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The Benefits of Virtual Tours for Those with Chronic Illnesses

Quote in pink background from Natalie virtual tour guide explaining how people have benefited from virtual tours

This article explores how attending guided virtual tours can provide joy to those with chronic illnesses. 

A guided virtual tour is a live online experience where a guide showcases a specific location, offers information, and encourages real-time interaction and questions from participants. Tours By Local (2023) states that when you are unable to embark on a physical journey but still desire to explore and establish a connection with a novel location, virtual guided tours present an ideal alternative.

I interviewed two fellow chronic illness patients who regularly attend online tours. Luisa lives in Manchester and has several chronic illnesses. She is rarely able to leave the house because of these and had to retire from her 18-year NHS career as a mental health professional. Sarah lives in Scotland and suffers from multiple chronic illnesses. She works part-time as a dental nurse on the NHS helpline.

Additionally, I interviewed two fantastic virtual tour guides. Kendal James’s tours are mostly based in Japan. She is a freelance creative individual who currently teaches English in Japan. Kendal enjoys running in-person events, hosting art exhibitions, and saying “yes” to opportunities to learn and grow. Natalie Kerrio’s tours are mostly based in London with a focus on dark history. She is a natural and spontaneous storyteller.

Screen shot from a virtual tour that i viewed - I'm a person with chronic illness.
Screenshot from a beautiful virtual tour

The questions were based on how virtual guided tours can provide joy to those with chronic illnesses.

So, how do these tours provide joy to those with chronic illnesses? 

Chronic illnesses can cause people to become housebound due to various reasons. For instance, people with chronic illnesses may experience physical limitations that make it difficult or impossible to leave their homes. According to Versus Arthritis (2021), individuals experiencing chronic pain are 20 times more likely to report permanent inability to work due to long-term sickness or disability. This can lead to isolation and depression. I was initially introduced to these tours two years ago, and I am immensely thankful to my friend for the introduction. Due to my limited mobility and high levels of pain, I spend most of my time at home. However, I still have an insatiable curiosity to explore and experience the world.

Luisa explained “Before my conditions worsened and I was stuck at home I used to love to travel in person, exploring European cities, outdoor spaces, and art galleries. Online travel has given me ways to continue this, and I have also ‘been to’ places I never would have visited in person. The tours have brought joy to my life in many ways – seeing beautiful sights and places, having events to take part in my diary, having a sense of the world beyond my 4 walls or one room.” 

Sarah states “I feel the virtual tours have been a great distraction to me. I am still in pain and fatigued but I find them so interesting. It’s great to be able to 'travel' to different places, experience new things, and meet new people even when I can't get out of bed.”

Kendal explains that “viewers would often contact me saying that they were grateful for the opportunity to connect with others. They would tell me that they have conditions that prevent them from going outside often or at all and that the virtual tours gave them more than they could even put into words.”

Nathalie states that “viewers have commented on how virtual tours have brightened their days. It is fabulous to be able to bring a little joy. every viewer is different some come to learn, some come to be entertained, some come because they can travel and will one day visit that location, and some come because physical travel is not an option for them either due to mobility issues or financial ones... And of course, lots also come to find a community and an online social life.”

Virtual Tour Birthday Party Photos - I'm a person with chronic illnesses
My Virtual Tour Birthday Party Photos

Best Experiences So Far

Social media plays a significant role in connecting people with chronic illnesses. However, it can sometimes become a gloomy place. While we enjoy seeing our friends embark on fantastic adventures, it can also evoke feelings of jealousy when we are unable to do the same or not as frequently. Nevertheless, attending virtual tours allows us to capture the experience by taking screenshots, similar to taking photographs at the location. Sharing these screenshots on social media, along with an explanation that it’s a virtual tour, often leads to engaging conversations with friends. It’s heartwarming to receive their responses and interactions.

Here’s an example:

Sarah and Luisa share their best experiences so far. Luisa explains that “My favourite trips have been the Dutch flower parades and the Dem Bosch surrealist art river parade which is run every 2 years. That was one of the best events I ever attended, online or in real life.”

Sarah also explains “There have been sleepless nights where I've been on a journey through the Canadian Rockies in the snow and seen Eagles. Impossibly long days where I've been to the Miracle Garden in Dubai in the morning and a history walk around London or Edinburgh in the evening all from my own bed or sofa.”

Screen shot from a virtual tour that i viewed - I'm a person with chronic illness.
Screenshot of fantastic Virtual Tour

The Challenges Chronic Illnesses Patients Face in Relation to the Tours 

Heygo, a website that used to be a platform for all virtual tours, has unfortunately closed. As a result, tour guides are now broadcasting their tours on various channels such as YouTube and Facebook Live. It can be difficult to keep track of all the tours on different channels and groups, especially when you want to catch them live. However, there are ways to make it easier. On YouTube, make sure to subscribe to the guides’ channels and hit the notification bell to receive reminders about upcoming tours. You can also set reminders when you confirm your attendance at Facebook events. The best way I have found is to add the tours to my Google Calendar (or whichever provider you use) with a reminder set for the day before.

The Challenges Guides Face and How We Can Help 

Kendal explains “My biggest challenge is managing the time it takes to imagine, prepare, invite, research, and run the tours without it being my primary job. Other challenges I have are if I don't have many bookings or many turn up to the live evening - it's disheartening.”

Nathalie reports “The biggest challenge is the signal. I am in London, one of the most modern capitals in the world yet signal is a struggle. It can be very disheartening when you spend days preparing a live tour and then the gods of the internet are not with you and it all goes to waste”

As you can see, there is a lot of work that goes into the tours, and the guides receive no pay apart from tips. I understand that many of us live on low incomes in this community, but if we want these wonderful tours to continue, there are ways we can help. Here are some ways to support the guides:

Interact with their social media posts by commenting, liking, and sharing their posts. This will boost their visibility in the algorithm.

Share a positive review with a link to their social media page(s).

If you have taken screenshots during the tour, post them on your social media account and make sure to tag the guide.

Like and comment on their YouTube videos.

When possible, tip the guide via the various methods available.

In Conclusion 

Virtual live guided tours offer numerous benefits for chronic illness patients, particularly those who face difficulties in leaving their homes. These tours serve as a valuable tool for distraction, improving mood, and expanding the isolated world of individuals with chronic illnesses. While there are challenges on both sides, primarily for the guide, we can contribute to the continued success of this remarkable institution by implementing the suggested tips.

Big Thank You

Thank you very much to Luisa and Sarah for participating in the interview. Your help is greatly appreciated. 

Thank you so much to Kendal James and Nathalie Kerrio for your wonderful tours and for participating in this interview. Please follow/subscribe to Kendal's social media pages via 

Please follow/subscribe to Nathalie's social media pages - 


Versus Arthritis. (2021). Chronic pain in England: Unseen, unequal, unfair. Retrieved from

Tours by Local (2023) Live Virtual Tours. Retrieved from

Wishing you all the best,

Catrina xx

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