TRAVEL NEWS

The 9 Weirdest, Most Disturbing, or Just Plain Confusing Virtual Tours

Oh, I can tour THAT? Wait, why?

We’ve been going on virtual tours of museums for months now. We’ve walked around gorgeous Parisian gardens, watched animals in their little habitats, and even stared at aquariums full of kelp. It was fun for a while, but perhaps at this time, we need a change. Enter these virtual tours, all of which will make you go, “Do I want to go there?” Which will probably be followed by an unimaginably long sigh and saying to yourself, “Fine. Yeah, show it to me. Show me literally just grass growing in a yard.” Here are nine of the weirdest virtual tours you can take right now from your home–and when you learn of their existence, it will certainly leave you asking, “Wait, there’s a virtual tour of that? Really? Why?”

Where Can You Travel? What’s Open? What’s Closed? Here’s the Current Status for All 50 States

The states are starting to reopen. But is it wise to venture out?

[Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an article that originally ran on May 19.] Disclaimer: This is meant to be a general overview of how each state is reopening. It is not intended to provide every last detail regarding guidelines and restrictions; please refer to the government website of each state for specifics. In addition, please remember that even if a state has been given the green light for a category of businesses to reopen, individual businesses may choose to remain closed. As such, please be sure to contact each business or site before visiting to ensure that it is open. As the United States begins to relax its shelter-in-place orders and some emerge from their homes, many are counting the days when we can get back out there and travel, even if it’s by car to a neighboring community or state. But as we know, a very different landscape awaits out there than the one we left earlier this winter at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. There are things travelers must consider that we never did before, including social distancing and personal sanitization. The big question is: Is it safe to travel in the United States? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is pretty clear in its stance. It’s recommended that you stay home as much as possible, especially if your trip is not essential. Social distancing still needs to be practiced, especially if you are in a higher risk category or an older adult. You shouldn’t travel if you feel sick, or travel with someone who is sick. And you need to protect yourself and others by knowing how to prevent the virus from spreading.  Perhaps the most hopeful advice comes from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. According to him, summer travel “can be in the cards.” He urges caution, since we risk COVID-19 spreading rapidly if proper precautions are not taken. “When infections start to rear their heads again,” he says, “we have to put in place a very aggressive and effective way to identify, isolate, contact trace, and make sure we don’t have those spikes we have now.” As long as we’re aware that “getting back to normal is not like a light switch that you turn on and off,” he says, we should be able to get back to some sort of normalcy. So the answer is: We’re not quite there yet. The best thing to do is pay attention to the several-phase reopening plans that each state has developed, outlining when hotels, restaurants, retail businesses, outdoor areas, etc., should be open for business and what precautions they must take. Some states are freer than others—and that’s something to consider. Do you really want to be on a beach where social distancing guidelines aren’t being maintained? It’s a whole new world that we’ll be navigating, literally. The guidelines are fast-changing and it’s hard to keep up, but here’s where they stand today, state by state.

PHOTOS: A Centuries-Old Craft Is Under Threat by COVID-19

A look at the artisans behind a rich cultural heritage and a coveted international good.

The textile craft of Kashmir, the disputed region that hugs India and Pakistan, is woven deep into the valley’s cultural heritage–a rich legacy of tapestry that was imported from Persia in the latter half of the 15th century. Over the centuries, Kashmir carpets and shawls have borne testimonies of extraordinary artistry, with their meticulous geometric and calligraphic designs. The beauty lies in the detailed needlework, a skill handed down by generations of weavers. The art flourished during the Mughal period that lasted into the 18th century. The tradition continued even during the troubles that followed under the rule of the Afghans and Sikhs. The British arrived in the early part of the 19th century and commercialized the woven products. And soon Kashmiri carpets and shawls became known across the globe. But sadly, this art is dying a slow death. Problems began in 1989 when the valley was embroiled with insurgency operations, and a long-drawn-out conflict between the Indian armed forces and militant outfits has continued ever since, with brief interludes of peace. As a result, many artisans fled from the valley. The industry has been plagued with other social and economic problems: the cost of quality wool has become prohibitively expensive, the market is flooded with counterfeit products churned out of power looms, and the younger generation of the valley has been generally uninterested in pursuing a career in weaving due to its low pay. Despite all of this, Kashmir exported roughly $125 million worth of handicrafts since 2019. But the pandemic has once again jeopardized the future of this ancient craft. In an effort to boost spending, state-run councils have been assisting local artisans with participation in virtual fairs and trade shows.