With millions of people infected and no clear relief in sight, it is quite evident that the world was not prepared to deal with a pandemic. So, the best we can do for now is to stay indoors to ease off the burden on the medical professionals who are trying to contain this disease. Although most of us have not been infected, we all have been affected by the pandemic in more ways than one. Even I had several amazing plans for 2020, but COVID-19 had to butt-in and ruin them all. Now, I have been stuck at home since March and life would have been utterly mundane had it not been for tourHQ.
You see, tourHQ has been working with guides from all over the world to create unique Online Experiences that we can attend from the safety of our home. And as I work for tourHQ, I have the perk of joining any of these sessions to provide "valuable feedback". So, here is a cheat sheet with a sneak-peak into 10 of the most engaging Online Experiences I attended, which you can book right now! Get a local's perspective into intriguing places like Pompeii or the Dharavi, brush-up & acquire new skills like photography or cooking, or join an entertaining Samba or K-Pop dance lesson; take a look, and you might find something that catches your eye.
With the world currently practising social distancing, the team at the BucketRace faced the unique challenge of modifying their outdoor adventure into an at-home event. So, they came up with this scavenger hunt that engages the whole cohort, be it a family, a set of friends or an office group, and is set up to require things readily available at home. I participated looking to have a good laugh with my family and was not disappointed. Creating card towers, sofa forts, and domino effects was a lively way to destress and also compete against my coworkers. With activities like these, it doesn't really matter who wins or loses, but if you do manage to gather up the most points, you will be awarded special prizes.
I am not the biggest history buff, but this virtual tour really had me paying attention. The session was hosted by Raffaele Romano, a Neapolitan who has also been a part of various archaeological digs in Pompeii. His masterful presentation took me back in time via virtual 3D representation while Raffaele pointed out intricate details only an archaeologist's eye could spot. I also got the bonus of learning about artefacts related to the Vesuvius eruption that are no longer present on the site and would have to be separately seen at a museum. All in all, learning about the tragedy of Pompeii from a passionate archaeologist cum local is a fascinating affair made accessible and immersive with this online experience.
Anybody would want to get the nitty-gritty on Pablo Escobar's life from a person who lived through his rise and fall. Setting off on this endeavour, I met Andrés Felipe, who was born and raised during the height of the Medellin Cartel. He took me along on a journey across Pablo Escobar's neighbourhood to the cemetery where he was laid to rest. Andrés, who has himself met several actual members of the cartel, presented gripping tidbits that I did not know even after binging 'Narcos'. So, if you are a fan of the show or as interested in digging up the past of notorious figures as I am, then this experience is right up your alley.
Being a dance aficionado, I thought I would find the Samba lesson most entertaining or as a BTS ARMY, learning K-Pop moves will make for my favourite dance session. But, little did I know, that a folk dance from Peru will take the cake! Desiree Godefroy began the experience by sharing stories that helped me catch up with Afro Peruvian history & culture. Then, after a slight warmup, starting from simple steps on slower music, the session built to a more intricate and fast-paced choreography. I am confident that these moves will help you rock any party or dancefloor. Plus, the fast pace makes it double as an excellent way to work up a sweat while we are trapped indoors due to COVID-19.
Vodka has always been my go-to drink when it comes to alcohol, so I was definitely going to check this experience out. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had trying Russian Vodka traditions that Alexander Shmidke introduced me to. Alexander has been a guide for more than a decade and can hold a conversation on things ranging from Russian arts & culture to historical battles. On this particular experience, however, I got to pick his brain regarding the history of Russian vodka and discovered why it reigns supreme among locals. Just make sure to have some chasers/appetisers on the ready, or the shots might make you lose all your fond memories of this Russian vodka drinking session.
I grew up on Harry Potter; there was no way that I was going to overlook this tour. So, I grabbed my magic wand (pen) and put on my wizard robe (towel) to join Richard, who is also a trained comic performer, on this virtual journey. This experience includes the thing every Harry Potter fan dreams about – getting sorted into Hogwarts houses. From then on, I found out the real inspirations behind characters and places mentioned in the books. Richard also paused the session for several interactive competitions to add a bit of intrigue and test our Harry Potter trivia. If you are a Potterhead, then this tour might be just what you need to add a bit of magic back into your lives.
Even though I am from India, the thought of entering the Dharavi slums has always felt like a daunting thing to do. So, I decided to check out this experience from the sanctuary of my living room. Here I met Shailesh, a search engine for all things Mumbai as he took me through the pottery-making area of the slums. Some of the striking facts that Shailesh had up his sleeves really blew my mind. Added to this, I also got to see his home and his family's candle making business. I promise, the Dharavi that Shailesh shows you will be quite different from the shady underbelly like in the movies as you witness people hard at work trying to make an honest living.
Throughout my time working for tourHQ, I might have edited hundreds of African safaris, and in most, I have found a mention of the Maasai. This made me a little bit curious about this tribe that has caught the eye of most people who travel to Africa. With intrigue gnawing at me, I joined this online experience and was greeted by Idrissah Mshana. Idrissah lead me inside a typical Maasai village where the tribal folks were gracious enough to perform one of their iconic dances. Afterwards, he allowed us to interact with the locals by translating their speech for us. Getting to know such a different way of life would be an eye-opening experience for anyone.
Like most foodies, I have dabbled in various popular cuisines like Chinese, Italian, & Indian, but Myanmar has never been on my radar. Safe to say my palate got curious. So I went to Bagan through my laptop's screen to meet Shwe. She unveiled to me the wonders of traditional Burmese home-cooking and a couple of her family's secret recipes – Fish Curry and Spicy Eggplant. Carefully going through each ingredient and its use, Shwe took me on a culinary journey that I will never forget. And at the end of it all, I gained two exquisite dishes that my family and I savoured later on.
My love for K-pop opened the doors for other things Korean for me. One of these has been the fascinating Seoul, a city where skyscraping modern marvels and the deeprooted Buddhist culture gracefully coexists. Thus, on my quest to get an insiders perspective on Seoul, I joined Justin Choi's virtual walking tour of Gwanghwamun Square. He introduced me to the heritage that this square preserves, with visits to sites like Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace and Gwanghwamun Gate. Interacting with him almost felt like I was talking to a friend as he patiently cleared all my queries and helped me appreciate the history of this captivating part of Seoul.