Master of Travel Skills
National Geographic Traveller India|November 2020
LEARN TO TAKE BETTER PHOTOS, SPEAK JAPANESE, OR BE A VOLUNTEER SCIENTIST WITH CLASSES, APPS, AND ACTIVITIES THAT’LL HELP YOU GET ROAD READY
VICKY HALLETT

In early March, photographer Kathy Adams Clark was leading a tour group through Costa Rica, guiding students as they focused their cameras on volcanoes, rainbows, and turquoise feathered birds. By the middle of the month, the frequent flyer arrived home in Houston, Texas, grounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and not sure when she would ever travel again. She taught her first online class the next day.

This hard stop to her country-hopping lifestyle came as a shock. But it taught Clark a lesson: There are plenty of travel skills you can master from home.

While helping students improve their technique by training their lenses on backyard dragonflies, Clark has been doing some studying herself. She’s read up on Medici family history and taught herself to make risotto in anticipation of her next journey to Italy. “I’ve got time to take a deep dive into a subject,” she says. Clark remains hopeful for 2021 adventures. “People are going to be so ready,” she says. “We’re not going to take travel for granted. We’re going to treat it as the treasure it is.”

There are many classes, apps, and activities you can try now that’ll give you a leg—or hiking boot—up on your next trip.

LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE

Travellers should always pack at least a couple foreign phrases, says Craig Childers, director of language courses for Washington, D.C.’s Goethe-Institut, a German cultural association with outposts around the world. “You can get by with English only [in Germany], especially in cities,” he says. “But if you know just a little German, you’ll be more confident and relaxed taking public transportation and ordering off menus.”

In response to the COVID-19 travel slowdown, the institute has launched new online classes and virtual cultural programming, including a tour inspired by the Netflix noir series Babylon Berlin and video seminars on art and architecture.

If you’re hoping to visit Tokyo next year then plan ahead with help from The Japanese Foundation Los Angeles, which offers free self-study courses and bilingual yoga classes on its Facebook page (you’ll learn that the word for inhale is “sutte”).

Craving conversation? Tandem is a free app that lets its 10 million users teach each other their native tongues via texts, voice memos, or—increasingly—video calls. Sign-ups have soared since February, says co-founder Arnd Aschentrup, who recommends that would-be travellers use the “search by city” option to get grammar tips with a side of local intel.

Popular free app Duolingo, which saw a 101 per cent boom in first-time users in March 2020, offers online tools for learning dozens of languages, including Finnish, which debuted in June.

CONNECT WITH OTHER CULTURES

Discovering the traditions and perspectives of international places is the magic ingredient in many of Airbnb’s online experiences, which invite guests to learn to cook street tacos with a Mexico City chef or spend the day in Paris with a local.

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