Virtual travel can take you to places you may never get to

Maybe you should start your month with some virtual travel that gets you out of your home and into the world.

Virtual travel should be an option for everyone and now it is. Phone and computer applications bring you first-person views of the world.

For a few years now, virtual travel has kind of been one of those, “Yeah but” kind of deals. You got to see the streets but you weren’t actually there. COVID changed a lot of that thinking. As international and in some cases U.S. travel has changed, it isn’t necessarily safe to travel where you have always dreamed. To say nothing about the expense to do it.

When I hear the word “virtual” I immediately think about some funky headset that brings the world into my brain through that headset. Tethered to a computer like a futuristic robot. Virtual however doesn’t need to be a VR (virtual reality) headset, in fact, you can travel from your living room, your office, your treadmill, and anywhere you see fit.

On YouTube, there are literally thousands of options when it comes to first-person travel. It is as easy as typing in your interest and hitting search. From there you can see the world.

Recently, I wanted to explore my options for treadmill use and was surprised and excited about the offerings on my iPad. I’m not a big fan of treadmill running and frankly, I find Ifit a bit too expensive for me especially given the tiny screen on my treadmill. I don’t care if it lifts the incline or speeds me up automatically or not.

If you want to maximize your tread time or simply get a chance to visit some great spots around the world, there are several apps that I would recommend.

Virtual Runner – You need a subscription for this and if you want the video to move along with your pace, whether walking or running, you will need to buy a sensor. That being said, they offer a nice library of first-person VR videos that are anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour in length.

VR is pretty cool and you can look at one of the demos. Like all of these apps, you can walk it at your own pace and get a feel for that particular area that you choose to go to.

Virtual Active – One of my personal favorites. Like VR you can choose to do a bike ride, walk/run, or a hike. What really makes this one worth it is the fact that the app uses your camera to trace your body movements and thus if you opt to use this on a treadmill the video will speed up or slow down based on your own body motion.

The downside is that VA is a service that charges for each video and it can add up. At $7.99 a video, you get to download it and keep it but there are a lot of videos to choose from and it could add up quickly. No one really wants to visit a place daily.

Treadmill TV – Treadmill TV doesn’t allow you to change the speed and tends to be more of a perfect travel companion. You can jog/bike/hike/walk to it but the pace is whatever was filmed and that isn’t a bad thing. In terms of traveling, the slower pace helps out

There are a lot of videos available and they claim they add more consistently. From beaches to lagoons, to parks and forests, there are enough locations to keep you entertained and to virtually experience. The downside? Aside from not being able to control the speed, the app charges a $21.00 a year subscription fee which honestly is not that bad considering the number of videos available.

Treadmill Trails – This is a fun app as well and I really love how you can visit places like Italy, literally walking on water as the gondola presses forward through the canals of Venice. There are a lot of videos to choose from and they are all, like the others, in HD quality.

TT offers its videos on a per charge basis. You buy them and they are yours. You download them to your device to play. You can’t control the speed of the videos but they are suitable for a leisurely jog, a walk, or even a run if the pace of the video doesn’t bother you. The videos are all 30 minutes long and most cost only .99 with a few at $1.99.

Treadmill Buddy – This app is a little different as you choose where you want to go and then you choose the style you want to run or walk. You can choose the sprinting, easy pace, or more. You are given the information you are working on, miles, MPH, pace, and more while you watch the video. It is your pace but there is a rather annoying “digital” voice that will start talking to tell you when at what your speed should be adjusted to for that segment.

The videos are clean but there are not as many as some of the other apps. It is free to use but and you can take the opportunity to visit popular tourist stops around the world. Hopefully, they will add more content later.

VENICE, ITALY – JULY 22: Gondolier takes tourists near the Rialto Bridge on July 22, 2020 in Venice, Italy. A new rule in Venice will make becoming a gondolier more difficult by asking to prove that you have been working for the last four years on a family Gondola. (Photo by Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images)V

BitGym – So far this is my favorite virtual app for using the treadmill. The app uses my camera like Virtual Active and there are about 10 free videos to do completely free and they include a nice Tomales Bay kayak tour where your running moves the kayak.

As a travel app it doesn’t work all that well unless you yourself are moving with it because the entire video speed is based on your movements. This app has a lot to offer in terms of videos but outside of the free ones you need to be a member which will cost you $9.99 a month for full access. That is a little steep for me although in terms of traveling, they boast as having “tours” and in reality that is what these are.

Information about the locations and areas you are seeing are presented in a pop-up on the screen which is really kind of cool and the videographer doesn’t simply let stuff fly by on his run. Since you can stop the video by simply not moving, you can look at something a little longer but you can’t walk up to it of course.

All of the programs offer great soundtracks that are real and recorded in the areas. It may not be as great as being there for real, but for some of us who may never get the chance to leave the country or even our state, virtual travel is a great option that can also be used as a primary way to exercise and have fun doing it.