Disclaimer: This was originally published (17 December 2020) in my workplace via its “Let’s Weekend series” with a title “Exploring the Great Outdoors” and it only comprised 497 words. This one here is the complete version, with almost 3,000 words.
Traveling, let alone going outside, these days is a challenge because it entails exposing ourselves to the possibility of catching it. This, without a doubt, has been keeping people from leaving and giving up the familiar comfort that is the room. Consequently, having a weekend inside the cubbyhole has been the trend since March 2020. Thank goodness for the growing number of people getting vaccinated as we speak. The herd immunity is already looming over the horizon.
One of the many lessons I have learned from being a travel blogger for almost a decade now is we do not really need to go far from the base to get that much-needed mental and physical reset from the working days’ hustle and bustle. I am a lover of the great outdoors. Being out there puts me on cloud nine, recharges my batteries, keeps me fit, and stirs my creative mojo. I had a misplaced fear during the onset of the lockdown that going outside was not a matter of challenge but an absolute no-no. Going through it, I realized (and developed as parts of my routine later) that there are indeed some outdoor activities available beyond the apartment’s premises. Activities that allow social distancing, do not go against next normal protocols, and will also make us appreciate the mundane places and the beautiful things that go with them just as they did me. Doing them does not entail staying indoors to run some stairs, read books in your favorite corner, develop a new skill in the kitchen, chill with Netflix, or go on a virtual world tour, but outdoor activities we can all safely partake in and that will do wonders to our health.
Here are the seven economical tips in the form of outdoor activities that have been changing the landscape of my typical Stephen King-like weekdays and weekends:
Some cities have closed athletic courts and amusement parks during the lockdown, but green spaces were left open. A lot of studies have already asseverated the importance of walking in nature for destressing purposes. The park is also a great place for intensifying your workout especially for active people and keep-fit buffs. Wearing some leg weights for running or walking and doing push-ups or dips on the concrete benches are only two of the many ways to take advantage of the park. Besides, sweating outdoors is rewarding enough to begin with, according to so many health-oriented websites.
We are, of course, expected to keep the recommended minimum of six feet away from others during this activity.
A walk in the park is my kind of sunshine and it is also the antidote to my loss of frequent outdoor connection these days.
2. Lace up your shoes for a run
The streets around are too wide. We might as well utilize them while maintaining courtesy to others outside. If we see people approaching in front, we should cross the street instead of passing by them. Wearing a mask is a must if we are to come across someone.
Running during less-prime times—when others are not as likely to be in the streets—is most recommended.
I am not a fan or running but I have been doing it lately just to be outside.
This is the era of Instagram and Influencers. Everyone, if not most of us, is drawn into taking photos. Most of the things that interest our eyes are just sitting outside—intricate patterns, bushy trees, fur or feathered animals, Middle Eastern architecture, SUVs, dreamy sunsets or sunrises, glimmering streetlights, aromatic cafes, vibrant nurseries…You get the picture.
A photowalk is about capturing the beauty of the ordinary places and mundane things. It will also give us the chance to discover scenes we used to just pass by on our way to work, while walking to the park, or rushing through the nearest grocery store such as the everyday encounters of people trying to get by, a mother carrying her child while asking for alms, or people giving food to the less fortunate.
Dessert blooms have been capturing my optical organs lately. There is extra luster radiating from them during winter and on the onset of summer as we speak. The green parks and nurseries are teeming with flowers. Flowers are not only great reminders of how colorful and hopeful the world is. They can also magically transform ordinary places into paradise.
Frequent travelers say that setting foot on new places can bring about an immense sense of joy; however, due to the ongoing pandemic, our travel perimeters have gotten much smaller. Be that as it may and as studies prove, it is still imperative to get out and explore the world around by rediscovering and discovering what makes your literal comfort zone special.
One of the best ways to do that is by trying some less-traveled routes the next time you go out for a gas refill or run errands. Forget about taking a specific route consciously embedded in your mind, at least for this purpose. You will be surprised at what you can find: some beautiful, interesting, and fascinating parts of the neighborhood that you never would have seen otherwise.
Driving, walking, or running around the town has always been fun for me because of this habit.
5. Play outside
When we were still kids, the summers were quite long, and we only came inside to eat and when darkness falls. We loved playing outside. There was not much sickness in the house, or that of our friends’, and obesity was never the topic of conversation.
Do you still remember that sheer joy of being a kid who wants nothing but simply playing outside?
This is the perfect time to relive that moment with some unstructured time outside—one that promotes the rigors of natural movement. Depending on what your backyard or front yard offers, climb the trees, run like crazy, engage in traditional and nontraditional sports, play with your dogs, or simply frolic in the freshly cut lawn.
Take this tip as a form of “special” pause button, which you can press when you want to be more in tune with yourself.
I have always been very physical. I am inclined to dance with and in the rigors of natural movement. This was how I got into hiking and sports—which has been the fulcrum of my workout routine since I declared myself a health buff in 2009.
6. Ride a bike
The ongoing pandemic has been keeping most commuters away from public transport particularly in third world countries. The bicycle boom rooted from this. It is much easier to comply with social distancing guidelines when riding a bike in the open and potentially crowded spaces.
Aside from the bike’s emergence as a safe and convenient public transport these days, it is also a decent alternative to alfresco walking or running. We get to get outside more with cycling. Cycling causes no damage to the environment, takes up little space, and is very economical.
Do not forget that the same rules for running or walking apply to cycling—whether we are cycling hard or going on an easy ride. Ensure to wear a mask and maintain proper social distancing while riding.
Thank God there are two functional bikes at our apartment.
We only had the chance to taste freedom for two months since 2020 started then everything began to shut down and we all barricaded ourselves in our homes. This gave birth to what is now called “rooftop culture“. People are appearing on the rooftops, even roofs, to sunbathe, jump rope, watch the sunset or sunrise, fly a kite, play soccer, take photos, or Facebook video call.
All of those were my first-hand observations during the lockdown. I was fascinated by the cameos of the neighbors seeking a few minutes or hours of non-vigilant normalcy on the rooftops.
I have discovered wonders at our own rooftop. Ours is just an ordinary one covered with dust; some metal panels on the side; unused pieces of furniture; and a few tar butts. The monthslong lockdown last year turned this spot into a haven. A sanctuary for my itchy feet and mobile nature. The rooftop is now my kind of go-to spot whenever these urges creep in: bathe (for Vitamin D) run, walk, sightsee, breathe, and supplicate.
In the face of these uncharted waters, the foregoing tips for outdoor alternatives can offer the same mental and physical benefits. Thank goodness for they are widely accessible to us.
The success of our adherence to the “protocols” while doing these activities lies in ensuring that we engage in smart behaviors and strategies, always!
I am fervently hoping that we come out of these Stephen King-like days with an exponentially redefined appreciation for the outdoors and what they provide for all of us.
Rediscovering the Outdoors During Year of the Pandemic (www.nbcbayarea.com)
Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic (www.mayoclinic.org)
More people spending time outdoors. New survey reveals (www.nature.scot)
Why Time Outdoors is Crucial to Your Health Even During Coronavirus Pandemic (news.uchicago.edu)
More Time Out in Nature is an Unexpected Benefit of the Covid-19 Sheltering Rules (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
Getting Children & Teens Outside While Social Distancing (www.healthychildren.org)