Have you got your face pressed against the window waiting for the all-clear so you can pull on your walking boots and hit the hills? Well, you’re just like billions of people around the world. Just remember that every moment you spend away from others is a moment that Covid-19 can’t spread. If you stop thinking about scaling the peaks and start thinking about flattening the curve, we’ll all get through this sooner.
Of course, none of that means that you just have to stop doing anything. There are still plenty of things you can do while socially distancing, whether it’s actively helping your community or getting yourself better prepared for new adventures when it’s all over. Here are a few ideas for things you can be getting on with while you’re saving lives.
Remember when the government asked for 750,000 volunteers to help the NHS? It got oversubscribed within days. But while the NHS Volunteer Responders might have paused recruitment, there are plenty of other charities and good causes that might benefit from your help. It could be manning phones, making deliveries, sewing face masks or packing boxes – anything where you can use your skills or even pick up new ones. It could even get you out of the house.
Anything can change in these unprecedented times, so keep an eye on the NHS Responders’ website and keep up with the news – they might ask for more. But in the meantime, check your local press (probably on their website) to see if there are any organisations that need help, such as chemists delivering medications to care homes, or local groups helping with food parcels.
Learn a language
Got an exciting hiking holiday planned? Or have you had yours cancelled or postponed? That sucks, but if you were heading abroad, you can use the time to learn the local language. Holidays are always better when you can chat with the locals in their own tongue – knowing more than “a beer, please” can get conversations started and unlock places you won’t find in the tourist guides. You could even end up with a friend for life.
There are plenty of places where you can learn languages online, and some of the best known are completely free, too. Try:
Duolingo: more than 20 languages available from all around the world for free
Open Culture: many free courses and paid 1-to-1 training available
Rosetta Stone: not free, but it’s been around for decades and is well regarded
Babbel: another one that’s been around for years, with dozens of courses
BBC: there are lots of free resources here for 40 languages, so dive in!
Give your boots a spring clean
Once you’ve worn your Timbs for a while, they’ll inevitably have picked up grime – if you’re wearing them properly, that is. So why not strip them back to basics and give them a good clean. You can even replace the laces or throw your existing ones in the wash if they’ve still got life in them. We’ve written about caring for your boots here – take a look through it and get cleaning. When you finally get out on the streets and trails, it’ll be like having a new pair.
Plan your next holiday, properly
You’ve got time to really get under the skin of your next holiday destination. Do some deep research and find out where the locals go (your new-found language skills will help). You can spend hours reading guides and blogs, watching videos and joining discussion groups on forums and social media to chat about the kinds of things the travel companies forget to tell you, like where to avoid and how to stay safe. The beautiful thing is that you’ll be able to help other people learn more about the places you’ve been to, or perhaps even where you live. Have a look at Lonely Planet, Rick Steve’s and TripAdvisor for general advice and conversation, but if you search for the name of your destination with terms like “advice” or “secrets”, you’ll get loads of ideas. Remember to bookmark everything!
Plant some fruit and veg
Nobody knows how long this will all go on for, and what effect it’s going to have on food supply. If you have any garden space or a balcony or window ledge, why not get planting? You can order seeds and soil online, so you should be able to grow more or less anything you like, as long as you can reproduce the climate. Tropical plants obviously need warmer environments to grow in, so a greenhouse or conservatory are ideal. You can get small lean-to or plastic greenhouses that don’t take up much space.
The lockdown is causing a bit of a run on seeds as people turn to cultivating crops at home. If you’re struggling to source any, don’t forget that many fruits and vegetables have their own stashes that you can use: foods like tomatoes, peppers, chilis, melons, butternut squashes. Here’s some good advice from expert growers.
Are you the person who everyone comes to to set up spreadsheets or work the accounting software? Or are you one of those who is doing the asking? This period of lockdown could be the perfect opportunity to really get to grips with anything office-based that’s been bugging you (and your colleagues) for ages but you’ve never got round to learning.
Head over to Microsoft’s Office Training Centre, Abode Learning, WordPress tutorials or the website of whoever provides your software. If your HR department is still operational, they might be able to point you to some internal courses that could help you emerge a more productive and employable person (you don’t have to tell them about the employable bit).
Arrange your playlists
You hear a song you like, you add it to a playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer or whatever music player you use. Before long, it’s a huge, jumbled mess, with no theme, no mood and no arrangement whatsoever. And the lists can grow so large that you hardly ever hear your favourite songs anyway.
Well now’s the perfect time to sit down and start organising it. Get a list for those songs you simply love, the ones that lift your spirits. A list for when you’re working out. One for when you’re commuting. A work one. A wandering the mountain trail one. A noisy, frustration-busting one. Suddenly, your collection starts to make a lot more sense.
Write about your travels
Why not start a blog about the places you’ve been with your backpack and boots? You’re bound to have plenty of photos and memories to share, and you’ll help other people planning to go to those places, too.
Even if you have no technical understanding, it’s really easy to start a blog at WordPress, Wix, Squarespace as many other platforms. Then it’s a case of writing up your posts, chatting to people in the travel community and referring links to it, and you’ll start seeing traffic and get conversations started. Who knows, it could end up being successful and start earning you a bit of advertising revenue.
Visit a museum or gallery
Calm down, we’re not telling you to break the lockdown. Many museums and galleries have put their collections online so you can spend days admiring ancient artefacts and works of art.
Whatever your taste in art and whatever period of history interests you, have a look at galleries’ and museums’ websites and they’ll direct you to what you’re looking for. Since most popular ones are closed down during the pandemic, their websites are currently directing site visitors to the online collections quite prominently. And don’t forget, you can also go on a virtual tour of Pompeii, an amazing experience.
Stay in touch
It’s never been easier to stay in touch with friends, family, and work colleagues. Make more of an effort to use social media and phone to make contact. Maybe even pop a note through neighbours’ doors with your phone number and invite them to chat.
The lockdown could last weeks or months, and even when it’s lifted it will be done gradually, so the planet might have taken quite some time off by the time 2021 arrives. The best we can all do is to stay indoors as much as possible and to support our healthcare workers and those providing essential services until it’s safe to emerge into what will be a very different world.