How to travel during a pandemic…
When the sun rose on 2020, my husband, David, and I were the proud owners of a new tiny house on wheels. After 59 countries and 19 years of slow nomad living, I was keen to explore my own country and spend time with my family and friends in Australia.
Even though I’d come home, I had no intention of settling down and honestly thought nothing could ever stop me from travelling. Then…
ENTER CORONAVIRUS! 😂
The world locked down, many countries closing their borders without warning, and most international flights were grounded. Trips we had planned to Tonga, Nepal and France this year were instantly off the table.
We were also banned from travelling in our bus so David and I rented a studio apartment from friends to ride out the virus.
But despite all of this, we refused to stop travelling.
We started a game that would give us the sensation of travelling to every country in the world without leaving the confines of our 15m2 isolation bubble.
I call it The Magic of Everywhere.
At first the game was just a distraction, a bit of fun to lighten the pandemic mood. But once we got into it we realised many of the things we love about travel — meeting new people, learning about different cultures, trying new foods, hearing fascinating stories, attempting to speak different languages and listening to new music — we could still do from home.
Of course it’s not the same as actually being in a new place, but it would at least soothe our wanderlust until the world opens up again…
How to play “The Magic of Everywhere”
The rules are, there are no rules. Travelling is unpredictable, so this game should be too.
We printed out a list of every country in the world then cut them up and put them in a drinking glass.
Then every four days or so, we randomly draw one out and plan a virtual trip to that country using whatever free or inexpensive resources we have available to us.
The idea is that the game shouldn’t become an extra thing you need to do in your day. Instead the country is a theme for the week, so it wraps around our day-to-day tasks (like cooking, eating, exercising etc) to make them more interesting.
So instead of binge watching yet another American Netflix series at the end of the day, we find movies set in, produced by or about this week’s country.
Instead of making pasta for dinner again, we Google recipes for local meals and desserts we can make from the ingredients in our pantry. Although I admit, our spice rack has experienced approximately 500% growth since we started this and I’m now trying to keep a window sill herb garden alive for the first time in my life…
While we cook, we dance around to music from their local radio stations or current Top 100 hits.
We map the distance between their famous landmarks or, in the case of very small countries, even their borders and we walk the same distance for exercise while listening to podcasts interviews with their nation’s Nobel Prize winners.
Aside from a little research, this game doesn’t take any extra time to play.
So far, we’ve found most of our resources here:
- Local movies can be found on YouTube, iTunes or (in Australia) SBS on Demand
- You can find 1000s of recipes with Google
- For local music, search playlists on YouTube, Spotify and Deezer
- Find radio stations via Google and livestream them from their websites, or find them on Spotify and Deezer
- Listen to Podcasts recorded by locals on iTunes, SoundCast and Google
- Learn the traditional dances of that country from YouTube tutorials
- Use GoogleMaps to map the distance between landmarks to inspire your morning walks
And the best thing about this is that aside from renting the occasional movie online and buying some exotic ingredients (who knew saffron was worth more than gold?!), most of these resources are free.
So now I’m starting this page as a directory of all the media, recipes and resources we find as we travel the world from home. It’s more of a personal diary to keep track of everything for me, but if you want to play along I hope it will help you, too.
If you want to add resources, or believe these resources don’t accurately reflect your country and culture, I’d love to hear from you! We’re finding everything from Googling and asking friends, so it’s not an exact science and we welcome your feedback.
If you can’t see a country here, it means we haven’t pulled it out of the hat yet!
To find out where we are, you can follow along on Instagram.
Thanks for visiting and have fun exploring the magic of everywhere from home!
Here’s the the wikipedia page for Guam to get an overview.
Guam is an overseas territory of the United States and therefore Guamanians are all American citizens, however the island has a unique culture and language.
As a small island, it’s hard to find media about Guam but this was a good introduction.
We loved watching Nihi! Kids Talk Season 1 which is a YouTube series bringing children and their elders together to talk about “grown up” subjects like decolinisation, conservation, surviving war and natural healing.
Otherwise we just watched a bunch of YouTube video documentaries and learnt some Chamorro language greetings. Si Yu’us ma’åse’.
Here’s the wikipedia page for Guatemala to get an overview.
If you’ve got Netflix, this documentary about Guatemala’s geography and people is stunning and a great place to start: Guatemala Heart of the Mayan World.
If you want to deep dive into Guatemala’s recent history, watch When the Mountains Tremble online. a documentary narrated by the Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu Tum.
I also highly recommend listening to this podcast of Rigoberta Menchu Tum speaking at a university. Her message in this episode is timely and timeless.
We struggled through this Guatemalan movie about a loser brother who loses his nephew while babysitting: Puro Mala
I had a Spanish and Tz’utujil language lesson with a Guatemalan teacher I connected with on Italki
This is a recipe for Guatemalan guacamole which has now become our standard way of eating guacamole…
For local music, we streamed the radio and listened to the Top 100 Guatemala on Deezer
Iran was one of our favourite countries to visit virtually because the food has so much flavour and there is a lot of media available. Here’s the wikipedia page about Iran for an overview.
