This edition of Wellness Tools was written by community partner, Kai Jones-Biscette.

As someone living with mental health challenges, one really must pay particular attention and care to the activities and routines which help keep us well.  And, during these Covid Times, I’m finding that I am having to pull out the ‘big guns’ to maintain the stability that I seek.  I’ve amassed a variety of coping tools over the years which have helped to keep me well, though the one that I’d like to share today, is one that gives us the virtual freedom that many of us are seeking and are desiring to reclaim; that of the ability to travel.

I have always loved to travel, to learn about new places and new cultures.  Given the restrictions that we are all living with globally, I have found a secret loophole – virtual travel!

Walking Tours

Now there are many ways that one can go about traveling virtually.  The tools that I have primarily used in recent weeks are watching videos on YouTube.  I generally seek ‘walking tours’, as those videos allow me to see new areas at a snail’s pace rather than feeling as though I’m flying by in a car while viewing the surroundings.  Two of my favorite walking tour channels are:  

ProTour Walks https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNzul4dnciIlDg8BAcn5-cQ

 BookingHunter TV https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiN4rF5XL_fKYOZkGKtdaMQ

Both channels have numerous videos of walking tours that allow us as the viewer, to feel as though we are walking along the sidewalks and paths, viewing the new sites first-hand.  I love that they both are not narrated but record the natural sound in the environment.  I find two advantages to this: (1) you get the true sense of what it feels like to be there at that moment in time and (2), it gives you an easy option to play whatever background sound you’d like to hear.  I will often take these virtual walks whilst listening to music or listening to a spiritual talk.  I also enjoy that both ProWalk Tours and BookingHunter TV, offer captions that share historical facts & descriptions of the area.  

Both ProWalk Tours and BookingHunter TV, focus their walks primarily in the European Region, although they do have a few videos of other areas.  If one is looking to explore or take walks in other regions, once on YouTube, simply type in the country and/or city you’d like to explore and add the word ‘walk’ or ‘tour’ behind it.  Your results should offer you a plethora of links and you will find in no time, you’ll be traveling the world!

There are a few additional ways of virtual traveling that I use that I’d also like to share.  Apart from non-narrated walking tours, I have also followed YouTuber, and food blogger, Mark Weins: https://www.youtube.com/user/migrationology .  Mark explores the world and its cultures via its various street foods.  He has a massive following, over 7 million subscribers, and his videos are off the beaten path.  I find watching his videos another wonderful way to travel and experience many parts of the world and its cultures via its food.

Global Listening

Now, shifting a bit away from YouTube, but again, looking at additional methods of ‘virtually’ experiencing the world,  one such method is through listening to radio stations from around the world.  Radio.Garden provides you with a globe that you can manipulate and one simply spins the globe and zooms into a region of the world and clicks on a green dot which then opens the radio station from that city/community.  I find this site very user friendly.  I also find it fascinating to listen to music and commentary from around the world, even when I do not speak the local language.  I have often used Radio.Garden in conjunction with my walking tour videos to make my walking tours in various regions even more immersive.

Google Maps

Lastly, we have Google Maps.  Google Maps is no stranger to most of us.  I LOVE Google Maps.  My love for google maps is actually found in its ‘Street View’ capacity.  According to Google itself, as of May 2017, the ‘Street View’ capacity has been enabled in 83 countries around the world. What this means is that both you and I can virtually “drive” up and down the roads in the cities and countryside in 83 countries, checking out the landscape, the houses the buildings, the people and sometimes even enter store establishments to see what they have on their menus or are carrying on their shelves.  If you are not familiar with how to maneuver the little ‘yellow person icon’ in Google Maps, Street View, onto the street, the following video link will get you started.  Just to add, my experience with Street View has been much more successful and entertaining on a desktop computer vs. a mobile phone.

Instructions on how to use ‘Street View’:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g3NoY5B0wM&t=19s

If you are interested in challenging yourself by being taken to random ‘Street View’ locations around the world, check Map Crunch.  As a geography enthusiast, I use it as a geography game wherein I drive around the given location and try to figure out where in the world I am.  I find it to be a lot of fun and it’s worth giving a try:

https://www.mapcrunch.com/

With all that said, what more can I say other than Happy Travels!!  May this article assist in leading you to slip through that little passageway into the virtual world where you’ll have at your fingertips the ability to instantly jet set across our planet, virtually enjoying its sites, scenes, music, and food whilst at the same time, adding a few tools to your wellness toolbox.