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Meeting travel where you are

When Covid struck, travel shut down, and millions of people worldwide got a glimpse of what it feels like to have to stay put. Yet for some people, an inability to travel is the norm. A fear of flying may limit your destinations, or other financial responsibilities might keep travel at bay.

The good news is that travel doesn’t have to be off the table completely. Day trips are a fulfilling option for people who can’t travel far. And virtual travel experiences, which took off during Covid, remain popular and readily available today.

Take a day trip

Marilyn Dashiell, a 78-year-old Lake Barrington Woods resident, has traveled with Wheaton Park District. With them, she’s visited area destinations such as Chicago’s Chinatown, Taliesin in Wisconsin, the Unity Temple in Oak Park, and more. 

Lake in the Hills resident Theresa L. Goodrich also embraces local travel, with individually organized trips to historic landmarks, architecture river cruises, and other nearby destinations.

Dashiell and Goodrich feel that these educational opportunities are great ways to learn about their communities and to meet new people.

“It was fun to share the experience with other people, even if they were not necessarily my friends,” Dashiell says. “People should not hesitate to make use of these opportunities because they may not know anyone on the tour. People are really friendly and interesting to meet. You find you have many things in common with them.”

Goodrich adds that taking a local tour gives you a different perspective. “That’s also why I will take tours more than once; each docentand guide puts their individual spin on thetour. Plus, there are so many stories, there’s no way you can get them all in one tour.”

And remember to put your phone down, so you can enjoy the experience.

“It’s so important to be present,” Goodrich says. “Sure, you’ll want to take pictures, but other than that, ignore your phone. It’s hard to pay attention to a tour guide at the same time you’ve got notifications buzzing. You’ve chosen to spend the time to take the tour, and by being present, you can truly enjoy it.”

Embrace virtual travel

The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) offers several virtual programs every month in addition to their in-person walking and river tours, where you can learn about topics ranging from Tiffany glass to Frank Lloyd Wright. According to Deb Rodak, the center’s director of tourism sales, virtual programs pull in content that goes beyond what fits into a single in-person tour, which makes them more comprehensive. 

Ideally, virtual tours will send a recording to you later. Rodak says it’s a great way to stay engaged even after the trip is over — and it can be a lifesaver if your internet connection gets wanderlust. during the tour.

“All who register for our virtual events receive a recording within about three business days,” Rodak says. “Take advantage of the chance to re-watch, maybe with a friend, and catch some details you may have missed the first time around.”

If all else fails — maybe you lose your tour recording or you have to abruptly cancel your in-person tour — there’s still an easy way to get out of your living room and into another spot: Google Street View. Pick any spot in the world, and drop in to see what’s happening in the area, moving along the street as if you’re on a road trip.

“You don’t get the same sights, smells, feelings, memories, and — what I believe is the absolute best part of traveling — meeting with locals, having chance encounters, and engaging in small talk with charismatic people,” says Allison Yates, owner of Read & Run Chicago, an organization that offers in-person runs and free, downloadable self-guided running, walking, or biking routes based on books set in Chicago. “But if you must stay at home, and if travel is not possible in the moment, Google Street View is a great option.”

Whether you go with an in-person day trip or a virtual event, don’t shy away from asking questions. You’ve got an expert on the topic at your disposal, and your question could spark discussion points in future tours.

Virtual travel options sidebar

Above photo courtesy of the Chicago Architecture Center 
Originally published in the Summer/Fall 2023 print issue.