Here’s a nice drone documentary to start you off: Iran in 4K
For movies, I recommend exploring the video library of Jafar Panahi, a controversial film director who has been banned from making movies in Iran.
In response to this ban, he mounted cameras in a taxi and started driving around the capital Tehran filming real passengers he picks up? Actors? We don’t know. That’s one of the reasons it’s so brilliant.
You can watch Tehran Taxi online at YouTube, it’s well worth paying the $3-4 to rent it.
For the food, we absolutely loved the Joojeh chicken, lemon and saffron kebabs and a Persian herb stew which was so delicious we’ve made it twice since. For something sweet (but probably not sweet enough for me) you can try this Persian butternut pumpkin recipe.
There’s heaps of Iranian music on Spotify, Deezer and YouTube.
We also spent an hour jumping between YouTube videos about the effect of sanctions on the country, what life is like in Iran, and Persian culture from the perspective of first generation teenagers living in Western countries.
You’re going to spend a lot of time listening to Bob Marley this week…
Here’s the wikipedia page about Jamaica as an overview.
My husband is a rum-drinking, reggae-loving man so we started our Jamaican exploration with Who Shot the Sheriff on Netflix. Unless you’re a massive fan of Snoop Dogg, don’t waste your time watching his documentary about going to Jamaica. It’s all about him, very little about the country.
We didn’t find any good movies made by Jamaicas (although we started a few set in Jamaica I wouldn’t recommend) so would love more suggestions!
My favourite thing about our virtual visit to Jamaica was discovering Jamaican banana bread!
I tried different versions but my best results was when I adapted a standard banana bread recipe by just adding rum and coconut.
If you’re a kitchen numpty like me, and you own a slow cooker, you might find it easier to follow this super easy banana bread recipe with 3 ingredients. I just added a quarter cup of coconut into the dough, a dusting of coconut on top, and mixed a few table spoons of rum into the sweetened condensed milk before pouring it into the batter.
Another meal we enjoyed from Jamaica is Coconut Beans and Rice.
Otherwise it was Jamaican radio and the Jamaican Top 100 on Deezer
We really struggled to find resources about Latvia, but a message I received from a Latvian friend (after we’d moved onto Iran) listed a few movies she recommended including The Chronicles of Melanie, The Child of Men, Blizzard of Souls and Jelgava 94. All of which you can Google and find around the web.
Our big Latvian meal of potato dumplings had great potential but either the recipe is not quite accurate, or we just messed it up. Most of it ended up in the bin and the following night, I decided to just recreate my own experience of being in Latvia in July 2019, sitting on a balcony near the Baltic Sea eating fresh summer berries, blocks of chocolate and drinking rosé. It’s hard to mess that up…
I also recommend this podcast interview with Vaira Vike Freiberga, the first female president of Latvia
We started our journey in Moldova by watching Playing the Moldovans at Tennis which is probably not as good as the book of the same name by Tony Hawks.
I really wanted to watch the Moldovan/Dutch film Mama Illegal but couldn’t find a version with English subtitles. Instead we watched What a Wonderful World which is called Ce Lume Minunata in Moldovan. I warn you it’s a true story and an important story that won many awards, but it’s an incredibly difficult movie to watch and not recommended for anyone triggered by themes of sexual violence.
The national dish of Moldova is Mămăligă, a porridge made from corn flour or polenta. There are a lot of easier recipes online but I tried a gastronomic Mămăligă and although it didn’t look anything like the picture, it was DELICIOUS:
There are also some awesome Moldovan playlists on Spotify with a mix of folk and modern music we had on in the background all week.
Here is the wikipedia page for Monaco.
Honestly, when we pulled Monaco out I thought we would have nothing to do or see here. I’ve been to Monaco several times and it’s always just seemed like a rich person’s playground. I used to travel to Monaco with my Swedish dad, Jan, so we could sit at Café de Paris eating ice cream sundaes while watching the wealthy world go by.
But we discovered this recipe for Monagasque Barbajuan, the traditional food of Monaco, which was delicious and not as hard to make as it looks!
We watched L’Arnacoeur (Heartbreaker in English) which is a French movie set mostly in Monaco, while eating ice cream sundaes like the ones from Café de Paris.
I also mapped two walks for two days adding up to 8.5kms which is the entire length of the Monaco border (land and sea) while listening to the midnight DJ to his set on Radio Monaco, livestreamed on Deezer.
This is the country I should have the most resources for, because my Opa was Dutch and I was raised with Dutch customs in our family.
But instead, we just ate a lot of my favourite sweets and watched a Dutch TV series called Toon – a comedy about a socially awkward jingle writer who becomes famous overnight when a video of him singing goes viral.