Ten Explorers from around the world share how they’re turning this challenging situation into something positive.
Enforced stints of quarantine were a given for the pioneers of polar exploration. Sometimes they lasted months as they avoided treacherous storms, shifting pack ice and the dreaded scurvy.
Self-isolation was as guaranteed as the gag reflex after nibbling seal blubber, and they passed the time indulging in music, chess and their dwindling whiskey supplies.
So how do the Explorers of the 21st century get through self-isolation and stay sane in the wake COVID-19?
Write a Book in One Month
Roz Savage holds four Guinness World Records for ocean rowing, and is the only woman to row solo across the ‘Big Three’ oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian.
Having spent five months alone at sea in a rowboat without seeing another human, Roz feels somewhat unperturbed by the idea of self-isolation and is using her time back home in the UK to put her digital quill to paper.
‘I’ve learned a thing or two about isolation, and how to handle it. I’m spending my life in isolation writing a book called The Gifts of Solitude. I’m hoping to get from first word to publication in under a month so I can get it out there and helping people. It’s a fun project that’s keeping me feeling busy, connected, and purposeful – which according to researcher Steve Cole, who I interviewed yesterday, is by far the best way to be in these trying times.’
Build Your Adventure Playground at Home
Tim Macartney Snape is a world-renowned mountaineer who became the first Australian to summit Everest in 1984 (alongside Greg Mortimer), before returning six years later to do it without oxygen and sherpa assistance. Tim also co-founded the global outdoor equipment company Sea to Summit.
Like everyone, Tim’s exploits have had to become hyper-local. Unlike everyone, Tim happens to live on a sizeable slab of wilderness and is channelling his thirst for adventure into converting his block into the playground we all dream of.
‘I have been reminded of the beauty in small things and how exploring is really a state of mind. It’s reaffirmed the luck I have to live where I do too – a fourty-acre block, originally just bush, that I reasoned was enough area to enable a retreat from the world when needed. There are plenty of trees to climb, I’ve cut a four km MTB circuit, made a challenging zip line into the garden pond, built a bouldering wall in the shed and in the bush nearby I’ve got around twenty km of bike and running trail. There’s also a twenty metre high section of cliff where no one else climbs. I look forward to a time when I can share all this with my friends again.’
Unfortunately, Kate just pulled out of a 3500km high-altitude expedition in South America, despite being a third of the way through the journey. Cheers ‘Rona. She’s now back in Melbourne and fresh out of two week’s compulsory isolation.
‘Coming off an expedition, I am always restless, still on a high from the extreme daily activities and, with my metabolism ramped up, I’m constantly hungry. I can’t wait to go out with my friends and tell stories. Returning to two weeks of self-isolation there was no release. I’ve rested and ticked a few boxes; looked over expedition footage, written a couple of articles and done a few token sets of exercises, but basically I’ve been a cat on a hot tin roof. The biggest positive is that I have time to dream about the next expeditions.’
Build an Isolation Chamber (A Shed)
Hugo and Ross Turner (aka The Turner Twins) are British adventurers with a hankering for world-first expeditions to the most inaccessible places on Earth. Recent trips include paramotoring to the Red Pole, cycling to the Green Pole and Riding E-Motorcycles to the Iberian Pole.
If you’re self-isolating, you may as well up the ante and do it in a Walden-esque cabin you’ve built with your own splintered digits, right?
‘When you’re on an expedition; you have to focus on the endpoint by filling your time with tasks, distractions, calculations, reading, games and a drive to improve your current situation – building a snow wall, setting up camp, boiling water or… building a shed.
It’s been a great opportunity to take a mental break away from computer time and simplify our lives. Our advice to anyone would be to sleep somewhere at home you have never slept (intentionally) before – garden, downstairs, TV room or perhaps even a shed!’
Upskill and Go With the Flow
Returning from a 250km ramble in Victoria, Laura fell straight into the lonely embrace of a stage 3 shutdown.
‘I’d like to say it’s going okay. After all, this is an opportunity to do all those things I’ve long lamented not having time for: upskilling, learning how to edit video, getting my body strong in preparation for the next adventure. The reality though is that I’m struggling. Struggling with the drop in workload, the uncertainty, and not being able to roam freely.
But it’s time now to make peace with this fate we’re all facing, to do the best we can with what we’ve been given and to shift our perspective. Like a snowstorm, mud-fest or a 1000m climb, this too will pass.’
