Cultural Experience | North America

12 Ways to Travel the World from Home

How to see and experience the world even while you’re stuck at home.

When people find out how much I love to travel and all of the place I’ve been, they’re often amazed just how far a girl from Nebraska has made it. The expressions I’m met with when I say I’m from the center of the U.S., completely landlocked, are largely confused. How could someone like me fall in love with countries across the world when I’m not from the big cities like New York or Los Angeles, or even Chicago? It’s easy–I travel the world from home. For all my fellow wanderlusters, here’s 12 ways how I travel the world without even leaving The Good Life in Nebraska, USA.

1. Transport yourself through a book. All my friends know how much of a bookworm I am. I just can’t help but get lost in a book. Books are an easy and cheap way to transport yourself to some other corner of the world, and there are countless ones to choose from. If you’re looking to explore a country specifically, the Lonely Planet and Rick Steves guides are some of my favorites. But just picking books at random from the travel section of the library can lead you to discover your next destination without you even knowing it. Memoirs and fiction books that center around an adventure are also great reads–you can practically imagine yourself right there along with the author!

Reading the Lonely Planet guide to the Netherlands on a bench image

2. Hold your own film festival. Are you a Netflix junkie? Then this will be the best news you get all day: go watch Netflix. Did you know there’s a whole section on Netflix dedicated to foreign TV shows and movies? You can browse by language or region, or just scroll through whatever looks good. Put on the subtitles or tie it to learning your chosen language and you have an easy way to transport yourself to another country from the comfort of your favorite couch. You can also tune in to the hundreds of film festivals that happen all over the world, like the Cannes Film Festival. Snag the list of showcased films and have a night in comparing film styles across the world.

ICA Belgium soccer watch party image

3. Read the newspaper. Call me old school, but I love to pick up the printed New York Times every morning and read through the international section. Whether you get your news old school like me, on the web or through social media, it’s important to stay informed. Don’t have a lot of time in the morning or really like your sleep? Check out The Skimm. It’s a daily email with top highlights from what’s happening around the world that you can read in 10 minutes or less. They keep the tone light, but the information relevant so you can join in next time your friends start a discussion on the latest happenings.

The New York Times newspaper and a cup of coffee image

4. Travel by the Internet. You remember what ‘www’ stands for, right? World. Wide. Web. Which means the Internet reaches even into the farthest corners of the world from your house, and you can still access it from your living room. Whenever I get the burning desire to travel (which is almost on a daily basis by this point), I head to the Internet right away to see what new pocket of the world I want to go to next. Reading travel blogs (like College Tourist!), city guides, culture dives and more is one of the best ways to learn about a new country from the people who have been there. Fair warning though: make sure you have your homework finished before you get lost in the world.

Sunset view from Sunrock Hostel in Corfu, Greece image

5. Customize your social media. Social media is a goldmine for those who can’t see enough of the world but are temporarily confined to their home. There’s no limit to how much you can tailor it to your interests, and I have definitely taken advantage of this. In fact, my Pinterest knows me almost too well: my entire welcome page is related to travel by this point. Some of my favorite platforms to use are Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. You can find traditional recipes, discover the secrets of a city, learn the history behind a country’s holidays, and more from peers all over. My favorite? The College Tourist, of course!

Screenshot of travel Pinterest welcome page image

6. Find a pen pal. This is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to get started learning about the world. Even if you find someone in your home country but a different state, it’s well worth it to see how their perspectives are different and the same across the miles between us. There’s also something magical about getting physical mail these days, that’s not a bill or advertisement, when the world has turned so digital. Have terrible handwriting or forgotten how to send post? There’s hundreds of exchange websites set up through email as well. I’ve also had friends use Skype and other messaging applications to connect from thousands of miles away.

Postcards and photos from an international pen pal image

7. Learn a language. This one should be self-evident, but in case it isn’t, learning a language is one of the most rewarding and beneficial ways to travel the world from home. When you learn a language, you don’t just learn the words or grammatically correct way of speaking; you learn the culture behind it as well. That odd rule that you just can’t understand from a grammatical aspect–there’s a reason behind that. And it usually ties to the country’s history as well. Plus, learning a language has huge benefits for you as well–increased brain agility, better chances of finding a job, and an easier transition when you go visit that country.

French Saison 3 cahier and textbook image

8. Get involved with the international students on your campus. The single most rewarding job I have ever worked is serving as an international student orientation leader for my university. I’m fortunate that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has such a large international population and is so supportive of its students that it can offer so many services. In addition to working orientation, there are also hundreds of events that many universities put on that cater to bringing the international and domestic student populations closer together, such as global retreats, buddy programs, food festivals, and more. Talk to your admissions office, study abroad office, or international student office to see how you can get involved and build a global network right at home.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln international welcome team members at the Lincoln Airport image

9. Be an English conversation partner. All four years of my career at UNL, I’ve served as an English conversation partner for international students and could not recommend it more highly. While it might sound formal, it doesn’t have to be at all! I’ve taken my partners to the local Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner, to the campus rec to learn how to hit a volleyball, to a painting class, and more. Programs like these are great because it’s a chance for you to show them around your city and introduce them to your culture. Plus, at the same time, you also get to learn about their own culture! Not sure where to start? I got involved through my university honors program, career services office, and new student enrollment.

St. Patty's Day painting at the Corky Canvas image

10. Volunteer with the local immigrant and refugee center. If you want to do more than just learn about the world, a great way to get involved is to volunteer with the local immigrant and refugee center. Especially with the amount of violence and crises happening around the world today, there is usually a huge need for people to help out newly arrived refugees with speaking English, introducing them to the community, or just getting to know them. You not only get to help them as they transition to their new life, but also help yourself in learning more about their previous homes and what is happening in the world currently.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Global Leadership Retreat image

11. Look into cultural events in your community. Community is not only about building relations with those who share the same background as you, but also about reaching out beyond to welcome those from another background. If you want to see the world right at home, Google the local cultural center in your city or on your campus and see what upcoming events they have. They often have a multitude of fun ways to introduce yourself to the international community, celebrate your cultural heritage, and enjoy yourself at the same time. Some of my favorites that I’ve attended include a Holi celebration, attending Malaysian Night, and gorging myself on delicious gyros at a Greek food festival.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Homecoming Parade international students carrying country flags image

12. Explore your own city. Even within your own city, even when you’re in the middle of the U.S. like me, you can find the presence of the world. Grab a friend and hop in your car or jump on your bikes on a new quest to find the best ethnic restaurant in your town. And I’m not talking about Chipotle or Panda Express–dare yourself to try that small shack on the corner you always tell yourself you’ll try, ask an international friend for their suggestions, or hop on the Internet again to see what is recommended in your area. Some of the best meals I’ve ever had have been from the tiny, cluttered shops on street corners or hidden on side alleys. The best part is that these stores are often owned by families who have made the same recipes for generations or the occasional traveler who dedicated their life to this food. You can taste the passion they have for it, and they also bring good stories to the table too.

Two coffees and a book at Crescent Moon coffeeshop image

As you can see, being a broke college student or landlocked in the U.S. doesn’t have to prohibit you from exploring the world. It’s easy to discover something new out there, if you just open your eyes and look for it. And then, after you have plenty of time to peruse these options and figure out where you want to go next, it will make buying your next plane ticket that much easier. Because nothing can compare to actually going out in the world and visiting that country.

So, where will you travel next?

12 ways to travel the world from home.

Courtney Van Hoosen

University of Nebraska-Lincoln | 10 stories

Courtney is a current senior studying International Business and French with a Japanese minor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Despite being a Nebraska native, Courtney has dedicated herself to being a global citizen and has visited 15 countries so far. After studying abroad in Angers, France in July 2015 and working as a Public Affairs intern at the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium this summer, Courtney hopes to share her stories and travel adventures with her fellow peers.

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