Do you love to travel? Do you get excited about exploring new countries and learning about the culture through food and meeting local people?
Travel and food are my passions too, but in the interest of stemming the COVID-19 virus, all that adventure is on hold for us right now. We are being responsible citizens and staying close to home, maintaining “social distance” if we must venture out, and washing our hands for at least 20 seconds (which we should have been doing before the Coronavirus!).
So how do we satisfy our culinary travel bug and still do our part to prevent the spread of this virus? Here are six suggestions:
1. Catch up on food/travel movies and shows. There are so many ways to see the world without leaving your couch. Sadly, with streaming you’ll miss out on the actual sipping and tasting, but you can save that for your next “real-time” adventure. Or do a "virtual" watch party with friends. Here are some of my favorites:
2. Read fiction and non-fiction about travel, culture, and cuisine. Below are some great food and/or travel books. There are so many more, these are just a few to get you started. Some I’ve read, and some are on my Good Reads shelf. If you’re not familiar with Good Reads, it’s a great way to stay connected with friends who love books, follow your favorite authors, and look for new books to read. I usually order my fiction books in Kindle format from Amazon, and often order hard copies of the non-fiction as I’m more inclined to refer to them again. But since we know Amazon is probably doing just fine right now, how about supporting your local independent bookstore if they have online shopping? One of the best bookstores in the world, Powell’s, is only a few miles from me, but they are closed due to the Coronavirus. They have an amazing selection of new and used titles. Please support them or your favorite neighborhood bookseller!
Don’t forget food-centric travel blogs, magazines, and newsletters. Some of my go-to sites are:
Saveur Travel, Afar, Travel and Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, 10 Great Food & Travel Blogs, and while not food-focused, you can learn so many helpful travel hacks from Nomadic Matt, @nomadicmatt.
3. Cook and bake. As we’re spending more time at home, there’s less time commuting and eating at restaurants. I don’t recommend the hoarding we’ve seen going on at grocery stores, but I do recommend the nesting some people seem to be doing. Instead of spring cleaning, how about looking online or in your cookbooks for some of the favorite dishes you’ve had during your travels? The first that comes to mind for me is the Chicken Khao Soi dish I couldn’t get enough of when in Chiang Mai last year; I ordered it everywhere from the Night Market to our hotel restaurant. I may try this recipe from Bon Appétit since it looks doable for me. Just looking at the photo of the big bowl of spicy, curry noodle broth makes my mouth water. Or perhaps I’ll try my favorite treats from Lisbon, Pastel de nata, also called Pastel de Belém, named for the monks in the Belém monastery where the decadent, creamy Portuguese custard tarts were created. There’s nothing like popping them in your mouth, warm and fresh out of the oven. But perhaps I should leave them to the experts and enjoy them next time I visit Lisbon. Maybe I’ll bake chocolate chip cookies instead!
4. Support your local restaurant. As we all know, the restaurant industry, along with the travel industry and so many others, is struggling right now. Many restaurants have already closed their doors; some may not come back, but let’s hope most can survive and emerge on the other side of this. Many restaurant employees survive on tips and this is going to be a difficult time for them. For those restaurants that are able to remain open, please support them with take-out orders, delivery, or the purchase of gift cards or merchandise. I heard that the founder of Fresh Books, the accounting software program I use, pre-purchased lunches from a local restaurant. He knows he’ll use the lunches when they are open again and this gives the business support when they really need it.
5. Meet new people – virtually or at a distance. Do you have an elderly neighbor you don’t know? How about introducing yourself, while keeping a respectable distance, and ask if they need anything? Even the healthiest senior citizens should be self-quarantining, along with the rest of us. If they don’t have family or friends nearby, they may need assistance with groceries or outside chores. Maybe they need help learning how to use a food delivery app! Make yourself useful to others; you’ll be surprised how good you’ll feel while doing good.
6. Plan your next trip. I love planning travel almost as much as I like traveling! Well, maybe not that much, but I do enjoy the process. We don’t know when it will be safe to travel again, but we know that someday the world will open up to travelers again. It may be a different world, but those of us who love (need?) to explore it will find a way. If your style is DIY for your trips, order a couple of guidebooks, or do some online exploring. If you want to create your own custom trip for your family or friends, but prefer a professional to do the planning, check out one of my favorites, Living Big Travel. If you like the idea of exploring local markets around the world with a chef and choosing ingredients for the meal you’ll make together, check out some of the Global Palate Adventures tours. At this point, we’re planning to go to Barcelona and Croatia in September 2020, we hope. If not, that’s just more time for planning future trips! For now, stay home and stay safe!