Microadventure Parenting and Spearfishing
Justin Jones is an Australian adventurer and highly regarded speaker, best known for kayaking to New Zealand unsupported, skiing to the South Pole and trekking across the outback with wife and 18-month old daughter.
By virtue of being in either unsupported or in horrendously inhospitable locations, Jonesy is a ‘self-proclaimed expert in isolation and relationship management in situations of extreme duress.’ That said, nothing has fully prepared him for being ‘stuck in a two-bedroom apartment in Bondi with my wife, hyperactive four-year-old toddler (she might get it from me) and five-month-old baby. Not even walking 1800km across the outback with a one-year-old’.
‘I think I’m a better Dad when we’re doing an activity, rather than stuck in the confines of the house, so to keep the peace me and the toddler need to escape on ‘city adventures’. With the beaches shut we’re found climbing trees, jumping puddles and feeding ducks in Centennial Park. To feed the rat inside of me and get my fix of adventure I’ve been escaping into the largest wilderness zone I can…the ocean. Spearfishing has given me the space to return home calm and present (well, bearable) for my family.’
Create a Community Initiative
Huw Kingston is a seasoned adventurer and environmentalist whose life has been dedicated to pushing the realms of human potential by foot, kayak, bike and everything in between.
With a year in Europe now substituted for a stay-cation in his home town of Bundanoon (NSW), Huw has taken it upon himself to do something for the community he loves so dearly whilst keeping those quads in check.
‘For many years there’s been a running joke (well I think it’s a joke) between my wife and I that ‘I’d love a week or two at home just to do jobs’ says I. ‘You never, ever do; you always head off on a trip,’ she replies. Now there’s no choice. Or is there?
I’ve launched Bits by Bike, a free community delivery service that keeps our amazing local businesses going and delivers to those self-isolating. I’m just back from delivering my most delicate load yet – a fully iced 60th birthday cake and hamper. And belting out ‘Happy Birthday’ in the driveway. Next up, some flowers.’
Start Planning for the Next Big Trip
The American underwater explorer and retired naval officer Victor Vescovo is the first person to visit the deepest point of every ocean (which included a record solo depth of 5,550m). His current project is Caladan Oceanic, supporting expeditions to increase our understanding of the oceans.
Victor is accustomed to fairly high-pressure environments (rivalling my own experiences in self-isolation with two kids under three) but how is he coping with life in iso?
‘We are certainly using the time to figure out what areas of the Western Pacific ocean to map with the ship’s massive sonar, how to logistically get people to the ship safely and not having to quarantine, as well as technical things like building a new full-ocean-depth-capable 4K camera with which to enhance the submersible Limiting Factor. In the meantime, I am working hard at my day job as Chairman of three industrial companies, navigating the current business difficulties. The days are indeed filled and busy.’
Robot Adventures and Indoor Climbing Challenges
John Churcher spent six years on Great Britain’s paraclimbing team, is a Trustee for DeafBlind UK and was the first blind person to summit the Eiger in 2015. He has around 3% vision and 50% hearing.
Living adventurously is a vital component of John’s life, and despite Corona’s forced isolation, he’s administering a healthy dose of microadventure. In addition to climbing the training wall in his garage and regular tandem bike rides with his best mate, he’s also spicing things up in gloriously wacky ways.
‘We’ve kept ourselves busy by having ‘robot adventures’. We got crafting and turned two giant boxes into robots that we subsequently jumped inside of and took for a walk outside. I told my daughter this and she nearly died of embarrassment even though she wasn’t coming outside with us.
We’ve just completed a big indoor challenge – climbing the height of the Eiger (3970m) on my home stairs. I think I’ve put about six months extra wear on them, but it really kept us busy for a few days. Completing it involved going up and down over 1608 times. It took us 22 hours of climbing in total.’
There are a few different categories of isolation Tim has experienced over the years: ‘physical isolation (expeditions), the loneliness and isolation of being a leader (often surrounded by a team) and the situation now facing many people, self-isolating at home due to COVID19.’
Here are Tim’s tips to deal with self-isolation:
- Frame your isolation as a challenge to rise to or an opportunity, rather than a burden
- Break your time down into manageable pieces
- Come up with a routine that works and stick to it
- Give yourself goals like making time to contact people, exercising or learning a new skill
- Support a good cause. This reduces the feeling that you’re not contributing, which over time can affect self-worth
Tim looks at the positives, ‘You’re not going to get frostbite or fall into a crevasse on your way to the fridge, or get mauled by a bear if you fall asleep on the sofa’.
Feature photo: Herbert Ponting – Wikimedia Commons