How I 'Traveled' During the Pandemic Without Actually Going Anywhere

The fastest route from New York to Japan.

August 23, 2021
Photo by Goldbelly

I’m used to living out of a suitcase, unpacking only to pack for another trip and finding receipts in foreign languages in my bag. All that stopped during the pandemic, among many other things. After the initial rush to buy soap, hand sanitizer, and pantry items, I found myself cancelling trips, storing my suitcase in the basement, and unpacking clothes into my closet.

On one hand, I was grateful that I had more time to spend with my husband at home and regularly call my family and friends; on the other, I was disappointed that I had to cancel plans—none of which, of course, compared to the terrible news I’d watch and read about the pandemic day in and day out.

Once I got settled into pandemic life (if anyone could ever “settle”), I started thinking about the future. It dawned on me—like so many others—that life would be completely different. Remote work would be the norm, sweats would make up 90 percent of our closets, and our social skills? They would become nonexistent.

Since I couldn’t get on a plane like I used to, and it didn’t seem like flying would be an option for a long time, I found myself “traveling” through food and drink subscriptions, books, and more. And even as air travel has picked up these past few months and I’ve flown twice since, I still find myself turning to these services to satisfy my wanderlust. It’s not quite the same, but it’s also a lot safer and most importantly: it got me through the past 18 months.

Here are five subscriptions, services, and books that allowed me to travel without actually going anywhere.

1. Goldbelly

I “went” to Magnolia Bakery for banana pudding and Jing Fong for dim sum (before it closed) in New York, “visited" McLoons Lobster Shack in Maine, and ate my weight in deep-dish pizza (no quotes because this actually happened) from Lou Malnati's in Chicago all thanks to Goldbelly —and those are just the ones I can remember. Ordering from Goldbelly was the closest thing to eating at a restaurant. It’s also a great place for food gifts because there are so many restaurants and bakeries there. There are even food subscriptions to bacon and pizza, as well as subscriptions to iconic dishes from big cities like NYC and New Orleans with proceeds benefiting healthcare workers and first responders.

Photo by Goldbelly

2. Winc Wine Subscription, $29.95

Winc transported me to wine regions all around the world from California to South Africa. Each month, the wine club sends four bottles geared toward your preferences so you can taste your way around different wineries. You can also grab bottles à la carte, though it’ll cost a bit more than if you were a member and it’ll take the surprise out of your next shipment. It’s also a thoughtful gift for anyone who misses traveling—or as a housewarming gift, too.

Photo by Winc

3. Bokksu, $39.95+/month

With Bokksu’s monthly subscription, I was able to try a ton of Japanese snacks and teas that I wouldn’t have been able to find stateside. It was especially fun to eat them while watching the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Each month has a fun theme like Tropical Travels or my personal fave, Mochi Mochi Mochi—though everything I’ve tried has always been delicious and delightful. The boxes also come with a handy booklet that describes the snacks and ideas behind the box, so you have a better understanding of what you’re eating and of Japanese food culture in general.

Photo by Bokksu

4. Vitruvi Stone Diffuser, $119

Scents have the power to transport me to all the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit, and during the 18 months when traveling was near impossible, I turned to my trusted Vitruvi essential oil diffuser. A few drops of a balsam fir oil took me back to an annual road trip to Acadia National Park in Maine, while a bit of sandalwood and hibiscus let me revisit my honeymoon in the Maldives without leaving the house.

Photo by Vitruvi

5. Atlas Obscura, 2nd Edition: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Ella Morton, Dylan Thuras, $19.07

I bought this popular book to soothe my wanderlust, but it honestly just intensified it—in a good way, though. It’s a fascinating read and a gorgeous coffee table book. I love that I can just pick it up, turn to a random page, and learn something new right on the spot.

Photo by Amazon

How did you satisfy your wanderlust during the pandemic? Drop some inspo in the comments below!

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Jada Wong

Written by: Jada Wong

Jada is the market editor at Food52 with a decade of experience writing and editing for online publications such as Refinery29, Cosmopolitan, and Insider.