It’s about a month ago that life as we knew it changed. The pandemic had already taken a grip of Italy and Spain was about to announce a state of emergency putting the country into lockdown. I was setting off on a 10K Tough Runner Trail Run amongst 1,000 other runners already conscious I should probably keep my distance. Footshakes and elbow bumps were being used jokingly, still oblivious of what was to come.
As I write this today, we have already lost over 11,000 lives in the UK, 111,000 worldwide, and that number is unfortunately only going to keep on growing. And what can we do to help? Stay at home! Very simple, don’t go out, don’t meet friends and stop touching things that other people have touched!! (Gates?).
When I first thought about the lockdown I pined for the adventures I wouldn’t be able to have; the holidays that would have to be postponed; the challenges which would remain unchallenged. However, I then realised that it was just a state of mind. I could still be adventurous from the confines of these four walls; I could still make this time count; I could still enjoy myself. And just like that I began to really enjoy lockdown; to be grateful for what I have rather than what I don’t; to do the things I never have time for; to work on improving myself; and to continue being adventurous!
Here are some ideas of things you can do whilst at home to continue exploring, continue developing and learning and to continue enjoying adventure and travel.
1. Sofa exploring
I wouldn’t normally be an advocate of living adventure through someone else as I am a great believer in getting out there and giving it a go, however, you can still really immerse yourself in someone else’s adventure and live it with them. Plus, some adventures we just want to hear about, but not necessarily do ourselves! Climbing Everest as an example!
Below are some of the best travel and adventure films and TV programs I have watched which I would highly recommend. They are guaranteed to get you planning your 2021 adventure in no time!
Wild – Obvious I know, but what a great movie! A recently divorced woman decides to take on the Pacific Coast Trail which runs from the Mexican Border all the way up to the Canadian border, 1,100 km of wild terrain. A journey of self-discovery like no other! Available to watch on Netflix.
Unbranded – Cowboys, horses, a naughty donkey, and an epic journey! What more can you ask for? I first saw this at one of the Banff Film Festivals where it had won the viewers vote. Just like my first selection, 4 friends decide to make the journey between the Mexican and Canadian border on horseback. Very funny at times, painful at others. Definitely worth the watch.
The Frozen Road – Another Banff Film Festival screening, this time of one man and his fat bike. This short film sees him finish the last leg of his epic journey across the world as he completes his traverse across the Canadian Arctic. You can watch this one online on Vimeo.
2. Climb Snowdon – or Everest
Obviously, I’m not suggesting you travel there. Instead, use the stairs in your home. Pop on your walking gear, pack a picnic, and start climbing! I have 13 stairs in my home, each 20 cm in height. Snowdown is 1,085m which means I will need to climb the stairs 417 times (I bet Doug will complain about carpet wear!).
And if you don’t fancy climbing Snowdon then why not run a marathon in your garden, swim the channel in the bathtub, or cycle the Tour de France on the static bike?
There are loads of virtual challenges available. Some you can sign up to for free, others are raising money for charity. With some, you even get a medal once you’ve completed! Don’t let COVID-19 be an excuse for not achieving the physical challenge you had set yourself as your New Years Resolution!
3. Read a good book
What I love about reading which I don’t find with listening or watching is the fact I become truly immersed in the story. I am transported to the location and I see the story unfold around me. I have read some truly great stories that have whetted my appetite and made me want to travel. Equally, I have read some truly inspirational stories, those whose steps I may not necessarily want to follow, but that inspire me on my own adventures all the same.
One of my favourite books of all time, and the book that inspired me to go on to attempt the 10 Peak Challenge, was “Cairngorm John: A life in Mountain and Rescue”. The book tells the many stories of rescues gone right and wrong. A true reminder of just how formidable (and deadly) the mountains can be.
Keeping on the subject of mountains, I became somewhat obsessed with the 1996 Everest Disaster (the one the film Everest is made after). Not only did I watch the movie twice but I also read “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, which tells the tale of how the events unfolded from his point of view, and then “The Climb” by Anatoli Boukreev, one of the mountain leaders in the fateful expedition, who wrote a book to refute some of the accusations made.
