How Outdoor Adventuring Prepared Us for a Quarantine

How Outdoor Adventuring Prepared Us for a Quarantine

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that much of the world has recently been under various degrees of stay-at-home orders, lock-downs, and quarantines.

The major disruption in our area has lasted about 6-8 weeks (so far). While this is far from ideal and not nearly as fun as being on a 6-week-long outdoor adventure, I’m pleased to report that our many years of backpacking, trail running, skiing, etc. in the great outdoors has left us better prepared for this than one might expect.

Here’s why:

We can wipe with almost anything.

Toilet paper hoarders, watch and learn!

Well, don’t watch. But in case you were unaware of this, you don’t need TP to use the bathroom. You don’t even need a bathroom. You can dig a hole (which needs to be a certain depth and certain distance from water sources – don’t be an idiot about it) and you can wipe with leaves, rocks, or even snow.

The absence of Charmin Ultra is not an insurmountable problem.

Meals can be whatever we have available.

When you’ve been on a trail for almost a week and you’re down to peanuts and dried apples because mice got into your last freeze-dried meal, that’s what you eat. When you get food poisoning 2 nights into a 4-day trip and you literally can’t stomach anything else, you learn that your body can do a lot on a few packages of Stinger gummies.

No one really needs take-out meals or drive-through lattes, even though the lobbyists and lawyers for said services did a bang-up job convincing everyone they are “essential.”

We can all make do with whatever we have at home and whatever has not been cleaned out at the grocery store during our infrequent shopping trips. We are still eating better than any king ever did just a few generations ago.

We already know that mainstream media is a public menace.

News and social media fall into this category. Come to think of it, most of what’s on the internet probably falls into this category.

I’m sure you’ve realized during this crisis how much conflicting information, bad advice, negative news, and general fear-mongering you’ve been exposed to online. If you’re smart, you realized early on how terrible that is for your mental health and curtailed it as much as you could.

Any reasonably competent outdoor adventurer knows how to go for days without looking at anything on the internet, and we don’t miss it at all when we’re off the grid.

We know our physical and mental limits (mostly).

If you’ve done any significant adventuring yourself, you’ve already spent plenty of time pushing through pain and distress. You’ve been lost in the middle of no where. You’ve been ill or injured far away from help. You may have even lost a fellow adventurer (and if you haven’t, you know someone who has).

Don’t take this as me minimizing anyone’s current suffering. This crisis is a nasty one, on many levels, and different from many things we’ve navigated before.

I’m also not saying self-awareness is a badge you can get after a certain amount of outdoor expertise. It’s a lifelong effort. But $%^& gets real faster and more often in the wild outdoors than it does in our normal cushy climate-controlled life.

Weathering any crisis requires a lot of the same skills that intense wilderness experiences do, not the least of which is self-awareness about your own limits. If you know your own limits, you know when to abandon a plan – even if it means a blow to your pride – and look for alternatives. More importantly, you know when to ask for help.

We’re okay with risk tolerance being different for different people.

This concept is clearly rubbing people the wrong way right now, but yes, I’m going there. Skip down to the next section if you can’t handle it.

As a society we seemed to have decided that it is totally fine to endanger others by not vaccinating, by allowing bad drivers on the roads, by legalizing dangerous drugs, and by allowing and even celebrating the over-use of alcohol… and yet all of a sudden it became the pinnacle of evil to go for a run with a friend or to want to be gainfully employed outside the home.

Then the “stay home” thing lost steam and the “you’re a monster if you’re not wearing a mask” thing took its place.

If you dare question the new group think mantra (whichever one we happen to be on today) and all the related hashtag zeal, you are “part of the problem” and/or you “want to watch people die.”

Perhaps I should start internet-shaming all the strangers I can find who have ever taken a big risk in the wilderness and gotten in over their heads?

(And before you react with “They’re only putting themselves in danger, not other people,” please know this is not a given by any means – there have been plenty of ill-equipped adventurers who have taken others out with them, sometimes including the pro rescue teams sent in after them.)

Obviously there need to be some rules in place in a functional civilization, but we have to be okay with the fact that not everyone has the same risk tolerance. All of us take risks that can hurt other people. . . and we have to be able to discuss that without losing our ish.

We are easily entertained.

On a more positive note that we can probably all agree on: if you spend enough time outside, you will start to appreciate the truly simple joys in life.

I’m not talking about reading a book, baking cookies, or a game with your loved ones (although those things are lots of fun).

I’m talking about the really simple gifts we were given long before the first novel or cookbook or board game came along. Like being able to watch the clouds go by, to stare at snow falling, and to appreciate how amazing wildflowers are up close.

We know the world goes on.

Some adventures are wonderful. Some are disastrous. And the sun keeps rising and setting regardless of how much fun we’re having.

Right now a lot of us are feeling stuck. Not going to school. Not working. Not traveling. Not seeing people we love. Maybe even not feeling good as we battle illness, anxiety, grief, and loss. And yet the earth keeps spinning and seasons keep changing and now we’re well into springtime.

If I can give you one piece of advice in this admittedly crappy situation we find ourselves in, it’s to enjoy spring. Get your butt off the couch (I’m saying this to myself too, by the way, pretty much daily) and get outside and exercise. Walk, run, or bike somewhere beautiful if you can. If you need to stay close to home, do that yard work you’ve been meaning to do and see how much good it does your body and mind.

If you can’t or don’t want to leave your house for whatever reason (and that’s okay), plant something inside and watch it grow. Get up early and watch the sky change during sunrise. Stay up late and watch the stars move across the sky.

And keep moving forward. Summer is just around the corner.

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