What do sinks and virtual travel have in common? Hear us out...

Pattern of laptop computers, mouse cursors and geometric shapes.
(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning. As would-be travelers continue to follow California’s stay-at-home order, I thought I’d try something new: an Escapes newsletter with nothing but virtual travel recommendations.

Though virtual travel will never replace visiting a new place and soaking in its sights, sounds and smells, venturing the world with your smartphone or laptop does allow you to explore some remote destinations. In this edition, you’ll find a website that will let you ride across Mars’ surface, as well as one that takes you on a bizarre tour of New York City by smartphone. Let me know if you have a favorite virtual travel experience — I’ll make it a point to feature it in a future edition.

🐒 Interact with experts on this virtual safari

Calling all animal lovers: You can embark on two live safaris in South Africa every day with WILDwatch Live. For a sneak peak of what you may see in the livestream, look at this adorable highlight reel of young lions, elephants and other wildlife.

Catch the three-hour-long drives at 5-8:30 a.m. and 7:30-11 p.m. Pacific time. If you have questions about the animals you see, WILDwatch Live encourages you to ask on YouTube or by using #wildearth on Twitter.

Scenes from WILDwatch Live: safari host driving and zebras grazing
WILDwatch Live can bring interactive safaris to your screen every day.
(Screengrabs from WILDwatch’s YouTube channel; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

🗺️ Need a soothing place to hang out?

Unify Cosmos has created a website that brings listeners “the most relaxing sounds in the world.” By scrolling around a virtual wheel on the site, you can visit tranquil destinations such as the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, Kanha National Park in India and Mermaid Beach in Australia.


A personal favorite? The village of Dent in Cumbria, England, where chirping birds and the ambient sounds of a country town convey a cheerful atmosphere. Hat tip to Livia Gershon, writing in Smithsonian, where I first learned about this website.

Screengrabs from that include photos from cities around the world.
Unify Cosmos helps bring scenes throughout the world to your ears.
(Screengrabs from; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

👨‍🚀 Explore the surface of Mars

Wonder what it would be like to drive on Mars? With Access Mars, you can gaze over the planet’s vast, dusty horizon as recorded by NASA’s Curiosity rover.

The virtual experience begins with a flashback to 2011, when the rover was launched. Once you “arrive” on the red planet, you can explore Pahrump Hills, Murray Buttes and other Martian destinations. Along the way, clickable icons provide information about the mission and terrain.

Illustration of rover traveling around Mars.
Use Access Mars to take a stroll around the Red Planet with NASA’s rover.
(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

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💧 Travel New York City by sink

I dare you to not get washed away by this TikTok account dedicated to reviewing sinks in New York. Sinkreviews takes its job of providing comprehensive and fair evaluation of sinks seriously, which is part of the account’s charm.


A sink that “casts a dauntless and debonair countenance” to anyone who encounters it? You can find it at Frenchette, a restaurant in Manhattan. Wondering where you can find “the epitome of municipal sink design”? Why, look no farther than the restrooms in Greeley Square Park. A big thank you to Jade Cuevas, our designer, for this find.

Various sinks highlighted in SinkReviews TikTok account.
Bounce through New York City on a sink-specific tour.
(Screengrabs from @sinkreviews TikTok; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I’m reading

  • Have to cancel or delay a trip? Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds and assistant travel editor Mary Forgione explain what the change-and-cancellation landscape looks like in California.
  • Here are seven things you should know about travel insurance, broken down by former Times travel editor Catharine Hamm.
  • The slopes are open at Mammoth Mountain, Lake Tahoe and other California ski resorts, but lodging is a different story. Reynolds explains the ban on overnight stays in Southern California and the Eastern Sierra.
  • Uphill skiing is not an oxymoron, writes Times contributor Brian E. Clark. He reports that the activity has grown in popularity among those who want to avoid ski lifts during the pandemic.
  • Mt. Everest is even taller than you thought. Associated Press reports that China and Nepal have announced a new official height for the mountain.
  • Need a last-minute gift for someone who loves the outdoors? The Times travel staff has recommendations for you.
Members of a Chinese surveying team head for the summit of Mt. Everest.
China and Nepal jointly announced a new height for Mt. Everest, ending a discrepancy between the two nations.
(Associated Press)

🎸 Road song

At the end of the recently released video for “Easy” by Troye Sivan and Kacey Musgraves, we get a shot of the two singers driving their pickup truck into a soft dawn after a night on the town in Nashville.

The beauty of this scene is enough for me to categorize “Easy” as an ideal road song. Until next week.

Photo of a stretch of road as the sun rises. The word "Easy" is repeated on top of the image.
Take things easy this week with Troye Sivan and Kacey Musgraves’ new music video for their song “Easy.”
(Jeremy Thomas / Unsplash; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)