Armchair Tourism: Your Key to the World

Thanks for reading! But first: DANCE PARTY! 💃

Do you enjoy making pad Thai? Do certain films give you a thrill as if you are flying over New Zealand? Do you love dancing to Colombian reggaeton in your living room? Have you ever wanted to learn Czech through an online program?

Armchair tourism gives the gift of the world through any and all means. This is for my peeps who are caretakers, who have disabilities, who cannot afford travel, and any person who finds travel difficult or unattainable for any reason whatsoever. Armchair tourists are the people that travel the world with their senses, with their minds. In some ways, we are all armchair tourists. We experience it when watch certain TV shows or movies, surfing the web, attending local international festivals, or even enjoying take-out. Armchair tourism brings us joy in our daily lives.

We find a thrill in the unknown: in new foods, smells, sights, people, and languages. Each person has their own approach to travel, and armchair tourism is vicarious travel at its best. I am dedicated to shining a light on how wonderful it truly is.

It can be thought of as a kind of travel that is attainable, even if you don’t leave your home. Folks, I’m serious. Armchair tourism celebrates those who are learning about the world by reading about architecture, listening to the sounds of nature in another corner of the world, learning a new language, watching videos of traditional dances, or tasting and smelling foods whose recipes come from far away. You are sending yourself to a new place. You are TRAVELING!

The Whole World in Your Hands

Reading has always been my favorite form of armchair tourism. Anyone who knew me as a kid would describe me by putting their hands in front of their face, mimicking my nose in a book. Part of reading, for me, was being able to go on all these adventures whenever I wanted. I could have been playing with my friends or siblings instead of reading under a tree, but I just loved the ability to transport to another city, another time, another universe at any given moment. I would forget who I really was, I would imagine going on life-changing quests. When faced with a challenge, I would be witty and formidable. Just imagining myself as such was incredibly empowering, and shaped me to become the person I am today. I felt the exhilaration of a mountain vista without leaving my backyard, felt heartbreak long before my first love, and sensed my smallness next to the majesty of a whale while my goldfish swam in their tank near me. Books were my first teachers of life. Books were my constant. Books gave me the world right in my hands. A good book, will make you feel that you are there with all your senses, and that is when you know you have traveled to another place.

Tourism by the Day

Armchair tourism doesn’t necessarily mean you are literally in an armchair. There may be much to explore in the culture and nature of the place we call home. Have you ever been a Tourist for the Day in your hometown? It’s easy to overlook places that are just down the road or that we pass by in our daily lives. Experiencing local cultural landmarks, architecture, and historical spots can be an adventure on its own. People sometimes tell me they don’t enjoy travel, but really, they are just so satisfied exploring their own area, they don’t feel the need to venture far. You often can learn not only about the place, but also the best part of travel: the people.

Interacting with people is a huge part of travel. Just going to a local landmark and people-watching will tell you about who in the world chose to come to that spot. Eating with the regulars at restaurants expresses how the place came to be, and what its future holds. Meeting someone who traveled from far away and chose to come to your town out of the whole world can change your perspective on where you live because what is familiar to us is exotic to another. Seeing a family-owned business flourish shows the conviction of its owners and the loyalty of its patrons.

My Inbox Is Open!

You may sometimes find yourself next to someone in line at the grocery store who sparks your curiosity with the contents of their cart. You may debate about accepting a coffee invitation from your fascinating acquaintance who’s a little different from the people with whom you normally spend time. We find comfort in the familiar, but we are curious beings by nature. So, start small: send me an easy “hello, hola, שלום!” Let’s learn from each other! We all lead such drastically different lives, and our diversity leads us to a lifetime of exploration and learning. Even with shared experiences and similar perspectives, we will always have our own approach to each encounter, our own unique place in life from which we come. As long as we continue to grow, learn, and love, life is incredible. And that’s the whole point: to learn about other cultures, about the other people and places that occupy the planet alongside us. Whether they come to us or we go to them is irrelevant in the end.

A lifetime advocacy of armchair tourism is what sparked Travel With Shirit. I believe that whether you are ballin’ in first class headed to a luscious resort, a flight attendant enjoying perks, a backpacker working on farms in the Balkans in exchange for room and board, a sailor making their way between ports, a package trip tourist with a full itinerary, or an armchair tourist reading a blog like this one, travel can be accessible to all. I love travel because it is the embodiment of universality, of a global community. I love that I can receive a recipe from one of you; when I re-create it, another connection has been made. I love knowing that I can post pictures and bring the world right to your laptop or smartphone. You are all a part of this life, this community, this journey.

Climbing the iconic Nashville dragon during a high school field trip around town Fannie Mae Dees Park, Nashville, Tennessee, USA  Anne Oppenheimer, 2009

Climbing the iconic Nashville dragon during a high school field trip around town
Fannie Mae Dees Park, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Anne Oppenheimer, 2009