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These are the winners of the 2020 Freezing Hair Contest, held annually at Takhini Hot Springs in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. Photo courtesy of Takhini Hot Pools
ColumnsHit the Road

Hit the Road: Making the most of armchair travel

Armchair travel.

That’s about all I can do right now. Of course, there’s also couch travel, office-chair travel and (do I dare admit this?) bed travel.

Now that’s sad, but it’s even sadder that my sole traveling gear consists of a warm, slightly scruffy, bulky, blue terrycloth, L. L. Bean bathrobe. Not good to admit, but it’s a favorite piece of clothing, and I’ll wear it as I cruise the internet because, well, it’s way too large to take on an actual cruise or trip of any kind.

I’ll think of this bathrobe as a tiny silver lining to this vacationing-in-place predicament.

One source for exploring the world is my e-mail. As a travel writer, my digital mailbox is always chock-full of press releases and newsletters vying for my attention.

Since I’m going nowhere except to walk our subdivision greenbelt (with care to put plenty of space between me and other residents), I have a little more time to explore things like the daily newsletter from Atlas Obscura.

The website that boasts of being the “definitive guide to the world’s hidden wonders.” I can vouch for that claim.

Subscribe (it’s free) and visit places like an Icelandic witchcraft museum; giant horses carved into various hillsides throughout Britain;  a pot of beef stew that has been continuously boiling in a Bangkok bistro for 45 years; a lake in India (altitude 16,000 feet) that is filled with the bones of 200 skeletons; the underground tunnels of Los Angeles; and the annual Freezing Hair Contest at Takhini Hot Springs in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.

I guarantee the photos of the entries and winners will make you laugh out loud, even if you are alone.

One adventure none of us is likely take is a dive to the bottom of the ocean off our coast to see shipwrecks, but you can do it virtually courtesy of Atlas Obscura and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.  Pretty fascinating stuff.

Another daily e-mail brings me the Thrillist, full of lists of bests: treehouse hotels in the world; scenic drives in every state; YouTube travel shows; beaches in Mexico; bizarre foods and drinks; and themed cruises. Among this last entry are cruises for fans of “The Walking Dead;” NASCAR; “Star Trek;” cats; and — I’m not making this up — knitting.

Living in the time of coronavirus has brought forth other lists: information on traveling safely (if you absolutely have to); activities to occupy your time at home; and backgrounders on some of Netflix’ most popular series.

And someday, the gods willing, I’ll be able to use this advice: “Military Packing Secrets That Will Make You a Better Traveler.”

Another favorite in my mailbox comes from AFAR, a newsletter companion to the magazine of the same name. In normal times, the publication and website give us stories that take readers off the beaten path, down to street level and behind closed doors. Contributing writers are locals who live and work in the featured sites and so are experts on the topics.

They often have information not contained in the guidebooks, or write about places-you’ll-never-visit-and-things-you’ll-never-do-but-are-fun-to-read-about.

Because we must practice social distancing/isolation, AFAR editors have stepped up and adapted content. They are giving us “These Baby Goat and Sheep Webcams Will Help You Through Quarantine,” and 18 ways to stay sane while staying at home.

If you have favorite websites and magazines for virtual travel, e-mail me at [email protected] and I’ll share. For more photos of the Freezing Hair Contest, visit