Social distancing – it’s here, and it’s weird, especially if, like me, what makes you happiest is being in open spaces, among tall mountains or jumping into the sea. But there are plenty of ways that lovers of the great outdoors can make the next few months bearable – even enjoyable. My self isolating guide for adventurers is here – try some of my nine uplifting ways to stay sane, stay healthy and make this time in which we and the earth are having a breather both positive and proactive.
My self isolating guide for outdoor and adventure lovers
GET OUTSIDE (SAFELY)
First of all, the best news for lovers of fresh air and wild spaces – unless you’re unwell and are self isolating, the current government advice is that you can still go outside, as long as you stay two metres away from other people. Like many of us I’m now working at home and not socialising, but I’m planning to spend plenty of time in the great outdoors while I can. It’s best to avoid using public transport, but if you have a car you can easily head off into the hills – choose remote areas to ramble in, and if you’re planning to camp, aim to wild camp away from other people. It’s best to avoid extreme or high-risk sports where an accident could lead to strain on health services – stick to known trails, hiking and other simple adventures. The Great Outdoors Magazine has a good guide to hiking and adventuring safely during the coronavirus outbreak. If you need to stay close to home, you could visit a National Trust park or garden (the charity has now made them all free to enter), look for your closest wild swimming spot or just get creative and plan new running routes around your city’s green spaces.
Get active. As much as you possibly can. Exercising daily is the simplest and most effective way I know to keep healthy and combat the (totally sensible) anxiety you may be feeling over recent news. The UK government social distancing and self isolating guide agrees that keeping active is key to both our mental and physical health during to these tough few months. If you’re working from home, why not start the day with a run, a walk around your local park or an outdoor swim? If you can’t venture out of doors, how about an online exercise class? I’m moving my yoga practise indoors, and one of my favourite yoga studios, Bristol’s Trika Yoga, is now offering live streaming of their classes, and I have always loved Yoga with Adriene‘s free videos on YouTube. Or use this time to try something new. Some lidos and indoor swimming pools may be closed, but you could still seek out your local swimming lake and work on your outdoor swimming stamina, adding on lengths each day. Or get focused on running fitness – I’m trying to up my regular run from a 10k to a 20k during the next few months – setting myself a solid exercise goal is a rewarding way to see the time passing as constructive rather than restrictive.
FIX UP YOUR OUTDOOR KIT
Ok, so none of us are off on many adventures at the moment – so why not use this time to give all of your outdoor kit and clothing a good spring clean? Stick your tent up in the garden and check for broken poles. Re-waterproof jackets and trousers with a waterproofing treatment such as Nikwax. Sew up any holes or tears in clothing. Give your bike the wash and tuning of its life (and teach yourself some bike skills at the same time. Buff your leather hiking boots to keep them supple.
If any of your outdoor kit is truly knackered and needs replacing, consider buying a new version of it now from your favourite outdoor brand or indie shop (if you can afford to) – outdoor retailers will need all the help they can get in the next few months. If you’re refreshing your kit wardrobe, my reviews of the best hiking boots, waterproofs and backpacks for The Independent are a good place to start for recommendations.
START AN ADVENTURE DIARY
Top of my list of ‘Things I Wish I Had Time For’ in life is keeping my diary up to date. As often as I can, I write up my travels and adventures (and these can be big or small, from far-flung exploring to happy times hiking with friends), and it’s easy to get behind when I’m busy with work. Looking back on my adventure diaries, which I’ve kept on and off since I was around 14, is a real joy. If you want to get fancy and start a brand new notebook, buy a Moleskine notebook, which are lovely to write in, and put down your favourite trips and explorations from the past few years. You’ll thank me when you read it back as a granny.
MAKE THE ULTIMATE ADVENTURE READING LIST
Have fun making, and then ticking off, your ultimate reading list of books full of adventure and derring do, from wild women cycling the world solo to stories of attempts on Everest. Get started by populating your reading list with my favourite (and my readers’ favourite) travel and outdoor books, then add all the must-reads you’ve been meaning to get through and see how many you can tick off over the next few months. Escapism to the rescue!
PERFECT AN ACTIVE SKILL
Remember that awesome bushcraft fire trick you always wanted to master? Or how you’ve always fancied having the time to learn to do a headstand, or to tie complicated climbing knots? Hello, free time! I know we all feel tempted to hide under a duvet and fall into a Netflix hole right now (and I have nothing against Netflix marathons – bring on Friends for the 100th time) but there’s a big plus to all this time stretching in front of us – how about dedicating a bit of each day to mastering a new skill? The internet is a treasure trove of people who are kind enough to teach you this stuff for free. Beast Skills is great if you fancy mastering a push-up, pull-up or (my holy grail) a handstand. YouTube is your friend for foraging and bushcraft tutorials, and Pinterest links to any pretty much craft you’ve ever fancied learning. Don’t forget the library – they can be home to volumes on everything from mountaineering techniques to the art of changing a bike tyre.
CREATE A GARDEN
It doesn’t matter if you have an acre plot or a tiny windowsill, if where you live has sunlight, you can grow a garden of some shape or size. A neglected back yard is the perfect project for right now, and spring is the time to get sowing. You could grow your first veggie patch, plant a tree or just scatter spring bulbs (bright flowers are guaranteed to cheer you up). Small patio or growing indoors? Herbs are wonderfully rewarding – I find Mediterranean herbs easy to grow and hard to kill, and you’ll instantly have garnishes for all the amazing meals you’re whipping now you’re staying home. Not sure if you have green fingers? The Royal Horticultural Society website and their book, How to Garden when you’re new to Gardening, are great places to start.
START A TRAVEL BLOG
I often get asked how to get started as a travel or outdoor blogger, and in fact, I’ll be using the next few months to write a proper downloadable guide to starting your own travel and outdoors blog for your reading pleasure. If you’ve always fancied your own corner of the internet dedicated to adventure (or even blogging as a side hustle or career), now is a great time to get started. Here’s what I tell would-be bloggers: Get a WordPress account, set your new blog to private and Just. Get. Writing. Write about what you truly love, where that’s bouldering, winter swimming, solo travelling – it doesn’t matter, just start writing and write regularly, and you’ll improve fast. Create a collection of ten or fifteen blog posts that you’re really proud of, coupled with your very best photos. Then you can unveil them to the world when we emerge blinking into the light in a few months.
DO A BEACH CLEAN
Itching to get outdoors and do something positive but not sure what? If you aren’t too far from the ocean (or a river bank. Or indeed, a city park), a beach cleaning walk is an amazing way to get some fresh air without being too close to other people, and to do something nice for the community at the same time. And it’s free! Wear good gloves such as gardening gloves and take a tough refuse sack for all the bits and bobs you pick up. Find out more on beach cleaning and how to get started with Surfers Against Sewage’s beach clean guide.
Stay safe, fellow lovers of the wild, and I’ll see you on the other side (successfully doing a handstand).