Introduction to Reverse Travel

To save time, money, and other travel headaches, why not bring the destination to you?
reverse globe

What if you don’t have the time or money to go to the destination of your choice?  What if you could bring that destination to you?  The idea behind Reverse Travel is to visit a place without going there; it’s bringing the place to you.

Reasons for Reverse Travel

There are many reasons to Reverse Travel.

Short on time.  Travel takes time, especially you need a 12-hour flight to make it to your destination.  And once you reach, let’s say, Japan, you’ll want to spend more than a couple of days there, but your boss isn’t going to give you that kind of time off.  Well, Reverse Travel.

Short on money. This is an obvious one.  Travel takes airfare (and other transportation costs), hotel costs, and you’ll probably be eating out more, too.  In other words, real travel can cost a lot of money.  Reverse Travel is going to be a lot cheaper.

Research purposes. This is probably the best reason.  While you’re saving up for that trip (money or vacation time), Reverse Travel is a great way to research where you’re going.  It’ll help you navigate locations better when you know what to expect and have already seen it.  It can get you through some of the language barriers (if there are any) if someone shows you how to buy a ticket, order food, or whatever else.

Physical barriers.  Handicaps and ailments may make it difficult to get to certain places.  Natural disasters can actually close off certain parts of the world, or at least make them more difficult to reach. Whatever physical barrier is in your way, Reverse Travel will almost always get you around it.

Political barriers.  Some places certain people are simply not allowed to go.  For example, Americans weren’t allowed to travel to Cuba for decades.  And some places are difficult to get a visa for.  Reverse Travel might be a solution in these cases.

Other barriers. There could be tons of legitimate reasons and just plain old excuses keeping you from going to where you want to go:  certain fears (you’d love to go to Hawaii but are afraid of volcanoes—don’t be), age (your parents are refusing to take you to Tibet this year and you’re not even old enough to have your driver’s license), family (you’d like take a cross country road trip, but the other members of your family outvoted you and decided on Disneyland again), etc.

Reverse Travel doesn’t replace the real thing, but it does have its advantages.

So, what is Reverse Travel?

Reverse Travel is bringing the destination to you.

And there are several ways to do that. The more you do, the more immersed you’ll be in the location.

Food:

Sampling local dishes is one of the highlights of travel for many people. How can you bring that food to you?

If you’re great in the kitchen, you could track down an authentic local recipe online and make it yourself.  That’s great for awesome chefs like my brother-in-law, but for me the results will be less than stellar. Plus, I don’t have time to cook like that from scratch.  And some of the local ingredients might not be available.

A good alternative is to have the food shipped directly to you.

If you live in the U.S. and you want to try regional foods like an authentic Chicago Deep Dish Pizza or the original Frisbee pie from Conneticut, you could go to a site like GoldBelly.com.  It’s a little pricier than some people would like to pay, but it can be cheaper than driving to a restaurant, paying for your meal AND drinks, leaving a tip, etc.  GoldBelly even has a bakery from Hong Kong (if you wanted to Reverse Travel there).

Another way to Reverse Travel with food are subscription boxes.  Have snacks from Japan shipped directly to you with services like Tokyo Treat.  You can also sample food and snacks from around the world from TryTheWorld.com

Order from faraway local businesses.  Besides food, local places make local things. To explore the places you want to go, find local businesses and sample their products.  I’ll say more about how to do this a little later in the article, but here’s an example of local Kauai businesses that can help you experience the Kauai life right from your living room.

Travel by Video:

Using books and travel guides used to be the only way to research a place, and they still are a great tool for planning your trip, but they are not as immersive as travelling by video.  The best video website these days is, of course, YouTube.  And there are many videos up that offer a first-person perspective of just about everywhere around the world.

To find these videos, you can search things like “(PLACE NAME) walking”, “(PLACE NAME) 4K”, and “(PLACE NAME) driving”.  You get the idea.  Whether by car, foot, train, or something else, you can most likely find a video of the place you’re looking to Reverse Travel to.

Some of my favorites are:

PhotoLukeHawaii who does mostly walking videos of Hawaii and Japan. He is a genuine, standup guy with a great family. He posts a video almost every day, so you should find something you like.

NIPPON WANDERING TV who specializes in walking videos of Japan.

There are tons of great YouTubers who show you Japan by train.  Two good ones are HKASAMA and It’s railway!

Of course, this is just scratching the surface.  Search for the place you’re interested in.

Besides the first person perspective, there are of course a ton of travel channels on YouTube and travel blogs (like this one).

If you want a third person perspective, take a look at the travel articles here on Journeyed Worlds.  I’m also a fan of YellowProductions and recently became aware of Tokyo Lens. The Luxury Travel Expert and Only in Japan GO are also great channels.

And don’t forget tourism channels like Visit Savannah and Kauai Visitor Channel among many others.

Learn the Language:

In many foreign countries, you can get by with just English, but if you really want to bring the place and culture to you, learn the language.  Languages give you insight into the culture and can be a fun way to bring that land to your living room.  Plus, when you are able to go your desired destination, you’ll be much more prepared than someone with just a phrase book in their hands.

Google map searches:

This is a great way to find places that deliver food cross country or even around the globe.  It’s also how to find many faraway local businesses who might deliver to you as well.

Even if they don’t deliver, it’s a good way to imagine a place that you can’t get to right away. How to do this:

1. Go to maps.google.com

2. Search for “(SOMETHING) near (PLACE NAME)”.

For example, “Burgers near Seattle” or “Bookstores near Shinjuku” or whatever it is you’re interested in.

Culture:

This is another obvious one for YouTube.  Is there a festival or music or other cultural experience that you’d like to witness from a faraway land?  Odds are someone has recorded a video of it for you to enjoy. 

I watch sumo online all the time.

Movies and authors: 

Reading local authors or watching movies that take place at a certain location are good but less immersive alternatives.  Just cause a movie is based in a certain place doesn’t mean you’re being shown the place in its true light.  (Ghostbusters takes place in New York and mostly filmed there, but many parts of the movie were also filmed in Los Angeles.)

Reading local authors is probably better than watching fictional movies (my bias, I love books), but writers have been known to make up a thing or two.

News sites: 

Finally, in our introduction to Reverse Travel, we have news sites.

Local news outlets are a good way to keep tabs on local communities around the globe. And most foreign countries have some kind of news outlet in English.

In summary, I hope this inspired you with different ways to experience another culture and place when you can’t go there yourself.  And maybe you found a new way to plan your next vacation as well.

Take care.  Happy journeys.

(DISCLAIMER: This post includes affiliate links.)

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