Travelling is one of those freedoms we can only fully appreciate now that it’s curtailed. Suddenly, something as mundane as crossing to another district in town is a distant luxury. And as summer approaches, vacationing – one of the sure-fire positive life investments – might feel like a far-off dream. Having freedoms taken away is a bitter pill to swallow, even when it’s for the good of society as a whole.

 

So, for a while, feeling that same buzz will mean finding novel ways of using technology to scratch the travel itch. Just like real traveling, all it takes is a bit of exploration, thinking on your feet, and trying new things. And the rewards are almost as fulfilling – or at least, the four walls of your home will quickly recede as you skip, virtually, from one corner of the globe to the next

 

Live webcams are almost as old as the modern web itself – the first was set up in 1991 by computer scientists to check if their communal coffee pot was empty. Ignore the laziness of the starting point, because live webcams – until recently considered clunky relics of the old web – are now a thrilling window to the world. And there are so many to choose from. So where do you want to go today?

 

Some live webcams are serene, beautiful oases, like the view across the lake at Queenstown in New Zealand, while others are remote hilltop views to gaze meditatively into, like the Blackberry Mountain Cam in Tennesse. These are the kind of live-streams that can form the basis of a new, chill aspect of lock-down life. A projector or big TV screen could create a window to the world, and you’ll feel the benefit of checking in occasionally as life over there slowly… happens.

Finding good live webcams is like exploring a new city: you really have to get off the beaten track and explore the internet’s nooks and crannies to strike gold. 

Other live webcams are grainy, obscure and near-pointless – like this camera aimed at a bridge near the appropriately-named town of Boring, Oregon, and some are wilfully weird curiosities, like this one featuring a lightbulb that has been switched on for 117 years and counting

People-watching – preferably while seated at a cafe in a quaint plaza, with a cold drink – is a good way to pass the time on holiday, and there are plenty of live webcams to quench your thirst for peering at people going about daily life.

An all-time classic in this genre is the Abbey Road Crossing Cam, aimed at the famous zebra crossing featured on the front cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album. Enjoy watching the eternal battle between tourists holding up traffic as they pose for photographs on the crossing and irate London cabbies angrily gesticulating at them as they wait.

 

Want a break from people? Houston Zoo is closed to humans, but the Zoo’s residents are still there, wondering where all those weirdly clothed monkeys who stare at them all day have gone. Time will vanish as you spy on ostriches bickering over food with giraffes, and drink in the zen-like calm brought about by leafcutter ants methodically demolishing a pile of leaves. 

Top tip: you can even control the camera, so take your chance to zoom in on Flamingoes looking quizzically at their reflections in the water. (If you enjoy the shiver of power that comes from controlling webcams on the other side of the world, there are thousands to choose from.)

 

Finally, some live webcams are not really meant to be seen, but are merrily broadcasting to the internet all the same. They’re mostly incredibly mundane security cameras: video feeds of car parks, or hotel lobbies, or factory floors. If you’re craving the mundanity of normal life, they’re a weirdly compelling glimpse at goings-on all over the world, and as you scroll through blustery Floridian beaches, sunny Italian rooftops, and grey warehouse basements, you get a scale of how big – and also how connected – our world really is. 

 

Travelling to new places and seeing new cultures is reinvigorating and makes everyday life feel a million miles away – and that sounds like what we all need right now. Perhaps the best way to approach travelling from home is to throw yourself in, trust your instinct, and see where you end up – because, as J.R.R. Tolkien wisely put it: “Not all those who wander are lost.”