If you’re anything like me, the last couple of months have felt like being in the world’s homiest prison. I know I’m more or less free to go as I please, as long as I stay away from others (something I more or less try to do anyway) but I haven’t been. The days come and go like a slow moving parade of could’ves and should’ves… I wave as they pass me by then take another bite of my 10,000th morning bagel.

Epic hikes have become epic walks to the mailbox. Sunshine has become fluorescent. Comfortably uncomfortable has become uncomfortably comfortable. Going without a shower for three days in Yosemite has become going without a shower for three days in your apartment. Ok, perhaps not everything has changed.

For those of us who spend our lives outdoors, being forced to live indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic is – how do I put this lightly? Tortuous. Responsible, but tortuous. 

Regardless, I hope I’m not alone in finding myself thinking, “Yikes. Is THIS what ‘normal’ life is like?”

We grew used to a life of freedom. Being able to take a weekend to go get lost or climb something tall. Some of us are learning the hard way that we may have taken these liberties for granted. I know I am. 

I miss the smell of wood and smoke. I miss waking up a little too cold with a sore back. I miss setting out for a day when your only goal was to journey from point A to point B and there was no wrong way to do it. I miss feeling like I was part of the Earth and not part of the world.

Well, in the spirit of complaining I am going to share with you some of the things I have been doing (doing is generous… trying to do is more appropriate) to cope with this new life in the great indoors. This is not a “Check out These 5 Life Hacks for Wild Souls” blog. Often I find it’s more interesting to read about one person than read something marketed to 1 million persons. 

Yes, this epitomizes the meaning of “first world problem.” No, this isn’t more important than those who have lost their jobs, health, and lives. I only mean to reach out to the outdoor community and say, “I feel you.”

This is a collection of things that I personally have found to (barely) keep me sane. Hoping someone out there can relate.

Media (social and otherwise)

Instagram

The Bureau of Land Management and the Department of the Interior – Great content highlighting creatures and captivating views alike.

La Sportiva and Rock & Ice Magazine – Just because you’re not climbing doesn’t mean you can’t drool over photos of other people climbing.

Jeremy Collins – Get your art fix here. Stunning drawings and merch to boot makes this one of my go-to hipster hiking accounts.

The National Parks Girl – An absolute inspiration for any park lover. Sonja Saxe is a killer example of how to work a full time job and pursue your love of adventure. 

Daily Overview – If your feed needs a change in perspective, this is a great account to give you a topographical slice of the world.

US National Marine Sanctuaries – For your nautical fix.

Benjamin Hardman – Stellar photographer capturing some of the most hauntingly gorgeous landscapes. I always try to follow a couple of “out there” landscape accounts. Keeps things fresh and reminds me something doesn’t need to be green to be worth looking at. Barren is beautiful.

YouTube – 4K Virtual Hikes

The Flying Dutchman 

4K Relaxation Channel

YouTube – Bouldering Fun

Bouldering Bobat

Eric Karlsson Bouldering

Twitter

The Outbound Collective – A wonderful community centered around getting around. This is a great place to find curated destination to-dos and excellent blog content.

Hipcamp – Hipcamp is actually an amazing resource to have as a habitual camper. Check campground photos, reviews, conditions, and locations. Think of it like Yelp for camping…  but without all the outrage.

The National Parks Service – Stay up to date with park closures/re-openings.

Movies

Free Solo (Hulu and Disney +) – Obligatory; nonetheless this film is a guaranteed recipe for sweaty palms and white-knuckles.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Unfortunately not available via subscription, but available to rent through Prime Video and YouTube) – I don’t hear enough people talk about this movie. The film does a great job of capturing the sentiment of “See more. Live more.” Fantastical in all the right ways and a love letter to daydreamers.

Into the Wild (Hulu) – Based on a true story. Heart-wrenching and inspiring, the perfect storm of feelings.

The Dawn Wall (Netflix) – If you are a climber, this one is a must. Follow Tommy Caldwell and his merciless attempt at ascending El Capitan in Yosemite.

Brian’s Meditation “Techniques” 

Meditation… close your eyes and think about lying on a Caribbean island… right? That’s what I initially thought when faced with the prospect of “clearing my mind.” The reality is no two meditations look (or feel) the same and there is no wrong way to do it.

Here’s a couple of things I’ve found to help me:

Rooted

  1. Sit cross-legged on the floor (preferably outside) with straight posture and closed eyes.
  2. Rest your hands, face down with your palms on the floor in front of you.
  3. Take ~5-10 deep, measured breaths and focus on your hands – completely still.
  4. Imagine strong roots gently growing from your palms down through the floor, entwining everything around and below you, into the earth.

“Energy Ball”

  1. Sit cross-legged or upright in a chair with straight posture.
  2. Take ~5-10 deep, measured breaths.
  3. Slightly raise your arms by your side, palms facing upward.
  4. Raise them almost imperceptibly slow. If someone was watching you, they would barely see you moving.
  5. Once they are at chest/face level, face your palms towards each other as if there is an invisible ball in your hands.
  6. Hold this position as still as possible for ~60 seconds
  7. Slowly and very slightly move your hands towards and away from each other. Can you feel the energy radiating between your palms?

