Amanda Statham and nine-year-old son Sonny virtually travelled to French Polynesia to explore underwater gardens and delicious seafood.
‘Everyone’s had a unique lockdown but, like many families, it had taken its toll and we needed a break. So, we ‘took off’ to French Polynesia, courtesy of Tahiti Tourist Board’s free online tutorials.
After donning artificial flower leis left over from a party and showing Sonny Tahiti on a world map, our first assignment was making poisson cru – in real life! ‘Croissant poo?’ asked Sonny. I explained ‘poisson’ is French for fish and we were going to eat it – raw. He was soon mixing all the ingredients together, while following chef Hinatea Colombani’s guidance via my laptop – and when it was time to taste, he was a fan!
Next up, Polynesian dancing. We gave it our best shot: rotating our hips (ami) was fine, as was the sway (ka’o), but the freestyling was the most fun. The floral crown tutorial that followed was gorgeous. However, we didn’t have enough flowers in our garden (or possibly the UK) to make this magnificent creation, so we wore the fake leis on our heads instead.
We finished by watching short clips on tattoos (who knew the word comes from ‘tatau’ in Polynesian?), turtle sanctuaries, parasailing and planting coral gardens to save the planet – apparently, 50% of the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean. Verdict: fun, educational and free. What more could you ask for while global travel is limited right now?’
Advertising executive Serena Hamilton went on an empowering yoga and wellness retreat during lockdown… without even leaving home.
‘After some personal challenges and months of working from home, I felt in need of a break from reality. So I took time off and explored the wellbeing benefits of a virtual yoga retreat – from my garden! I chose a retreat package that was centred on a relevant theme for me: empowerment. The day was structured, with a mix of live yoga classes and wellness activities, alongside complementary playlists.
I kick-started the morning with a dynamic live vinyasa yoga class on my laptop. At first I was a little nervous about doing yoga with strangers over Zoom, but the instructor made me feel at ease and helped us all with the virtual set-up. A day of online workshops followed. One taught me the benefits of breathing practices and hand gestures used in yoga. Another was a reflective writing exercise, where I wrote a gratitude list and developed it into an action plan of things I wanted to accomplish.
An evening session began with a calming live yoga and meditation class, which let everything I’d been thinking about digest. I switched off my phone and mind, and felt my body relax to the sound of the final sleep meditation video. And yes, I did nod off. The whole at-home experience was therapy for the mind, body and soul. Plus, I was supporting the amazing self-employed instructors at the same time.’
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Alex Davies’ adventure included the Caribbean, NYC, Asia and the Middle East, from the comfort of her sofa.
‘I spot a shark swimming into the murky blue distance and, as I turn, another one bumps into me. A nearby scuba diver is just as captivated by the swarm of grey fins and colourful fish around us. Suddenly, a ringtone interrupts the serenity. It’s my sister phoning, so I hit ‘pause’ on my underwater Cuban adventure.
Besides, I’d already done enough travelling for a Tuesday, thanks to AirPano. This free website is packed with panoramic videos that offer guided tours from Venezuela to Venice. You just fire up your computer, phone or VR headset and go.
I started with an aerial tour of Manhattan. While a four-minute video could never fully capture the Big Apple’s energy, it was still great to glide over Times Square and Central Park at sunset. I was left reminiscing about a family NYC trip – and wishing I’d bought some bagels to add to the virtual vibe.
Then it was on to Bhutan. This Buddhist kingdom lies in the Himalayas and is on many a bucket list.We soared over monasteries and mountains, ventured into buildings and witnessed local rituals. Bhutan is known for its sustainable approach to tourism, so even a virtual insight felt like a privilege.
Before heading to Cuba for shark diving, my travels took me to Petra in Jordan. Passing through a gorge in this awe-inspiring ancient city, I did a 360-degree spin to come face-to-face with a camel. Petra wasn’t on my travel radar before, but it certainly is now. The videos are a great self-care tonic for lunch breaks or that five-minute window before your work meeting. Now, will it be Lapland or the Sahara next?’
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