Another epic tale, and a true classic, is “No Picnic on Mount Kenya”, written by Felice Benuzzi. A true story of three Italian prisoners of war who broke out to climb Mount Kenya and then break back into prison again. I highly recommend it!
Although I’ve read plenty of books that have made me want to travel, none come to mind right now so instead I will name the books I want to read! If you have any you think I should add let me know! This is what I have so far:
“The Dark Tourist” by Dom Joly.
“Travels on my Elephant” by Mark Shand.
“In Ethiopia with a Mule” by Dervla Murphy.
“Fifty Miles Wide” by Julian Sayarer.
4. Plan your next adventure
Just because we currently can’t go travelling doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan our next adventure. Not only do we have plenty of time to research but this could be our chance to ditch the big international travel companies and focus on supporting the local independent agencies in country. When we first started going to slightly “different” places we used Rickshaw Travel who did a great job of creating itineraries that allowed us to feel like we were travelling solo whilst having the safety network of knowing someone with knowledge had actually planned it!
However, as we grew in confidence, I started arranging the trips myself, and I have to say I get considerable more enjoyment from the process. It takes time, and a lot of research, and some stress a well, but it also provides you with a much bigger sense of achievement knowing that you have truly planned the adventure from start to finish.
It also gives you greater flexibility to go on the tours you want to go on, to stay in places for as long as you want to stay, and to support the local businesses of your choice. Of course, a company such as Rickshaw Travel does all that too, but your choices are more limited.
So, start Googling, start dreaming, and start planning your next adventure. Tourism makes up 10% of global GDP and there are over 50 million jobs at risk as a result of the current pandemic. By planning, and booking our trips whilst in the safety of our homes (as long as you financially can afford to do so) you will be helping not only sustain some of the income for those struggling most right now, but will also be part of the recovery mission when borders reopen.
Furthermore, a lot of companies are offering fantastic deals for next year which you can pay in instalments, easing the burden on your cash flow and providing them with much needed cash right now. Of course, it goes without saying, make sure you protect yourself by ensuring any travel you do book is covered by your insurance should that company cease to exist, or it needs to be cancelled due to movement restrictions.
What am I researching as my next adventure? Namibia!
5. Try exotic food
There is no question about it, I LOVE food! And I love discovering new food. That is why whenever we visit a new country we try and go on a food tour. We’ve done them in Madrid, Rome, Bangkok, Hanoi, Rio and Buenos Aires. We always try and do them on the day we arrive which not only helps keep us awake after a long flight, but also provides us a great introduction to the city or country.
The tours always involve visiting neighbourhoods off the tourist path, so you get to see areas you otherwise wouldn’t be able to, and you get to learn what life is really like in that particular country. The tour guide will share snippets of history, personal anecdotes, urban legends and quirky tales. You will learn the right way to do things, and the way that will have the locals laughing out loud (or worse, offended!). You will also get to try dishes you would otherwise never order and you will undoubtedly discover your holiday favourite.
Of course, we can’t go wandering through any city right now on a food tour, however we can do it from the comfort of our home by trying out new dishes from across the globe. Maybe you have some cooking books at home gathering dust with delights in them waiting to be tried; or maybe you need to turn to Google in search of some inspiration.
Here are three dishes I’ve tried since being stuck at home:
Zesty Garlic and Chilli Prawn Stir Fry reminiscent of Hong Kong.
Pop Corn Chicken Fakeaway – a healthy KFC
Papanasi, a reminder of our travels through Romania.
And if you fancy something exotic but want it to be mega easy then why not try out Simply Cook? They send you the sauces and spices to make delicious meals and they are currently running a promo which involves sending you the necessary ingredients for 4 meals!! To claim your free box (with free delivery!) you just need to follow this link https://simplycook.com/invite/DQRQC5. Disclaimer, I will also get a free box! And in case you are worried about being trapped into an agreement, don’t. You can cancel at any time without incurring any charges. However, be prepared to fall in love and want to keep trying more!
