Living with wanderlust can be a wonderful thing; it means that you view the world as a playground, and every part of it is fascinating. And while I personally love having this feeling of wonder when thinking about foreign lands, it can also be endlessly frustrating when you aren’t able to satisfy your wanderlust. When my bank account reminds me that I’m a student and that I can’t go anywhere I can sometimes feel pretty stuck, and quite frankly pretty sad. In moments like this it’s time to get creative. Even though you aren’t able to travel at the moment, there are still things you can do to feel a bit like you are on an adventure, even if you never leave home.
Moroccan chicken tagine
Really sweet Moroccan tea with fresh mint
I personally love cooking and baking, and I like to use that to bring foreign countries to me when I can’t visit them. Standing in the kitchen, using foreign spices (perhaps bought in a colorful market in Northern Africa, or just a local store selling exotic food) and cooking food that you would not normally do is a wonderful way to pretend you are in the great, big somewhere else. It is especially nice when you are able to recreate dishes that you have had while traveling. For one evening you are able to relive the couscous you had in Egypt, the goulash you had in Hungary, the pierogi you had in Poland or the tagine you had in Morocco. Because I tend to be very extra in everything I do, I also enjoy serving the food on dishes bought in the specific country, play music in the language spoken in the country and preferably make a whole meal complete with dessert and coffee or tea (depending of course on what is most popular in the country you have decided to experience that evening). Just the other day I decided to have a Moroccan night. I made a really wonderful chicken tagine, which is basically the only thing I ate when traveling through Morocco to see Fez, Rabat, Chefchaouen, Meknes and Marrakech. Tagine is the name of the pot which the dish is cooked in, and inside it can be beef, lamb, chicken, fish or just vegetables. The tagine I made was seasoned with wonderful spices like saffron, coriander, cumin and ginger, and cooking the chicken in the pot makes the meat really lean and juicy. I served the food on really beautiful plates I bought in a market in Jerusalem and ended the meal with Moroccan mint tea, which is very sweet and works as dessert. Dedicating a whole evening to a meal from a foreign land can either let you imagine you are in a country where you have never been before (I did that last year in November by making a complete American Thanksgiving dinner, though I have never been to the US), or remember a meal you had during one of your trips. The dinner I made the other day reminded me of when I had lunch in Fez with a woman in her 70’s whom I had met at my riad. I had chicken tagine and she had couscous, and we shared Morcoccan salad and bread, while she told me about how she had been traveling non stop for the past three years. She had been teaching English in China, walked the Santiago de Compostela, been on a bus ride from Kathmandu to London, traveled through all of North and South America, volunteered on the Galapagos islands and now she was on her way to travel through Saudi Arabia. She was such an inspirational woman, and it was so comforting for me to see a woman traveling at her age; there really is no age limit when it comes to living your dreams. And eating that tagine and drinking that mint tea reminded me of that conversation with her.
At the biggest amusement park in Scandinavia, watching a football match in the world cup together with fellow Couchsurfers
Another way to have the world come to you when you are unable to come to it, is through Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is a wonderful way to meet people from all over the world by having them sleep on your couch while they travel through your city, or simply by meeting up with them to show them around. When I’m in Sweden I stay with my parents, which means I have limited abilities to let strangers stay the night, but I do however make sure to still meet up with them. If you, like me, can’t have people sleep on your couch then I would still suggest you go to Couchsurfing and look up your city to see if there are any events happening close to you. Most bigger cities have regular events going on, such as BBQs, walks, parties, pub crawls, picnics or weekly meets at cafés. I personally love going to these meetups because it means I get to see people from all over the world who all have, for whatever reason, temporarily ended up in my hometown. I have been lucky enough to meet wonderful people through Couchsurfing, even without leaving my home. The summer of 2014 I frequented events hosted by fellow Couchsurfers, and ended up making a group of amazing friends whom I watched the football world cup with on various locations throughout the summer. We went to bars, amusement parks, clubs and restaurants following the teams, and it was no doubt better than it would have been watching the matches alone at home.
