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5 free virtual getaways to help you cure cabin fever during the coronavirus outbreak

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The coronavirus pandemic has led to widespread quarantines and left many people isolated. Many employees are being ordered to work from home, many schools are closed, and public gathering spaces like restaurants and movie theaters are shuttered. Many travelers have been forced to cancel upcoming trips

If you're feeling restless or in need of connecting with the world beyond our borders, consider taking a virtual escape. 

"We're living in a day and age where much of our 'culture' and opportunities for socializing exist online," says Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, a psychologist and the clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching. "Now is the time to be using all the technology available to you to maintain your social connections."

Technology allows you to see the world from the comfort of your home, and for free. If you have an internet connection and a device, you can transport yourself to places around the globe. And it can be good for you: Taking mental breaks can make you more productive and less stressed.

Here are five types of virtual escapes, depending on your interests. 

1. History and culture

From virtual walking tours to online galleries, you can appreciate many museum exhibitions and art galleries from your couch.

Immerse yourself in a different culture or time period with no-cost tours. View masterpieces like Vincent Van Gogh's self-portrait in the online galleries from the Musée d' Orsay in Paris. The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., features historic portraits of presidents and first ladies online. 

For history buffs, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History features 3D walking tours of the hall of fossils and an Egyptian mummy exhibit. Or use Google Street View to hit the sidewalks of Paris and view the iconic architecture of the Gare de Lyon and experience views from the Eiffel Tower.

2. Animals

Many zoos offer free live feeds that allow the public to view animal habitats online. 

The Houston Zoo lets you peek in on their elephant yard from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST. At the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., the giant panda and lion cams are live 24 hours a day. 

If you're into aquatic animals, you can view the African penguins and polar bears via the San Diego Zoo's live feeds. 

Giant panda Bei Bei eats bamboo at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., on November 14, 2019.
Jim Watson/AFP | Getty Images

3. Outdoor adventure

International travel might be off the table right now, but Google maps, virtual realty, and YouTube videos can transport you to awe-inspiring places around the world. Thrill-seekers can take a bird's eye view of a South African safari with a tour of Kruger National Park, for example.

It's free to use Google maps, but some locations are better viewed with a virtual reality (VR) headset, which can run you anywhere from $8 to $200.

4. Theme parks and attractions

You can visit major theme parks using 360-degree imaging and YouTube videos. Thanks to video recordings uploaded to YouTube by theme park superfans, for example, you can sit in on rides like Jurassic World at Universal Studios Hollywood.

If you're looking for a family-friendly experience, use Google's free Street View to take a stroll through famous Disney attractions like the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and the Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. 

5. The natural world

If you're yearning to connect with nature, consider taking a virtual tour of a national park. Yellowstone offers virtual tours of some of their mud baths, geysers, and hot springs. Some are even in 3D. 

Or, if you want to create an outdoorsy feel while, say, roasting marshmallows over your stove top, ambient soundscapes can transport you to another location and help you relax. You can meditate with a six-hour campfire recording from Norway. Or escape to a tropical beach with an eight-hour-long recording from Sunrise Beach in Koh Lipe, Thailand.

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