We’re going to go out on a limb and say that while right now the COVID-19 pandemic has a curiously eternal feel to it, it probably won’t actually last forever. At some point, self-imposed isolation will become a thing of free will again, rather than a social imperative laced with existential angst.
When that day comes, and you’re able to swap the TV remote for the actual remote, and your walls for horizons, and your ceiling for blue sky, consider the below ideas to get away from it all and rediscover what it feels like to be isolated on your terms.
At time of writing, outbound travel from the UK is not possible until December 4 2020. This may change with further government announcements in due course. Always check the latest travel advice before booking.
1. Road trip in the Australian Outback
The Australian Outback is mind-bogglingly vast, stunningly beautiful and, above all, empty. You can drive for hours towards shimmering horizons without seeing a single person, while enjoying some of the most spellbinding scenery our little space rock has to offer. Australia is a favourite destination for students and youth travellers, and can easily be explored on a budget. A popular option for road trippers is to buy a camper and sell at the end of the trip. Alternatively, some rental companies will let you hire a van for next to nothing, on the condition you deliver it to a different part of the country by a certain date.
2. Find an island paradise in Thailand
Thailand has a frankly unfair amount of gorgeous tropical islands, though some are naturally lesser known than others. Most travellers flock en masse to places like Koh Phangan, home of the notorious (but admittedly awesome) Full Moon Parties, and Koh Phi Phi, whose natural beauty is somewhat subdued by the hordes of backpackers who descend on its beach bars each night (again, though, if that’s what you’re after, you couldn’t find a better spot). For a quieter, more remote-feeling option, have a look at Koh Tao. It’s one of the best places in the world to snorkel off the beach, and while there are plenty of options for food and drink, it’s nowhere near as raucous as its neighbours. It’s also super cheap – perfect for that student budget.
3. Horse trekking in Mongolia
If you’re really on a mission to get away from it all, it’s hard to find somewhere more remote than the Mongolian steppe. This colossal grassland covers an area of about 350,000 square miles – that’s about the size of the entire country of Venezuela – and its people live a nomadic life, using horses to roam the landscape. Increasing numbers of tours – including budget ones – are opening up, which allow you to join this extraordinary lifestyle for a week or two. You’ll stay in traditional gers (large, portable tents) by night, and learn how to ride from master horse riders by day.
4. Tramping in New Zealand
It’s no secret that New Zealand boasts some of the most majestic scenery in the world and the perfect way to enjoy it is to get in amongst it on one of the country’s long-distance hiking routes. Known as ‘tramping’ to locals, these trails wind through beautifully remote landscapes with no trace of civilisation – at times it’ll feel like you’ve discovered your own untouched planet. The biggest expense will be getting there, but once you’re on the trails, costs can be kept to a minimum. There are several tramping tracks to choose from on both the North and South islands, including The Hilary Trail, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and the Hollyford Track.
5. See the Serengeti stampedes
The Serengeti is a huge, protected region in northern Tanzania that each year provides a natural theatre to one of the world’s most spectacular wildlife wonders: the migration of almost 2 million wildebeest. Seeing the phenomenon from the air is undeniably the best option, though alas helicopter rides don’t come cheap, wherever you are in the world. A slightly cheaper (and arguably more epic) option is to view things from a hot air balloon. Alternatively, there are heaps of affordable tours where you can watch the action from safari trucks. However you see the spectacle, just being in this amazing landscape is a breathtaking reminder that there’s plenty more to this planet than humans and their viruses.
6. Have an adventure in Alaska
One of the last truly untouched wildernesses, a trip to the remote scenery of Alaska makes for a perfect reset button. Due to the very nature of its rugged, undeveloped landscapes, it’s often the case that specialised tours are required to see the place extensively, but these can be pricey. Luckily there are options for student and youth travellers on a budget, namely in the form of day trips, which aren’t as expensive as many assume. White water rafting and kayaking excursions can be organised for less than $100, as can glacier and wildlife cruises.