Watching tulips in the Netherlands together with a guy I met through meetup.com
If finding friends from other countries is something that interests you, then meetup.com is another great resource. By looking up your city on the site you can find events happening close to you, or even host your own events. I have met some of my closest friends through this site (including a guy I decided to travel through all of the Netherlands with), and it has also been a great resource for me to find people who share my interests and hobbies. I am a huge fan of language learning, and there are countless events on Meetup aimed at practising foreign languages. I like to go to events where the focus is Swedish and Spanish, since I have studied Spanish for many years and like to practise it. We then meet up at a café and spend a few hours speaking both languages. The people who come are both native Swedish and Spanish speakers, but also people with other native languages who simply want to practise another language. It’s a wonderful way to learn about other countries, and spending an evening at a Latin themed café, talking about life in Barcelona while eating Spanish cake is a great way to forget where you are and imagine being abroad.
My Workaway host in Italy
Do you live in a house and could use help with your garden? Or maybe you would like to have a private tutor in the language you’re trying to learn? Workaway is a site I have mentioned on this blog before, though through the perspective of a worker, but it is also a great way for people who want to be hosts. By giving travelers a place to stay as well as making them food, you can get help for up to five hours per day with whatever project you want. By signing up as a host you get to advertise something that you would want help with and people get to apply to help you. Though I have personally only used Workaway when I’m abroad, being a host is most definitely a good way to meet people from all over the world without you yourself having to leave home. When I volunteered in Italy through Workaway my host was a woman who every year organized an English camp for kids, and she used volunteers from Workaway to help her with the teaching. The people who she hosted stayed with her and her family, and she used this as a way to get to know other cultures. She was very open to having these people come with ideas about how to do the teaching which meant she was exposed to teaching methods and games used in countries other than her own. She told me that she would love to go abroad to volunteer herself, but she didn’t want to leave her nine year old daughter for a long period of time, which meant that she instead brought the world to her own home. While I have never been a host myself, I can really see myself as an old woman hosting travelers at my home to have the oppurtunity to hear stories from other countries and get to know other cultures through these people. Maybe I’m romanticizing it, but I think it sounds really wonderful!
Yes, I still send postcards
If you, like me, have not quite yet realized that we have entered the 21st century and still like to send and receive postcards, then I would definitely recomment Postcrossing. This is a site where you send postcards from your city to strangers, and then you get postcards from all over the world in return. You sign up and enter your home address, and when you feel ready to send a postcard you press a button which gives you a random andress somewhere in the world. You are also assigned an ID number which you write down on the postcard before you send it. When the postcard arrives the person who received it register your ID number, and now your address is in the pool and will be given to someone else. This means that for every postcard you send you will get one in return. I really love this way of getting an insight into someone else’s life, even if just through a couple of sentences. You never know who your next postcard will be to, or from, and I have received postcards from lots of countries which I have never visited. Learning a little something about someone halfway across the world is a great way to feel connected to other people when you are unable to travel yourself.
In my hometown Gothenburg
If you have lived in a place for a very long time then it’s easy to get bored of it and not really see the good things about the place. Whenever I go out in my home town I usually have somewhere to be, I walk with purpose through the streets until I reach whatever place I intend on visiting, and I rarely go out just to walk around. And while I live in a beautiful place it can get a bit uninpsiring. When I feel like this I like to approach my city as I would a foreign city. Rather than simply going to the same cafés or parts of town as I always do, I try to view my city through the eyes of a traveler. If I came here for the first time, what would I do? I would most definitely like to explore, to walk around without a map and see where I end up. You can either use a website to find travelers in your city and show them around in order to see your city through their eyes, or you can spend a day alone, treating your city like a stranger. I am lucky enough to live in a place where there are tons of cafés and restaurants I have never tried, neighborhoods I haven’t explored, theatres I haven’t seen or museums I haven’t visited. When I’m traveling I most definitely don’t have an issue with spending time alone, reading in cafés, having dinner at cosy restaurants, sitting in parks, visiting interesting museums and strolling around pretty neighborhoods, so why should I not feel comfortable doing this in my own city? Even if you live in a small place you can still go out for a walk and take a route you wouldn’t normally take, and perhaps stop at a café and just pretend you are in a different city, while listening to the people talking around you. Even though you are close to home, you can pretend that you’re having coffee at the famous café Hawelka in Vienna, or perhaps at Ladurée on Champs Élysées, or one of the many cafés in Budapest. And, just maybe, you could also plan your next adventure abroad while sitting in that café.
What do you do when you are unable to travel?