I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the time that I’ve spent in Europe. In 2017, I was in Spain, living with a Spanish family and doing a little writing. Last year, I hung out in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

COVID-19 has ruined many things, including overseas travel. To be clear, we should not be traveling at all at this time, but it is still sad to me that a lot of people have had to cancel or postpone once-in-a-lifetime trips due to the coronavirus and the ensuing travel bans.

This got me wondering how I would’ve coped had one of my adventures been compromised by this mess. Truthfully, I would’ve been devastated. You sink a lot of mental preparation into taking a large-scale trip, so to have seen that taken away would have left a huge feeling of unfulfilled excitement and thought.

Movies, though, particularly of the foreign variety, are one of the most accessible and enjoyable ways to learn about a culture. Nothing can top actually being somewhere, but catching a glimpse of what you had in mind is a step in the right direction.

If I was planning to go to Spain this year and it got canceled, I would want all of the Pedro Almodóvar I could handle. If I was missing out on Germany, Fritz Lang would be my best friend this summer.

Part of the point here is that the world today is too connected to be uncultured. Again, it’ll be very disappointing when your trip doesn’t happen, but the process of learning more about another place is still achievable. Films from all over the globe are more readily available than ever at this moment, so take some time to look over the filmographies of the foreign masters.

On top of all this, try to remember what made you want to take the trip in the first place. If it was just a general vacation trip, then you may not have to look to hard to find something that applies to what your experience abroad may have been like. If you were going for a specific purpose, say for academic purposes, perhaps you’d like to look into finding documentaries that fit your research.

And hey, even if you weren’t due for a vacation this year, you should still be looking into foreign films at this time. COVID-19 is a unique crisis in that it has attacked the world at large. Sometimes tragedies are confined to certain borders, but this one really resists discrimination.

In other words, we are connected as a world more than we usually would be. Empathy for our friends across the oceans goes a long way in the healing process. And again, lessons learned from movies made by people who are of other cultures may reveal a similarity or difference that you may not have guessed about someone from another country.

If there was ever a time to get excited about foreign filmmaking, this is the time. Whether it is used to fill a gap in your heart or your mind, a new perspective is often a helpful tool when trying to become a more well-rounded and pleasant person. In a crisis, those are the people who distinguish themselves. A few subtitles are the only thing standing in your way.