Post-pandemic travel has begun in a bumpy way. Try VR instead: NBC10 Philadelphia

This story originally appeared on LX.com

Let me tell you how I was able to see Bali for much less than a plane ticket, and without having to deal with flight cancellations and other travel headaches.

Through the magic of virtual reality, I flew thousands of miles away to this Indonesian island in an instant. With an Oculus Quest 2 VR headset, I found a 360-degree video of a bustling market in the city of Ubud and saw steaming street vendors coming out of their kitchen stations. I even instinctively pulled away from the path as an incoming pedestrian hurried past me.

After that experience, feeling that I could almost get my hands on passers-by while browsing the Balinese art market, I was hooked. I then took a car ride through the Cairo traffic, observing the cars, the terrain, and the general feeling of dizzying lightness I felt in my body.

The experience was a transformation from the monotony of worldly weeks that melted during the pandemic. While I wanted to be an Instagram bad guy on the beach, I had planted myself firmly on the couch instead of being tanned, wrapped, and carefree.

Even though companies opened their doors to the outside world, I still distanced myself socially and, to some extent, isolated myself. It just didn’t feel safe to travel, especially internationally.

It may seem counterintuitive that using virtual reality to put veterans in scenes that replicate their trauma can help them overcome PTSD. But that’s exactly what happens with VR technology at the Institute of Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California. Lolita Lopez, of NBC Los Angeles, went to USC to see how it works first hand.

So instead, I opted for the totally immersive game changer of a travel experience that is virtual reality. I feel more like a global citizen after seeing how different people around the world live, eat, entertain and navigate their neighborhoods.

But it took a bit of work to move from real life to simulated luxury at a Japanese spa or hiking in Ghana – I first had the challenge of putting on VR headphones.

As he maneuvered the headset over his glasses, the sets of lenses briefly collided with each other. And, when I adjusted the headband to fit my hair, a few strands were pinched on the side as I tightened the headset for a perfect fit. A small price to pay.

Speaking of price: at $ 299 before taxes, the Oculus Quest 2 is one of the cheapest headphones that doesn’t require a computer to run. Headset prices will be even lower if you find one that is compatible with a cell phone; for those who would really slide the cell phone into place to act as a screen, the VR effect may not be as pronounced.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook Inc., demonstrates Oculus Rift VR headsets and Oculus Touch controllers during an Oculus Connect 3 event in 2016. (David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Once you get some headphones, you don’t need to rule out premium games for fun. YouTube has a virtual reality app with a wide and varied selection of free adventures. To feel like on a panoramic VR diving tour, subscribe to GoPro. And for an alien experience floating in the cosmos, subscribe to BBC Earth and watch its space videos.

I have “visited” ten new countries in a month and have no plans to stop soon. Next on my agenda: check out a volcanic eruption in Russia and explore Geyser Valley.

And I can do everything without leaving a germ and without problems.

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