Take a vacation at your desk with a destination Webcam

Sunday, January 20, 2008
Take a vacation at your desk with webcams around the world. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Ever been to Africa? How about submerged in the four-story aquarium in Boston? Push aside those credit card receipts and holiday bills that have piled up on your desk, and take a vacation.

Thanks to the Internet, you don't have to wait until summer to take a quick trip. A visit with one of the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo or surfing the North Shore of Hawaii are only a click away with a webcam vacation.

Webcams -- Web cameras -- got a bad rap in their early days and still pose a few privacy issues, but these are professional and perfect for a quick, easy mind vacation. Apple just released a new version of the Slothcam widget, a fully customizable webcam for a Mac dashboard.

More than a million webcams are offering images in real-time across the Internet, ranging from the not-so-interesting (a pug sleeping on a couch) to destinations like Iceland. Some are live streaming video 24-7, while others refresh the image every few seconds or longer.

Still, regardless of how "live" these images are, webcams are showing the world to the world, said Brian Curry, founder and chief executive officer of EarthCam, a leader in providing webcam content, technology and software.

Therapists tout taking vacation as a way to recover from work, but there is no law saying that should be restricted to one week a year. A few minutes a day to decompress is helpful too, said Dr. Debra Rau, a psychologist with Heartland Center for Professional Counseling.

"I think we don't do enough of that kind of putting our brain in neutral where we just kind of relax," she said.

In this day and age of multitasking and multiple hours sitting at the same desk, staring at the same computer with the same information on it, checking in on baby panda Su Lin in San Diego for a few minutes to let your mind rest is healthy.

"My theory would be ... anytime is better than none and a lot of us do absolutely none," Rau said.

A desk vacation isn't the only option. Rau said getting up and walking outside for a few minutes is also a nice getaway.

Associated Press writer Megan K. Scott contributed to this report.


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