Nothing beats the singular experience of traveling. The sights, smells, scenery, the tactile sensations that assault you in the city or rainforest, or sneak up on you at the beach or during a long country drive. But even the most vagabond traveler can’t go everywhere, which is why the books, photo communities, interactive 360-degree photo experiences, and—yes—actual virtual reality experiences are an essential part of modern travel, and a great way to peek into both the present and the past of this wide, varied world.
1. Lost & Found Collection, Vol 1, $60; 2. National Geographic Your Shot, Free; 3. Google Street View Treks, Free; 4. The Faroe Islands: SheepView 360, Free; 5. A Way into India, $40; 6. Marriot Vroom Service, Free with Hotel Stay; 7. Alchemy VR, Varies.
Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).
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In 2007 surf enthusiast Doug Walker stumbled across 30,000 negative strips shot by some of the most iconic surf photographers documenting the 1970's surf culture—and decided document the otherwise-forgotten stories captured in those images. The film came first, but dive into this, the first book in what promises to be a long series, creating a visual narrative of a world that was almost lost to the sands of time.
The Lost and Found Collection
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This online photo community is anchored around monthly assignments that originate from the photo editors of National Geographic—with the winning images being selected in the print edition. Like other photo communities, you can also upload photos. But unlike most others, you're limited to a set number of images per month, which forces you to curate the hundreds of photos down to your best images, which makes the inventory of the thousands of images some of the highest-quality user-generated photos on the web. And the discussion boards are chock-a-block with solid photo tips and advice.
National Geographic Your Shot
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Street View may help you understand the neighborhood of your next Airbnb overnighter, but Google's Treks program is where the company's 360-degree photograph project really shines. All of the virtual tours are pretty jaw-dropping, from Cambodia's Angkor Wat and Jordan's Petra to Mont Blonc, France, to Venice, the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, and the Brazilian Amazon Basin—to name just a few. But check out the climb to Everest Base Camp or the vertiginous profile of Lynn Hill, Alex Honnold, and Tommy Caldwell climbing Yosemite's El Capitan—tours of things you'll probably never witness yourself.
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All due respect to Google's global domination, but their street-view cameras haven't gotten everywhere yet—as evidenced by this fantastic site that is documenting the stunning landscape of the remote Faroe Islands by strapping a camera onto wandering sheep. Yes…sheep. They're trying to convince Google to bring their cards to the island, and here's hoping that happens. Provided they don't ditch the sheep's point-of-view footage.
Vist Faroe Islands
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Raghubir Singh is widely regarded as one of the 20th century's finest documentary photographers and in this, his last great photo project, he returns to his homeland to capture the sights, sounds, and colors of India by focusing on the Ambassador, a ubiquitous vehicle that's been in continuous production in the country since 1957. From a delivery van to diplomatic limo, the car has been used in every possible scenario, offering a window into the varied personalities of one of the world most captivating, vibrant countries.
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Virtual reality has hit just about every possible industry, from gaming to porn, so naturally it's now part of the travel experience. Marriot's first foray into the tech, the Teleporter, was dubbed a 4D experience, combining Oculous Rift VR with a telephone booth-sized set-up that had nozzles, vents, and a heat lamp to transport people to Hawaii. And now the hotel offers a VR "postcard" experience at their NYC and London propertie, using a room service-ordered Samsung Gear VR headset and Galaxy S6 to send you to a Chilean mountaintop, the streets of Beijing, and an ice cream shop in Rwanda. Reports thus far describe it as a fun distraction.
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On the other end of the VR spectrum, Alchemy is one of the industry's first self-defiend VR storytelling platforms. They've already partnered with David Attenborough to create a VR exhibit of the Great Barrier Reef currently on display at the London Natural History Museum and the Australian Museum in Sydney. Up next? A journey into the pyramids and into the human body, both in partnership with Google Expeditions.