Although I live in Sydney, when it comes to lockdowns, my experience is more akin to the Victorians (hello lockdown fam). As I write this, it’s my ninth month of lockdowns and restrictions.
In March 2020 – when the word ‘lockdown’ first entered our lexicon – I was finishing up a 14-day cross-country ski expedition across the Arctic’s largest ice plateau, the Finnmark Plateau in Norway. After two weeks pulling everything I needed in a sled, facing 90km/h winds and -30℃ temperatures, I skied into a world changed forever.
I was unable to get back to Australia, and spent six months in various states of lockdown and restrictions in the UK where I got stranded, bouncing from house-sit to house-sit while I waited for a flight home. After five flight cancellations, I finally got back to Sydney in October 2020, to complete my mandatory hotel quarantine.
To set the scene; prior to COVID, I spent every weekend I could hiking, backpacking, exploring, and camping in remote places. Often alone, sometimes with friends. My life revolved around the outdoors and the Finnmark Plateau ski trip was the culmination of a year of training for my biggest adventure yet.
During my time in lockdown in the UK, and my two weeks in a hotel room with no opening window, all I could think of was the freedom of the trail. The calming, soul-defining power of the outdoors.
I wanted nothing more than the feel of the wind in my hair, the satisfying breathlessness of climbing a mountain, the feel of silken water on a wild swim at the base of a waterfall, and the joy of laughter with friends around a remote campfire.
But then, I was let out of quarantine. And instead of running to the mountains to finally get the fix of what I craved, I could manage nothing other than retreating quietly to my sofa to drink tea and avoid – well – everything.
I wanted to climb a mountain. I wanted to hike. I wanted to swim in a waterfall. But – when it came to actually doing it – it all just felt too ‘much’.
It took me months to finally get (some of) my adventure mojo back. And when I did it wasn’t smooth either. My Christmas and Easter multi-day hiking trips were plagued by COVID cancellations, and all those COVID kilos I’d put on decimated my self-confidence in the outdoors. Short of my daily walk around the local headland, adventure felt a million miles away. Then, when I finally felt like myself again, Greater Sydney once again plunged into lockdown.
While there are many people who’ve thrived in lockdown – who’ve worked out every day, who’ve created rock-climbing routes in their stairwells, who’ve run every inch of their 5km radius – there are those of us who have struggled. There are those of us who – for myriad reasons – cannot muster that same motivation.
But, now – three months after the latest lockdown was put into place – with vaccination rates creeping towards 80% double dose, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. And I, for one, want to be ready to take on the world beyond my 5km radius.
The good news is, I did it once before and I’m certain I’ll do it again. And, if even a small part of you feels the same as I do, I hope this advice helps you get your adventure mojo back too.
Rediscover The Familiar
One of the adventures that helped me get my adventure mojo back was an overnight hike to Pindar Cave on the Central Coast. It’s an easy 7km hike to a huge cave and it was my fifth time doing it. I organised a bunch of friends, and the aim of the trip wasn’t to see something new or to push our limits.
It was to cook a three-course meal on a campfire, to relax, and to simply enjoy being outdoors and enjoy being with each other. We ate flame-grilled garlic bread, marinated Thai salmon and baked potatoes cooked on the coals, then melted hot chocolate sauce over the fire for brownies. I loved every step – and every bite – of that trip, even though I’d been there many times before.
Takeaway: Go back to somewhere familiar/hike a trail you know. It feels less overwhelming, and I promise you you won’t regret it.
Set Yourself A Challenge
My challenge was a list of ‘mini adventures’ that I was working my way through before the second lockdown. They were small things – bivvy on a beach, do a mid-week camp, watch a meteor shower, cook a multi-course meal on a campfire (tick).
I needed small, bitesize challenges for two reasons: 1) So it didn’t feel overwhelming and 2) So it was more possible within the confines of such an unpredictable world.
Takeaway: Whether it’s running a marathon, going on your first overnight hike, or swimming every day for a month (I just did this during lockdown – and it’s the perfect mini-challenge!). Set yourself a challenge to work towards, but be kind to yourself along the way if you can’t make it happen. It’s about the journey and the intention.
Be Grateful For What’s Possible
Let’s face it. Even with 80% vaccination, there’s a chance that life won’t be normal for a while. That’s where lowering your expectations being grateful for what’s possible comes in. Like many of us, I’ve had holidays cancelled since I got back to Australia (a multi-day hike in Tassie and another in Queensland, among many others) but I’ve come to cherish what’s possible instead.
Over Christmas, I had a fantastic time on a spur-of-the-moment attempt at hiking Australia’s 10 highest peaks with my adventure soulmate Joelle. Tassie might not have happened, but the important thing – us being outdoors together – did.
Takeaway: Always have a plan B. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Seize whatever adventure you can, wherever you can.
Regain Your Skills And Your Confidence
One of my main challenges with lockdown was feeling like I’d let my skills slip. Fitness was an obvious one and I was lucky enough to have the funds available to invest in a personal trainer to help kick start my fitness again. I also joined the NSW Cross Country Ski Club (although sadly the trips were cancelled due to the second lockdown).
Personally, I’ve always struggled with navigation and I found that by not using this skill during lockdown, I lost a lot of my progress. I signed up for new training courses and also redid past hikes with maps/compass to re-train myself in a familiar environment.
Takeaway: Join some outdoor clubs (many are free or have a small joining fee), or sign up for some training courses to get your confidence back again.
Re-define Your ‘Why’
I won’t lie; at one point pre-COVID, my ‘why’ of the outdoors was getting bigger and bigger. I craved always seeing new things, saw little point in returning to places I’d been, and wanted trips to push me physically.
When I got back from Europe, I took away the ‘why’, and I finally started feeling like I could face the outdoors again. It wasn’t about being wild, remote, or ‘adventurous’. It was about slowing down, connecting with friends, and disconnecting from everyday life.
Takeaway: There’s no one definition of an ‘adventure’. You can go bigger/harder/faster/stronger if you want. Or, don’t. Set your own ‘why’ and make it work for you.
Accept Your ‘New Normal’
I think part of my reticence is that planning anything big is still likely to be scuppered by COVID one way or another (at least at the mo’ anyway). But it’s also deeper than that; I’ve discovered that I enjoy time at home, I enjoy losing myself in a Netflix series on a rainy weekend, and I enjoy quiet sunrise walks with (one) friend – sometimes as much as I enjoy pushing myself physically on the trail.
I used to give up a lot of life for adventure – getting home late on a Sunday night, being tired on a Monday, hustling to get out of the office early on Fridays, missing friends’ birthdays, anniversaries and baby showers on weekends. I think I’ll have a different balance between the two sides of my personality from now on, and that’s okay.
Takeaway: We’re all figuring out what a post-COVID world looks like; find the balance that works for you. And if it’s different from before, it’s all good y’all.
Have you struggled with losing your love of adventure in lockdown? I’d love to hear from you if you have. Hit me up on Instagram @giveintoadventure.