Travel has taken a back seat for now but our wanderlust can still be satisfied with digital tours of far-flung places, virtual museum exhibitions, wildlife cameras that bring us closer to the animal kingdom and even online displays of wildflower blooms. But if you're missing getting outside and driving around with the radio on, watching daily life unfurl around you as you glide through streets awash with colour and noise, well... there's an app for that.
Drive & Listen is a brand new app that offers virtual driving tours of 38 cities (and counting) from the perspective of a passenger in the front seat of a car against a background of local music. Users can soak in the sights and sounds of street life as they cruise through popular tourist destinations like Paris, Havana, Rome, Miami, Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Lisbon and more.
The app was set up by Erkam Şeker, an Istanbul-born student who is currently studying for his masters in Munich. He launched the app on the cloud-based platform Heroku amid travel restrictions and global lockdowns as a lifeline for pent-up travellers or those stuck abroad and missing their hometowns.
"I was missing riding around my city, even the traffic and the fuss of daily life, so I found myself watching videos of Istanbul [online]" Erkram tells Lonely Planet. "It was so fun to see my city but I thought why not listen to some radio in the background to get the whole riding in cars experience? I realised that other people around the world must be missing that same experience of being on the road."
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When users open the app, they choose the city they want to drive through from videos Erkam obtained from YouTube travel channels or dashcam footage that other users have submitted. "I am adding new cities almost every day," Erkam says. "People around the world message me and ask how they can contribute." Once users have selected a city, they can choose to listen to street sounds or a live broadcast from a local radio station to enhance the experience.
"At first, I made the app to somehow suppress the feeling of missing home but now I also see it as a new way of exploring cities," Erkam adds. "It's an amazing experience to see new places together with some local tunes on the radio in the comfort of your home. I also think it helps us become more patient in these days of lockdown."