05 June 2018

Once an avid, new-country-every-month adventurer, this year I’ve been grounded by a newborn and a toddler and an injury. I am, therefore, going a little bit stir-crazy. So, like Cora in Our Homesick Songs, I’ve had to be inventive in finding ways to escape when I can’t physically escape. Are they as good as the real thing? No. But they’re pretty darn close. And they’re certainly cheaper, and require way less juggling of logistics and tabs upon tabs of Air BnB options... So, because I’m sure there are others out there in my same position, unable to fly away and escape, here are the top five ways I’ve discovered to travel without travelling this summer:

1. Food

Find a world map, either online or in an atlas or on a globe or something like that. Close your eyes and point to a random spot. If it’s ocean (it’s often ocean) try again until you hit land. Wherever you hit, let that culture dictate your menu for tonight/today. This is especially fun when you wind up with places whose cuisine isn’t already famous. We had Greenland night, for example, (lots of fish and berries…) and Nigeria, Texas, and Montenegro. In researching, preparing and eating dishes and ingredients from these places, you learn a lot, and are transported out of your every-day, home-life (and country) habits and pallets…

Of course, this doesn’t have to be random either. If you find yourself really wishing you were in Tuscany, then go out and buy the best tomatoes and olives you can find. Likewise Paris and pastry, Mexico and chilis etc…

2. Music

Do the same thing as above, except, once your finger finds a new, exotic place, get yourself on Spotify and see what you can find, and hear, of that country and musical culture. Make yourself a playlist for the night and close your eyes and let yourself be transported. Or get up and dance. (As a start, here's a playlist of Newfoundland songs and tunes inspired by Our Homesick Songs).

3. Books

They say you can lose yourself in a book. Well, why not do that? Get lost in the lush (or desolate, or urban…) setting of somewhere else within the pages of a new or old favourite.

4. Connect

Maybe it’s not far-away places you’re longing to see so much as far-away people. I live in the UK but my whole family are back in Canada. If I could I would hop back there every other day to see them, but I can’t. So, instead, the magic of modern technology brings them to me, at least temporarily (and two-dimensionally). Facetime, Skype, Google hang-outs, or good old fashioned telephone or letters let you reach out and re-connect with those who are far away. Badly missing an old college friend now in America? A grandparent up in Scotland? A nephew on a gap-year in Australia? Schedule a call or pick up a pen (or email address) and write. This is a doubly good way to travel without travelling, since both you and the person you’re connecting with get a little escape…

5. Do

The adventure of elsewhere is often in the activities you do there. And, while some of those aren’t easily transferable to here (for example my beloved Canadian activity of cross-country skiing is tricky to reproduce in the UK in July…), many of them are. You could join a Japanese Koto drumming group, or take a Latin-America Salsa troupe. You could go line-dancing like a Texan or square-dancing like an Oklahoman. Go out for Korean karaoke, or stay in and try your hand at Taoist Tai Chi…

6.  Walk/Explore

Finally, who’s to say there’s still nothing left to discover on your own doorstep? On days when I’m feeling especially pent-up, I break out the baby carrier and stroller and head out for ultra slow walks (or, if I’m lucky and have a babysitter, solitary runs) up and down the streets and paths of my own neighbourhood, getting myself to actually pay attention, take note of little details. What kinds of flowers seem to grow best/most? What kinds of insects? What are the dominant architecture trends? What do I hear when I close my eyes? What are those little black-and-white birds actually called?

We live busy, distracted, indoor lives, most of the time. This isn’t a bad thing. But it does mean that just by slowing down, just by paying attention, by being outside, we can escape, we can learn, we can grow. We can be explorers, we can find adventures, big and small, on our own doorsteps, if we try.

  • Our Homesick Songs


    'A Wes Anderson-esque tale to fall for' Stylist

    'Warm-hearted and winsomely imaginative' Sunday Times

    'A novel in love with music, magic and the idealism of childhood' The Times

    Newfoundland, Canada, 1992. When all the fish vanish from the waters, and the cod industry abruptly collapses, it's not long before the people begin to disappear from the town of Big Running as well. As residents are forced to leave the island in search of work, 10-year-old Finn Connor suddenly finds himself living in a ghost town. There's no school, no friends and whole rows of houses stand abandoned. And then Finn's parents announce that they too must separate if their family is to survive.

    But Finn still has his sister, Cora, with whom he counts the dwindling boats on the coast at night, and Mrs Callaghan, who teaches him the strange and ancient melodies of their native Ireland. That is until his sister disappears, and Finn must find a way of calling home the family and the life he has lost.

    This is an enchanting tale about a fading town and a boy who would do anything to save his family

  • Buy the book

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