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Second Life offers virtual travel around the world

17 May, 2007

Here is a very special kind of global travel that requires no tickets, no money. And, while ‘traveling,’ you can stay put where you are!

The time taken for the trip would be usually less than two hours.

This is the virtual travel of ‘Second Life,’ which would appeal to ‘travelers’ willing who prefer the Internet to find a temporary escape from the drudgery of the real world.

According to the Associated Press, aspiring ‘virtual travelers’ need only download a free program and then log in. With the help of elaborate 3-D locales, tourists can watch their online embodiments – known as their avatars – lounge at the beach, dine at restaurants, or dancing at a crowded nightclub.

And, like in the real world, it is easy to get lost. Long-time inhabitants of ‘Second Life’ are creating automated tours, opening virtual travel agencies and even publishing travel guidebooks.

The Unofficial Tourists Guide to Second Life was published in April 2007 by St Martin's Press. It contains sections on how to fly and how to hover and it is very much like going to a foreign country, says the tourist guide’s co-writer Paul Carr.

‘Second Life’ lets one fly and even teleport from place to place. It hosted over 1 million visitors in April 2007.

Even as they travel to virtual Roman neighborhoods and fantastical worlds, says the Associated Press report, visitors can interact with other participants from all over the world – that is, real world. About a quarter of the users are from the United States; the rest are mostly from Europe, Brazil, Canada, Japan and Australia.

In ‘Second Life,’ language is not a problem. Visitors can pick up a free translation program and carry on typed conversations with others speaking any of nine languages.

There is an option for guided tour. Virtual travel agency Synthravels is ‘matching’ virtual tourists and volunteer guides in 27 different online worlds, including ‘Second Life,’ ‘World of Warcraft’ and others.

However, the guided tour in ‘Second Life’ has its inherent difficulties: with both the leader and the led under their own power, it is easy to get separated.

Also, ‘Second Life’ locations tend to get especially crowded when it is evening in the United States or Europe, and the resulting computer lag-time can make navigating cumbersome.

Finding a guide itself can be a challenge. The Synthravels website has connected guides and tourists over 200 times, but for the time being it does not charge visitors or pay guides.

There are a few people in ‘Second Life’ who will offer a tour in exchange for a few Linden dollars, says Paul Carr, referring to the world’s currency, which can be bought and sold for real-world cash.

Those having a hard time securing a personal tour can turn to a number of automated options. Many site creators post vehicles near arrival points and programme them to give visitors a tour of the location.

By heading to The Guided Tour Company of Second Life, where automated tour vehicles ranging from hang-gliders to flying carpets are sold, avatars can access a programmed tour.

By clicking on the free guide, users can teleport to Icarus, where a giant dragonfly carries them to a romantic dance floor surrounded by twinkling stars. Clicking again brings them to Venice Island, where a gondola takes them to an old church adorned with Renaissance paintings and an ornate, carved pulpit.

Another click leads to Cocoloco Island Resort, where a white hot-air balloon takes them around what looks surprisingly like a Caribbean resort – with beach chairs, thatch cabanas, and a pool. A few mouse clicks allows visitors to float on their backs for hours.

Visitors can even take a few photographs or home videos of their virtual trip.




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