6. Learn a new language
There is nothing locals love more than someone who has made an effort to learn their language. Being able to speak a few words, and understand a few words, will get you so far when travelling abroad. Not only will locals be nicer, you are also much more likely to have movie worthy experiences (hopefully not horror movies!). My Spanish has got us free drinks, free food, introductions to family, invites behind the scenes and even a marriage proposal! (Well, maybe it would be better described as an arranged marriage!). My point is: people appreciate it and will interact with you more.
So as you have time on your hand to plan where you are going next, you also have time to learn the most common phrases and words for that location. I rather enjoy learning through games and quizzes so I will often download apps such as Duolingo to entertain me for 5 minutes each day. I have photographic memory, so I find learning the written words easy however I struggle with pronunciation so where possible I try and make sure I am also listening (movies with subtitles are great!).
7. Give back
Travel for me is much more than simply visiting beautiful areas, learning about history and trying delicious food. I like to give back when I travel, to have a positive impact on the people I meet and the interactions I have. That may be by choosing a tour that gives back to the community, like for example when we Cooked with Poo in Thailand (a cookery class held in Bangkok’s largest slum where the proceeds were used to cook meals for hundreds every day – and don’t worry, we didn’t cook with excrement, Poo was the lady’s name!). It could also be by supporting local businesses by choosing B&B’s as opposed to International Hotel Chains, local restaurants instead of global chains, or as simple as taking our laundry down the street to the family washing it in their back yard.
But giving back doesn’t just have to be about money, it can also be about listening, learning, and teaching. We’ve met so many people who relish the opportunity to practice their English with us so they can improve, who want to hear our stories and who are amazed we should be interested in theirs. It is about bringing joy, in whatever way you can, into others lives. It’s about stepping out of you comfort zone and interacting with locals. I bet the Vietnamese Farmers we joined during rice harvest shared stories over dinner about the western weirdos who helped them load the heavy sacks on to the cart. It’s about making people smile.
And you can still do that from home. Have you dropped any of your past tour guides a message to wish them health and safety during the crisis? Do! You never know just how much that might mean to them right now. Have you written reviews for those hotels and attractions, restaurants and guides who went out of their way to make your trip unforgettable? Now you have time and you will be helping them get noticed when borders reopen.
Have you offered to help those who need it most (home and abroad)? Although my Sierra Leone Marathon has been postponed I am continuing to raise funds for Street Child as they need that money more now than ever to help the most impoverished communities navigate the COVID-19 crisis.
8. Listen to an inspiring adventure podcast
You’ve read, you’ve watched, you’ve tasted. Now it’s time to listen! And it is now easier than ever, especially with the huge number of Podcasts available out there. I’ve particularly come to love the Tough Girl Podcast. Sarah Williams, the host, does a fantastic job of finding truly inspirational women that are pushing themselves out of their comfort zone doing the most amazing journeys across the world.
I was lucky enough that the first episode I listened to truly “got to me”. It was an interview with Kristina Palten, a woman who had just run solo across Iran (1,144 km). Not only was I blown away by the fact she had run that far, but it opened my eyes to the possibility of adventure in a country that I’ve always been intrigued about but certainly would never have considered going solo.
Since listening to the Podcast I’ve listened to one inspiring woman after another telling their story, and I’ve learnt that they are no different to you and me. Some are elite athletes (not like me), but the majority aren’t. The majority are mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and full-time employees that have found a way to fit adventure into their lives. So next time you have 40 minutes to spare give one a listen!
9. Do something silly
And finally, do something silly. I did laugh when I saw Much Better Adventures latest holiday 😊
I hope the above gives you some inspiration to continue being adventurous even within the confinement of your home. If you have any other great tips or ideas let me know as I am always looking to learn something new, set myself a new challenge, and find another way to pass the time.
[…] Alas we did. We had a wonderful time, and just 4 days after our return, Spain closed its borders. A week later life as we knew it would no longer exist and we would be catapulted into a new normal. Allowed out our homes only once a day with all socializing stripped to virtual interactions, life suddenly slowed down. It was as if there were more hours in the day and more days in the week. But what were we meant to fill those hours with? […]