Lockdown feels like a barrier to adventure. Stuck indoors, cancelled trips, and no departure date to countdown to. But oddly, this time is actually preparing us for the next big trip. Instead of looking back at our lockdown days in sorrow for the lost summer, why not treat lockdown as training for our adventures? It sounds contradictory, but there are many skills we have used in lockdown that will help us on big expeditions.
Choose your ultimate inspirational adventure mentor. You’ll have looked at their expedition photographs and thought “Wow, what an epic trip! That must have been an incredible experience”. But not every day of an expedition is photo worthy. In fact, many adventure challenges involve some sort of boredom. I know: boredom on an adventure, it can’t be true?! Imagine this: You’re climbing an epic mountain. You’re taking your time because of the altitude. You’re surrounded by incredible mountains as far as the eye can see. Each section of the trail is filled with new scenery, immersive culture, and panoramic beauty. But when it comes to your summit day, the weather has taken a turn. You can’t summit when you had planned. So, you need to wait it out. Doesn’t sound that bad on paper. But remember you have one book, no wi-fi, and confined tents shared with another full-sized human. The weather is bad, so going to the bathroom (edit: hole in the ground) is an expedition in itself. You’ve already killed an hour sharing life stories with your tent mate, another having a nap and another doing some sleeping-bag stretches. Just another 21 to go. And here is where patience comes in. Many train their physique but never train their patience. Twiddling away time is an under-appreciated skill.
During lockdown, we have certainly got to grips with this. We have all had endless time to fill. Even for those who were not furloughed, the weekends saw no pub nights, camping trips or family days out. But one way or another, we found things to do to pass the time. We now know that we hold the ability to spread tasks out over a greater period of time. We have acquired the skill of distracting our minds when there is little to do. We have overcome the challenges of finding something to do within a small space with few resources. We have unknowingly trained ourselves in the art of patience.
- Appreciation of the Smaller Things
Like patience, the art of appreciating the smaller things in life is an undervalued life skill. A lot of our time in life is spent multi-tasking. At work, we are answering the phone while finishing an email. At home, we watch TV while browsing the web. We munch our dinner while scrolling through Instagram. Our minds are very used to being distracted all the time. Busy, rushed, constantly looking for the next thing to do. It’s becoming harder and harder to slow down. But of course, on a big adventure, you will be extremely limited in distraction options. Even when you’re not snowed into your tent, you will just be putting one foot in front of the other for hours on end or concentrating solely on your bike trail. In the evenings, dinner is exactly that. It’s just dinner. No secondary task to half-heartedly action. You’ll be involving yourself in conversations with fellow explorers and locals, with nothing more than a pack of cards between you.
In lockdown, many of us have found solitude and peace in the simple things. When you have all the time on your hands, there is no need to rush everything. And when it all feels a bit too much, we have come to appreciate small, mindful moments. Such as a new local walk you might have found. Being confined to a 5-mile limit and one daily exercise involved getting creative and finding new adventures in our local areas. I’ve wandered my local canal walk countless times in my decade living in the city, but during lockdown, it was the closest to wild and nature that I could get. And when I needed the solitude, whether to combat boredom or to slow down any looming anxieties, I was so surprised at what I found. I began to really appreciate the ability to listen to birds, to breathe fresh air in my one-hour outdoors and to just “be”. I’m certainly not alone in that. When we are on our next big adventure, and feel the struggle to slow down, it could be good to look back at lockdown and remember how much appreciation we had for the small moments.
- Mental Resilience
You might be tackling a steep slope and your legs are tired, weary. Maybe you’re struggling to push through your night summit bid when you can’t see your objective through the dark. Or you could be struggling to breathe at high altitude, where the tiniest movements exhaust all your energy. This is where mental resilience comes in. I always talk about digging deep into my stomach, to summon energy from within. It sounds mystical, but it’s all to do with barriers in our brains. For many adventures, we reach points where we think we could turn around and go home, or we want to curl up in a ball and cry. But having mental strength and resilience keeps us pushing onwards. Everyone has their own unique ways of doing this. For some, it involves making small objectives to break down the bigger challenge. Others will use distraction, whether that’s a conversation with a fellow trekker or trying to lose their thoughts in a mental game, like counting their steps. Another popular method adventurers use is reminding themselves of what they’ve been through and survived before.
So why not use lockdown as an accelerator next time you hit “the wall”? It was an unexpected period of turmoil in your life and a tough mental challenge. Norms were turned head-over-heels in a matter of days; the emotional ups and downs of being stuck indoors for months was hard to manage; then there is dealing with the global enormity pandemic itself. Yet you are coming out the other side of this. Everyone’s experience has been unique. Covid-19 has not only been a global health challenge, but it has been a mountainous mental battle for the individual too.
Within the negativity of the coronavirus pandemic, it can be comforting to take away some sort of positive. As adventurers, it is easy to look back at lockdown as a setback, but remembering the struggle our own minds have had during this time and looking at how we have come out of the other side of it, can be reassuring. So no longer was this wasted time without adventures. Instead, it was your training – and you’ve absolutely nailed it.
Written by Iona Nelson: Iona is an adventure writer with a special love of high altitude hiking. She loves to inspire others to reach their expedition dreams and aims to prove big adventures are accessible to everyone. Follow her adventures on Instagram or read her blog, Tents Trees and Bumble Bees.