How can folks explore the world without leaving home?

Those who enjoy Hinsdale Public Library's travel presentations share a certain wanderlust. But these days, the Voyager's Travel Discussion Club, like everyone else, is staying pretty close to home.

Program facilitators Mike Oetting and Susan McBride aren't letting the COVID-19 pandemic keep folks from enjoying the world's wonders and exploring its most sought-after destinations, even if that means doing so from the safety of their own homes.

On Wednesday, Aug. 5, the library's Voyager's Travel Discussion Club will venture into new territory itself as it goes virtual to discuss travel in the time of COVID-19. The virtual meeting will focus on opportunities that technology offers to discover and explore places across the globe without boarding a plane or even booking a ticket.

Led by Oetting, meeting attendees will receive an introduction to how, through photos and videos, they can get an up-close look at places far from home. Using 360-degree panoramic stills and first-person videos, travelers and adventurers share their experiences via free and paid platforms.

"The ones we will highlight in our talk are free," Oetting said.

Along with visuals, travel videos include the sounds of the place that is being explored.

"It's pretty immersive in some cases," Oetting said. "You get the sense that you're there."

Oetting said he is enjoying virtual travel as a substitute for the real thing. He recently found a virtual tour of Ireland that was particularly well done. Another allowed him to explore Greenland via boat, with breathtaking views of the area's glaciers.

"That was pretty spectacular," he said.

One of his favorite virtual tours took him back to an actual trip he took along the Amalfi Coast. Created by a man riding a scooter, the virtual version of the trip offered an unobstructed view.

"It pretty much felt like it did when we were driving from Sorrento to Positano," Oetting said.

Attendees of the virtual travel talk will spend about an hour via Zoom learning where to find the best online tours, he said. Following the presentation, there will be time for questions and opportunities to share virtual travel experiences.

"Hopefully, this will scratch a little bit of the itch," Oetting said.

The travel club is just the latest library program to be offered online. Oetting said the library has led virtual game nights, trivia games, book talks and cooking demonstrations over the last few months.

"We're trying to be as available with our programming as we can be, knowing that people can't gather like they used to," he said.

And while the Voyager's Travel Discussion Club won't be quite the same this time, Oetting said he hopes the virtual version continues to fulfill its purpose - to provide a place for people to come and talk about their travels and to learn about new places they will one day explore.

The virtual exploration of virtual travel will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5. Visit to register.

- by Sandy Illian Bosch

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean