2020 was the year we took things online. Holiday celebrations, work drinks, and family get-togethers all happened virtually. Many of us spent our leisure time online, too, whether bingeing the latest must-watch series or tending our islands on Animal Crossing.
In 2021, it looks like we’ll still be swapping IRL interactions for online activities for a while yet. But the new year is a great excuse to switch things up. So, instead of winding down by working through your Netflix queue, try something new. We’ve rounded up eight virtual experiences that are as relaxing as they are unconventional.
Tune into tranquil forests with Tree FM
Turn off the news and tune into nature, with Tree FM, an online radio station that might be the speediest shortcut to pure relaxation the internet has to offer. Thanks to a collection of field recordings gathered in forests from Alaska to Estonia, the soothing sounds of some of nature’s most gorgeous soundscapes are only ever a click away. Added bonus: every time you listen in, you’re given the option to plant a tree through Ecosia.
Take the night train through Japan
Want to spend time exploring one of YouTube’s most delightful corners and scratch your itch for travel at the same time? Japanese train travel YouTube is your new favorite internet niche. These videos offer time-lapse recordings of train journeys across Japan. Get a taste of first-class travel on the Shinkansen or arrive in Tokyo just in time for sunrise.
Count the stars through your screen
Stargazing in the great outdoors is undeniably great. But stargazing from the comfort of your sofa is pretty great, too. For your next romantic night in, there’s no need for candlelit dinners. Snuggle up under a blanket, instead, and head to the NASA website for a spot of interstellar tourism. Our tip? NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has an impressive array of starry footage on its website.
Reconnect with nature
If you need a quick, easy escape from the four walls of your space, then let yourself be transported with some world-class nature live-streams. Whether you’re after a leisurely stroll through a Californian rose garden or some jaw-dropping views over the Grand Canyon, nature’s pleasures are at your fingertips… as long as you have an internet connection.
Orient yourself across the globe
It doesn’t matter if you’re into Grand Theft Auto or can’t get enough of Stardew Valley: over the last year, you’ve probably gotten a lot better acquainted with your favorite games. Change it up a bit and tour the globe with the seriously addictive GeoGuessr. You’ll be dropped randomly into a Google Maps street view, then asked to guess the location. The closer your guess, the more points you get. This one’s great to play on your own and well suited to family fun.
Sometimes, working with your hands can be the simplest way to soothe your mind. Bonus: something like painting can be both relaxing and rewarding. In this calming clip, master artist Pak Wayan will walk you through the art of traditional Balinese watercolor painting and you’ll come away with an impressive canvas featuring a Balinese hibiscus. Usually, you’d have to travel to the lush Indonesian city of Ubud to enjoy this class, but now you can paint along at home!
Enjoy a glimpse of Italian tradition
If you haven’t already heard of the Pasta Grannies, you’re in the minority. From their kitchens in tiny Italian villages, these Italian nonnas have become social media sensations. Head to the website for delightfully escapist clips that show the Grannies hand-rolling regional pastas like Ligurian trofie, Calabrian maccheroni and more. Feeling inspired? Try a cook-along class with an authentic Italian chef.
Experience the serenity of life underwater
For a truly immersive relaxing experience, try virtual scuba diving. No need to worry about earning your scuba license: you can experience some of the world’s most stunning seascapes through your screen. Try a tour of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, or explore islands and shipwrecks with the National Marine Sanctuaries’ tempting menu of virtual dives.