me to the World War II Museum, which has family research resources. Eventually, I ended up at the National Archives and Records Administration. Here, you can request DD-214s (discharge papers), personnel files and more, information that will hopefully allow me to discover grandad’s path. Now, I just have to wait weeks for the files to arrive by mail. The story continues then!
Enjoy a Travel Inspired Drink
What better way to relieve isolation blues and remember a great trip, than a travel inspired drink? How about an aperol spritz to recall that sunny piazza in Rome, a glass of an aquavite cocktail to call up Norway and its’ fjords, or a shot of sake in tribute to Japan? We’ve brought back alcohol of varying sorts from most places we’ve visited, so it’s easy to recreate a memory, even if we don’t have the same surroundings! Otherwise, in all honesty, most of these ingredients can be obtained at the local liquor store. But for some reason, it tastes better knowing I purchased it overseas!
Prep for your next trip by learning a few language basics! If you can’t get there, why not prepare for when you do? Duolingo is my go to, it’s easy and free. Plus, you can compete with other users, so encourage your family members to participate for some friendly competition.
Babbel is offering 50% off subscriptions right now, and if you’re a TravelZoo member, they are offering a Babbel deal of $25 for a 6 month subscription (book by April 30).
Stay Socially Distanced in Nature
You can still socially distance yourself and enjoy the outdoors. Sure, don’t go hiking in a big group, but there’s plenty of open trails without crowds. The National Park Service announced it is temporarily waiving fees, to encourage people to get outside even during quarantine. Most facilities are closed, but trails are open. Update: check the park before you visit, as several National Parks closed this week.
If you don’t have a National Park nearby, take advantage of your local resources. I’ve lived in my current area for three years and never knew there was a forest preserve on the other side of my lake. So, the last week my husband and I have visited several times. It’s a small park, but we’ve had the whole place to ourselves each time.
When visiting trails, be sure to respect the 6 feet distance between people. Some counties have posted if people don’t keep this observance, they will be forced to close the parks. Keep our parks open!
Keep your inquiring spirit alive with some remote experiences. They’re popping up all over the place, but here are a couple I’ve found.
How about online cooking classes with an Italian grandma? This started three years ago as an AirBnB Experience, but since Italy has gone into lockdown, Nonna Nerina and her granddaughter now offer online classes. It’s a two hour session, and you’ll receive a list of necessary ingredients in advance. Seems like a fun experience to learn something new, interact remotely, and feel like you’re abroad.
Free College Courses
Hillsdale College has a plethora of free online courses, offered well before this current crisis, but certainly handy now. From US history, to literature, political science and more, there’s plenty to choose from.
Cook Something New!
Be it travel inspired, or just some good old fashioned chocolate chip cookies, try a new dish. You don’t have to take an online cooking class to have some fun in the kitchen. We have more time then ever now that we’re stuck at home, so why not prepare a great meal? This past weekend, my husband and I made our own homemade cavatelli pasta and meatballs. Everything from the pasta, to the meatballs, to the tomato sauce were from scratch! The best part? It actually tasted great! Here’s the pasta recipe.
This crisis is a chance to giveback, remembering there are still plenty of people worse off than we are. For example, my local church is delivering groceries to the elderly or sick individuals who shouldn’t risk public exposure. Even during lockdown, the grocery stores remain open. Whether it’s through your church, charity group, or self initiative, delivering supplies and just leaving them on the porch, to keep distance, is great way to help. Further, I received a recorded call from a local shelter I’ve worked with in the past. They were just letting everyone know they are still in full operation and donations of any kind are appreciated. Our lives might have come to a standstill, but assistance programs are still needed.
Plan You Next Trip!
Look at the glass as half full, because with this panic comes amazing travel deals. Now is the time to plan your next adventure, but act now. Many airlines, such as United and Southwest, have crazy cheap fares. Plus, if booked by a certain date (April 30 for United) fares are changeable or creditable for 12 months.
I’ve seen a few articles advising against booking travel deals right now, and in some cases, I agree. For example, Italian hotels were offering stunning rates for the immediate, but then the country went into lockdown. However, these airline deals aren’t just for now, but extend throughout the year. I’m planning a Christmas trip to Germany, and found a $500 RT fare within the change free safety net. Why not take advantage now?!