Just because you can’t travel right now doesn’t mean you have to stop exploring the world. There are hundreds of free online resources where you can digitally dive into all aspects of travel, from art, architecture, and adventure to food, flora, and fauna.
In addition to the many museums, libraries, aquariums and zoos around the world that are offering free online access to their facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, take advantage of these no-cost opportunities to explore the world from the comfort of your couch — and learn something along the way.
Coursera is a big online learning platform founded by Stanford professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller in 2012 that has since expanded to include content from major universities like Yale and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as blue-chip companies like Google and IBM. In addition to its incredibly popular course on the science of well-being, Coursera offers a variety of classes that are well suited for travelers – including free content.
Go old school with a class on ancient Egypt and its civilizations taught by the University of Pennsylvania, fast forward a few centuries for a course on global history from 1760 to 1910 offered by the University of Virginia, or look to the present with a class on diplomacy in the modern world presented by the University of London. Want to jump right into the future? Enroll in a Coursera course on climate change and the earth’s future from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
You can also spend your downtime learning a new language. Coursera offers classes in Korean from Seoul’s Yonsei University, Chinese from Beijing’s Peking University, and Spanish from the University of California.
Wanting to study something a bit more solid? Yale University offers a class on Roman architecture through Coursera, and you can take Mountains 101 from Canada’s University of Alberta.
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You can now access up to 100 free articles each month on JSTOR, a longtime favorite website of academics around the world. This digital database has more than 12 million academic journal articles as well as scholarly books and primary source material in 75 different categories.
Unesco buffs can tour the World Heritage Sites of Africa collection, where you can view over 57,000 objects including photographs, 3D models, excavation reports, antiquarian maps, and scholarly research for treasures such as the manuscripts of Timbuktu, photographic records of Swahili life and culture from Lamu Island, and the earthen architecture of Mali, Morocco and Egypt.
While they may not be able to tour blooming botanical gardens at the moment, flower fans can learn about flora around the planet using the 3 million items in JSTOR’s Global Plants collection. You can join Spain’s royal botanical expedition to Peru in 1777-1778 to identify new species or take a modern-day trip to Mexico to look inside the contents of the herbarium at the Universidad de Guadalajara. And find your zen in the peaceful watercolors of 1,907 different mushrooms and other fungi painted by Dr. Fritz Wohlfarth from his travels through Germany.
Nikon Photography School
Photography plays a huge role in travel, allowing us to document our experiences for our own memories and to share our adventures with others. Step up your photo game before you leave for your next trip with online photography lessons.
During the month of April, camera powerhouse Nikon has made all of its online learning content free through Nikon School. You can find out more about what's included, and the Nikon Live streaming events here.
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Free Online Cooking Classes
If you'd love to learn about sauces from chef Thomas Keller of San Francisco’s The French Laundry or salsas from chef Gabriela Cámara of Mexico City’s Contramar, but a Masterclass subscription is out of our budget right now, never fear.
Check out some of the free cooking courses currently available online if you’re hungry for global cuisine and want to make it at home. (Just keep some of this content isn't available in all locations depending on licensing.)
The Kitchn offers a free 20-day cooking school on its website, complete with a printable “diploma” you can use to spice up your home office. It focuses on the basics, including boiling, broiling, braising and baking, which you can use to prepare yourself for more advanced international cooking.
BBC Food’s comprehensive library of cooking techniques will take you to the next level with French julienne chopping, tips for grilling halloumi cheese from Cyprus and shaping Chinese dumplings in your own kitchen.
And when you’re ready to conquer cultural cuisine, visit the world recipes section of allrecipes.com for free recipes sorted by region and country. There you’ll find everything from Korean barbecue beef and Greek lemon chicken to Moroccan date bread and Argentinian alfajores cookies.
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