Armchair Travels: 5 Countries in a Day

Around the World in 80 Days was originally published in 1872. In the classic novel, the protagonist takes a combination of trains and boats (and even toys with the idea of a hot air balloon) in order to win a wager that he can indeed circumnavigate the globe in eighty days. Today it would take a commercial jet approximately fifty-one hours to make the same journey.

With these massive advances in modes of travel, you may be able to visit multiple countries in a day — the current record, set by a group of Norwegians, is nineteen — but you’d be hard-pressed to enjoy them.

One positive side of the plethora of online experiences popping up to help our restless self-isolated souls is the fact that we can, for the first time, truly make the most of country-hopping. And, for that matter, continent hopping.

This week’s Armchair Travel Guide is a whirlwind tour of experiences in five countries that would otherwise be impossible to visit all in a single day. Buckle up for this week’s excursion!

United States

Explore the Volcanos of Hawaiʻi

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Google Arts & Culture offers plenty of immersive online experiences, taking viewers on breathtaking virtual tours of some of the world’s most scenic and fascinating places. Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is temporarily closed, but Google is here with an online equivalent. “To visit the island of Hawaii is to take a trip back in time, when the map of the world was still bubbling beneath the surface of the ocean,” the tour begins, drawing viewers in with stunning aerial views of the island’s black, jagged volcanic coastline. From here, a helpful guide narrates the interactive journey that begins at the mouth of the Nahuku Lava Tube, explores the sun-drenched coastal cliffs, and continues on to Halema’uma’u crater, where an active volcano bubbles in the distance. Want a closer look? Proceed to a bird’s eye view tour, soaring overhead through the hot volcanic steam.

United Kingdom

Take in a Show

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The National Theatre in London is a domineering brutalist structure that has housed the National Theatre since the building’s completion in 1977. Perched on the bank of the River Thames in the city’s Southbank region, it sits astride the Waterloo Bridge and is a stone’s throw from Jubilee Gardens, the London Eye, and the Royal Festival Hall. While this ordinarily bustling hub is a lot quieter these days, the National Theatre is still poised to entertain. For years the prestigious theatre company has occasionally offered select screenings of its productions in cinemas around the globe. Now that those cinemas, like live theatres, are shuttered, screenings are being continued via the company’s YouTube channel. Each streamed for a limited time, past productions of this online series have included Jane Eyre; One Man, Two Guvnors; Treasure Island; and Twelfth Night.


Stroll Around the Taj Mahal

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Another adventure courtesy of Google, this virtual tour offers a comprehensive look at “India’s architectural crown jewel.” This educational journey begins with a brief introduction to the structure’s history; for instance, we learn that it was built over 350 years ago by a powerful ruler to honour his beloved wife. From there, explore the grounds in Maps, admiring that iconic reflecting pool, the pristine landscaping, and the ivory-white marble of the mausoleum. Architecture lovers can skip the jostle of crowds that normally come with an in-person visit to the Taj Mahal and admire the building’s fine details at their leisure: the marble jali lattice, the plant motifs and Persian calligraphy, the reflective tiles, and the world-famous silhouette domes and minarets.


Wine Class with an Expert

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Airbnb is another company attempting to move its services to an online platform. You might not be able to rent that cute chateau in Switzerland or a futuristic Tokyo condo at the moment, but you can partake of numerous and varied online experiences offered through Airbnb’s website. With this wine class, host Rafael, a wine producer (with a resume in the ultra-luxury hospitality sector that includes establishments like Ritz-Carltons in Florida and Switzerland to the Rosewood London and Michelin-starred venues in the south of France), takes guests through his vineyard in Porto, Portugal. Learn how wines are made, get a crash course in grapes and their native regions, learn the fine art of food and wine pairing, and learn how to shop for the best wines on your next run to the liquor store.


A Concert with a Latin Grammy-Nominated Artist

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This Airbnb Experience is a musical journey into the heart of Buenos Aires. Curated by Latin Grammy nominee María Volonté and esteemed harmonica player Kevin Carrel Footer, this intimate concert series features Argentine music in the relaxed environment of the artists’ living room. The tour promises world-class music, of course, but also personal anecdotes and historical context, from the origins of tango in the late 1800s to Buenos Aires’ contemporary music scene. This Experience promises to be “part cocktail party, part history lesson, part live concert,” with hosts providing a lively and face-to-face evening of entertainment. No more sitting in crowded concert venues; with this sort of concert, you’re always in the front row.