Sometime in 2004 or 2005, I met a client, who was heading India marketing & sales for a global IT product company. He is an expert in and passionate about photography, has a great portfolio, and held exhibitions occasionally.
This was the time before good mobile cameras, Facebook and Instagram, and where every second person claimed to be a photographer with his/her pages on social platforms with names like ‘Raju_Photography’. Despite a hectic globe-trotting career, his hack was that he would find time during his business trips—evenings or some weekends —to explore a city.
I couldn’t help remembering him every time in the last 15 years or so, when I spent my India-trotting career—travelling only to three cities!—in the hotel-office-hotel circuit. Regrets happen only by hindsight.
A virtual tour of Faroe Islands in progress
Fortunately, the travel bug in me did find other avenues and I made best use of it. During this time (since 2004, when we came to Mumbai), we used almost all of weekends—long and short—Diwali holidays, and year-end holidays to trek, climb many mountains in the Sahyadris, backpack, organise trips for friends, travel reasonably well (no regrets), and run a half-decent travel blog www.travelwithacouple.com.
In 2020, after a sabbatical, when I picked up my current role, I had promised myself that I’d make the best use of my business travel, long weekends, and holidays. But the virus had other plans. Considering the devastation it created, I would count my blessings, and not being able to travel cannot be even in the top 100 reasons to complain.
And then I accidentally found a hack. It cannot replace travel, but it’s something I am enjoying—Google Earth extension for Chrome. I have always been fascinated with Google Earth, and ever since it was launched, I have used it to identify small and unknown wildlife sanctuaries, mountains and other destinations. With the Chrome extension, every time one opens a new tab, a new landscape, often mesmerising, is thrown open.
One can click and explore the place (aerial view, at a distance. Not street views) to the heart’s content. So, I have now been to parts of Kenya, some amazing regions of China, tiny islands in the Pacific, the vast Australian outback, charming European cities, and plenty more. One can really get addicted to it, so I have consciously made efforts to spend time on this only in the late evenings.
Another interesting virtual destination I have come across during this period was Drive & Listen (https://driveandlisten.herokuapp.com/). Virtually travel in over 40 cities across the world in a car, while listening to music. What one gets is a real, front-seat view of the car as one drives through these cities.
Sometime in April this year, the Faroe Islands in North Atlantic Ocean opened an interesting and unique remote tourism initiative. One can take a virtual tour of the rugged Faroe Islands while interacting with a local resident. (https://www.remote-tourism.com/).
As the COVID-19 situation improves, some countries have kick-started their campaigns to rejuvenate the tourism industry. In the meantime, we will all deal with what the Germans call ‘fernweh,’ that translates to ‘travel ache’ or ‘a pain to see far-flung places beyond our doorstep’.
Till then, what is your travel hack?