With 2020 coming to a close, it is quite evident that the world was not prepared to deal with a pandemic. Most of us have spent the year confined to the safety of our homes with travel and tourism taking a back seat. Even though all of my travel plans were chucked into the bin this year, I still had my fill of new travel destinations and experiences. Wondering how?
You see, throughout the pandemic, tourHQ has been working with guides from all over the world to create unique Online Experiences that people can join from the safety of their homes. 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 San Juan or the Amer Fort, 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.
Do you dare to cross over to the dark side? I did...in the company of Melanie who after moving to Edinburgh fell in love with the culture, stories, and communities of this phenomenal city. But even she was not prepared for the true tales of witches, faeries, vampires, cannibals, serial murderers and body snatchers that lingered beneath the veneer of this heritage city! Edinburgh in the evening is a place to get face to face with all your favourite villains. Whether you are visiting or signing up online, this promises to be a bone-chilling experience!
Shakespeare’s works have always fascinated me. So, when Francesco started unveiling the real places in Verona that found its way into the pages of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, I instantly got hooked; the site where the fight between Mercutio and Tybalt was set and the revered balcony of Juliet’s house. It appeared as if every corner that Francesco took had somehow inspired Shakespeare, even when Shakespeare himself never travelled out of England. Throughout the virtual tour, Francesco was never short of interesting tidbits and kept the tour interactive and engaging. This Online Experience is a must for lovers of Shakespeare's works and those fascinated by the tale of Romeo & Juliet.
As far as wines go, I would consider myself a casual, but who knew that the world of wines runs so deep? Jasper Viktor opened the door to this world for me. Being certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, Jasper carries a world of experience with him with insights into which wine to age, which ones to consume within a few years, wines for special occasions, and the perfect food pairing to go with each of them. After the hour-long session with him, it is safe to say my approach to drinking wines has forever changed. Try this Online Experience for yourself if you don't believe me!
Even though I am from India, I have to admit that I have never visited Amer Fort and probably would have overlooked this gem of Indian heritage had it not been for the Online Experience hosted by Sanjeev. As he took me through the complex, I was made aware of the different architectural styles that influenced kings throughout its history. The secrets of its frescoes, stained glass paintings, lattice screens, beautiful inlay work, mirror work on the walls and ceilings, were all unveiled on this experience. I would personally recommend this tour to the admirers of old architecture styles and those intrigued by the regal lifestyle of past kings.
Like most foodies, I have dabbled in various popular cuisines like Chinese, Italian, & Indian, and for a very long time, Japanese cuisine has been on my radar. So, when I got the chance to join the virtual sushi-making class hosted by the very lovely and charming Miwa, I instantly signed up. Starting with each ingredient, Miwa guided the group through every step adding interesting tidbits and stories about Japanese cooking along the way. I was having so much fun chatting, cooking and eating while sharing our culture that I also joined the Okonomiyaki cooking class that Miwa was hosting next. And at the end of it all, I gained two exquisite dishes that my family and I enjoyed later on.
Rich in history and enwrapped by an intriguing culture, San Juan is a fascinating place. It's colonial past, and surreal Caribbean views made me instantly add this city to my travel-list after attending the Online Experience hosted by Narayan De Jesus. I would not have been able to tell that Hurrican Maria ravaged the place in 2017 if Narayan didn't bring it up during the interactive session. Through his eyes, I was able to admire truly the architectural marvel of the fortifications that have stood through many such storms due to the interesting insight Narayan has to offer. San Juan is a magical place, and this Online Experience will make anyone fall in love with it.
Did you know that the Potala Palace houses over 10,000 painted scrolls, 698 murals, and thousands of exquisite statues? I surely did not! So, when I virtually joined Dolma on a walk up the 490 steps to the top of Potala Palace, the wealth of cultural heritage this palace had left me amazed. Plus, the unrestricted panorama of Lhasa was a bonus along the way. With every step, Dolma unveiled the significance of the intricately carved wooden doors, meticulously painted murals, and inscriptions of mantras. If you are intrigued by Buddhism and its teachings, then I would suggest you definitely check out this tour of the former winter palace of the Dalai Lamas.
Let me say that I didn't expect that virtually exploring the wilderness could be this much fun! It was really intriguing, listening to Matt, who grew up in this beautiful area near Sydney. If I saw something interesting, I could just ask Matt to explain what it was on the spot (just like if I was there in person). From caves to carvings, Matt showed us some places that even the locals won't know about! It made the adventure remarkably engaging, and I did not even had to get on a plane and travel halfway around the world. Following the traces of ancient people hidden in this wilderness took me 30,000 years back in time, and the journey was made interesting due to the company of the very personable, funny, and knowledgable Matt.
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.