Armchair explorer

Armchair explorer

Armchair explorer

The global pandemic has disrupted travel as we know it. If like me, you have had trips cancelled or postponed in the past couple of years you may wonder how you can experience the world from the comfort of your own home. This is a short guide to exploring the world without leaving your living room. These are some of the things that have got me through these times whilst travel hasn’t been possible.

Logo for BBS2 radio station in Bhutan.

Image credit: Bhutanese radio station BBS2.

Radio Garden

Radio Garden is a website and app that allows you to access radio stations from all over the world, it’s incredible.

Two of my personal favourites are Bhutan BBS2 and Retro Bollywood.

Bhutan BBS2 is the National Radio Broadcaster of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. BBS2 celebrates and preserves Bhutanese culture. Shows include one where Bhutanese listeners calling in to sing traditional songs live on air and another where you can hear the meditative chanting of Buddhist monks. In 2019 I travelled to Bhutan, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Bhutan BBS2 takes me back to the kingdom of happiness every time I listen to it.

India has a special place in my heart, I have visited for both work and pleasure on several occasions. I have experienced India as both a backpacker and in the comfort of luxury hotels. The radio station Retro Bollywood plays Bollywood music from the 50’s-2000s it is both nostalgic and heart-warming and reminds me of happy times there.

Radio garden also features its own playlists. As well as travelling geographically you can experience music through the decades via the Time Travel playlist or discover unique and unusual stations from across the globe via the Curiosa Cabinet playlist.

Photo collage of images from Michael Palin's 80 days around the world.

Image credit:

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 Days

I love Michael Palin’s travel documentaries, all of which are easily accessed via the BBC iplayer. In Around the World in 80 Days Palin follows in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg circumnavigating the globe via land and sea within 80 days.

This 7-episode series first broadcast in 1989 is captivating viewing not only due to the cinematic filming but also due to Palin’s warmth and infectious enthusiasm. One of the highlights of the series is Palin’s journey across the Arabian Sea from Dubai to Mumbai in a traditional dhow.

BBC iplayer - Around the World in 80 days

Photo of Anthony Bourdain on a rooftop in Beirut.

Image credit: Netflix.

Anthony Bourdain - Parts Unknown

This is the original CNN series that features the late Anthony Bourdain traveling the globe. With 12 seasons featuring a total of 104 episodes this will keep you busy and is sure to inspire travel to new places. My favourite episodes are Bhutan, Antarctica, Tbilisi and Ethiopia.

Parts Unknown not only reveals both traditional and contemporary cuisine but also history, culture, and politics always from unique and refreshing perspectives. Bourdain a storyteller who ignited a sense of adventure and discovery in millions through Parts Unknown is greatly missed.

Netflix - Parts Unknown

Google Arts and Culture world map.

Google Arts & Culture

Restrictions on travel because of the global coronavirus pandemic have emphasised the importance of being able to access material culture digitally. During this time, I have travelled remotely through Google Arts & Culture, where I have accessed museums and galleries across the globe.

Featuring the collections of over 2000 museums and archives, Google Arts & Culture enables you to search for artworks by place and time. I particularly enjoy exploring via the world map. This truly is a treasure trove of knowledge.

Google Arts & Culture

Photograph by Tony Lewis of an aubergine curry with rice from Parwana: Recipes and stories from an Afghan kitchen by Durkhanai Ayubi

Image credit: Tony Lewis. 

Cook books

I believe through food you can explore new places. I enjoy collecting recipe books, sometimes of places I have been, other times places I haven’t. Cooking enables me to learn more about a place through the knowledge of the ingredients and recipes that have been passed from generation to generation. Some of my current favourite recipe books are: