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Beat the Pandemic Blues: Safe Ways to Get Outside During COVID

Months into the global COVID-19 pandemic and with no end in sight, it’s safe to say that many of us are feeling antsy. And while we certainly understand, we’d like to gently remind you that—while it’s more important than ever to keep up social distancing and mask-wearing in public—there’s no shortage of things to do outside. 

From easy hikes to stargazing and beyond, the Great Outdoors is still open for business. With an eye towards reducing stress and melting the anxiety away, here are a few of our favorite things to do outside to help you stretch your legs, your lungs, and your soul.

Things to Do Outside: Hiking and Camping

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One of the simplest, easiest—but most rewarding—outdoor activities is hiking. Best of all, the price of entry is appealingly low. 

While an experienced backpacker might have to invest in a purpose-made rucksack and extensive camping gear, at heart a hike is nothing more than a walk through a natural area, or even a city park. All that’s required are a comfortable pair of shoes, your mask, and a bottle of water. If you haven’t taken a long walk lately, you’ll be pleased to remember how calming and relaxed an hour or two walking through nature will make you feel!

For those so inclined, camping merely heightens and intensifies the pleasures of hiking. If you’re new to camping, the KOA blog is a fine place to start. But for those of us who may feel leery of spending a night alone in the woods, there’s an even easier and more homegrown solution: Backyard camping! 

If you have the opportunity to pitch a tent in your own yard, you may find the sensations and sounds of sleeping out-of-doors are a welcome change of pace after months of self-quarantine. And if you have young children with you, you’ll be pleasantly shocked by the low-budget thrill they’ll get sleeping in the backyard. Of course, if they’re too young—or your neighborhood is too noisy—the project may fizzle out after only a couple of hours. But if you’re up for a little urban adventure, we can heartily recommend this one!

Things to Do Outside: Stargazing

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In a sense, stargazing is the nighttime partner to hiking. It requires relatively little investment while delivering outsized results. And while there’s seemingly no limit as to what a dedicated nighthawk can spend on a scientific-grade telescope, stargazing with the naked eye (or at most a pair of binoculars) is an infinitely rewarding experience. All that’s required is a clear night with minimal visual distractions. This interactive worldwide light pollution map will help. Once you’re on-site, turn to technology to orient yourself (yes, there’s an app for that). We like SkyView Lite, available on the App Store, for helping us identify constellations and other heavenly bodies. Bring a warm outer layer, some water or hot tea, and your willingness to be awed by the quiet power of the cosmos.

Things to Do Outside: Gardening

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Even if you’ve never cultivated your green thumb before, right now is a golden opportunity. Like many of us, you may find that the simple pleasures of working the soil with your hands is an unexpectedly powerful way to connect with the earth, shed stress and anxiety, and beautify your home or apartment. Even if your “plantable acreage” amounts to a windowsill, that’s still enough space for a miniature herb garden, a handful of succulents, or a few choice potted plants. In addition to beautifying your living space, your new green friends will produce oxygen and even brighten your mood.

And if you have a lawn that’s not otherwise in use right now, you might consider expanding your ambitions. If you have a patch of soil and some sun, now’s the time to get planting as you invest in your physical (and emotional) health!