Embody a Force

  1. Lie down on the floor (on your back).
  2. Close your eyes and slowly relax every fiber in your body.
  3. Take ~5-10 deep, measured breaths.
  4. Think about a force of nature (for example: a river)
  5. Think about every possible similarity between you and that force (“I am calm on the surface but with a heavy current brimming beneath the surface / I flow around my obstacles with ease / I nourish those around me / I am always moving forward and evolving”)

Taking Therapy Drives 

Obviously taking walks is a great way to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. However, I have found that taking “therapy drives” has also quenched some of my thirst for freedom, independence, and adventure. For chasing the horizon.

Roll the windows down, play some music (or simply enjoy the wind), go find an ocean or sunset to drive by. Take a local road trip to nowhere. You officially have permission.

Air Plant Terrariums!

We may not be able to go get lost in a forest, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring some emerald magic inside. I’ve never been a big “plant guy,” however air plants are one of the few things that are hard to mess up. They’re tiny, light, and extremely easy to take care of. Fine I’ll say it… they’re adorable.

Hang a couple glass holders from the ceiling or adorn your desk with geometric terrariums. Fill them with rocks, moss, or activated charcoal (can be found on Amazon). 

Create a happy, miniature world for your air plant to thrive, just don’t forget to take care of the little guys:

  1. Some people mist their air plants once a week, others soak them in room temperature water for 10 minutes every couple weeks.
  2. Make sure they are getting plenty of bright, but indirect sunlight.
  3. Tell them a joke every now and then to keep their spirits up.

Game Suggestions 

Gaming is one of the best ways to step into fantastic, imaginative worlds. It’s also a place to step into natural and completely familiar places, namely the great outdoors. I’ve found the following games to both scratch my adventurous itch and provide endless cozy camping moments that I otherwise cannot experience due to quarantine.

Firewatch

Based more around exploring and less around completing challenges, Firewatch epitomizes the beauty (and occasional suspense) that comes from being alone in the wild. 


Feel free to pursue the (very well written) story or wander around at your leisure and develop new fantasies of being self-quarantined in a firewatch tower on a mountain instead of a one-bedroom apartment down the street from El Pollo Loco.

Defining feature: The art style is absolute eye candy for cozy camping lovers.

The Long Dark

For all the hardcore survivalists out there. While also visually stunning in its own right, The Long Dark focuses more on Mother Nature’s threats. 

Scavenge for food, water, and fire-starting supplies. Try not to get caught in a blizzard and freeze to death. Survive a bear attack, camp out in an abandoned barn with nothing to defend yourself but a flare and small knife. This game escalates quickly at times.

However, you may want to sit by the frozen lake and enjoy a sky ignited by the Northern Lights. Or perhaps you found a warm cave to sit by the fire and listen to the wind howl just outside your reach.

Defining feature: Juxtaposing the peace and utter nightmare of surviving in the wild. For those who want a challenge.

Eastshade

There is no combat in this game. I don’t even know if you can fail in this game. This one is truly for the peace-seekers. You play as a painter alone on a beautiful but unfamiliar island. Your only mission is to travel to each charming town, learn about their history, meet it’s delightful animal citizens and paint the stunning landscape around you. Need I say more?

Defining feature: Gives a whole new meaning to the word “wholesome.”

Red Dead Redemption 2

You’ve most likely heard of this blockbuster sequel to one of the greatest games ever made. However, maybe you don’t feel like playing cowboy. Take Arthur (your main character) out into the vast wilderness available to you and set up camp. Grow your beard, hunt your next dinner, sit fireside and enjoy one of the most stunning games ever made.

Defining feature: Realism. Played the right way, RDR2 can be used as a camping simulator.

Set up Camp in Your Living Room for a Weekend

Yes tents were made for the outdoors… so what. Move the living room table and pop that bad boy up inside. My girlfriend and I made a weekend out of it.

Make some popcorn, roll out the sleeping bags, and put on a movie. Yeah, yeah glamping isn’t “real” camping but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Revamp Your Gear System 

Being stuck indoors is the perfect opportunity to take a look at your gear.

Does your pack loadout need to be updated?

Can you streamline the packing process for future road trips?

How many more bungee cords do I really need? (answer: always more)

Personally, I have been saving a lot of money not having to pay for gas and dining out. Money spent on travel gear is always money well spent in my eyes. I know you guys are all gear addicts out there – put that OCD to good use.

Hang in There

This may all seem like a lot – rest assured I still have my days void of motivation. Things like fitness, cooking, and going on daily walks have begun to take a back seat… maybe more like tossed in the trunk. 

My point is, not everything that comes out of quarantine needs to be productive. 

I find that much of my mental health comes from surrounding myself with things that tickle my brain. Obviously, doing this in-person is ideal, but unfortunately 2020 has other plans for us. Yes, it’s easy to preach about being a slave to your screen, becoming a social media zombie, and other silly tech-bashing metaphors. The truth is, when used as a means to sustain passion, these things are not so insidious. In many respects it gives us abilities to sustain our passion when it would otherwise wilt.

The ability to become inspired with the swipe of a thumb.

The ability to share stories.

The ability to learn something new every day.

The ability to stay in contact with government institutions committed to preserving our wild lands.

The ability to connect with a community hell bent on traveling far away (and who are proud of it!)

The ability to live vicariously through others.

2020 is going to be a challenging year, especially for those of us with a restless disposition. Remember, normalcy will return. The wilderness isn’t going anywhere. When we’re ready, when the world is ready, it will be there waiting with open arms.

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