Years ago, just as my husband and I were about to head for a Maine vacation, he had a scary encounter with a blood clot that kept us homebound. In the midst of that frightening time, a wonderful group of friends arrived at our doorstep with a large box. It was, they declared, a vacation-in-a-box. The box was glorious—sea scented candles, a box of sand, scores of treats, and an ocean video to watch from beach towels in front of the television. (So what if it was Maui, not Maine, they declared. It was all they could find, started with M and included an ocean!) It made me grateful for the love of friends, and a fan of imaginary vacations. Clearly, I’m not the only one. Pinterest has a fine collection of imaginary vacation photos. But since we know that multicultural experiences can support creativity, let’s go for an imaginary vacation in a country far from home.
1. First, of course, you must pick your destination. It can be a place you’ve always wanted to go, or you can take a more random path. Spin the globe and point, or throw a dart at a map. For imaginary trips, all things are possible! Find some pictures. Think about what you can do to make your house look a bit more like your country. Draw a window viewing the Eiffel Tower or the Serengeti plains. Use your creativity to create the environment for your imagination to wander.
2. What kind of music might you hear on your vacation? Explore music of your country. Your library might have CDs to help you find out. Another fine resource is the Smithsonian Folkways archive. Follow the links to the general part of the world and see if there are lessons about your country/area. If so, follow the links to the music. There are options to purchase, but you can also just click the “Play” arrow to hear everything online. Of course you can also search for music sites particular to your country or region.
3. What about art? What kinds of arts are traditional in your country? What artists are active today? One place to start is with the Google Art Project. The ever-amazing Google has collected images from museums from over 40 different countries. Most galleries are in Western Europe, but there’s still a good collection of art from other parts of the world. You can even create your own gallery, bringing together art from different collections. Search for country-specific art on the web. Try an art form from your country.
4. One of my favorite parts of travel is the food. Explore your local library looking for cookbooks from your country, or take advantage of the wealth of resources online. One place to start is the Around the World in 80 Dishes recipes, complete with online videos. For more inspiration, see What Grandmothers Cook Around the World for fabulous photographs of grandmas and their dishes. If you’d like to create the dishes yourself, see photographer Gabriele Galimberti’s Delicatessen with Love site. Once you’ve found your country, click on the “More Info” link for the recipes. Caterpillar in tomato sauce anyone? Let the spices of your cooking bring the scents of your country to your imaginary vacation environment.
5. Once you have your environment built, music playing, art created, and the smells of international cooking wafting through your home, it’s time to see the scenery. It won’t be possible for all countries, but I had amazing luck using Google and searching for various countries, then specifically searching for videos. If there’s a lot of current news in your country, you may need to add “scenery” to your search. For example, when I searched for videos about Egypt, I found news footage. When I searched for “Egypt scenery” I was able to take a virtual trip. You might also check the Google World Wonders project to see if any of the “wonders” are in your imaginary vacation location. You may be able to explore in 3D, almost like being there!
So sit back, relax, and travel in your imagination. Decide what you’d most like to see. Perhaps one day you’ll make the trip. And if you can’t find video of your specific country, take a 5-minute trip around the world, and enjoy the breadth of creativity before you.