Three months ago, I was surfing every sunrise on the glassy waves of Hiriketiya Bay, southern Sri Lanka. Four months past, my evenings were spent navigating the soy-scented night markets of Bangkok. Go back a year and I was exploring Mexico, devouring huevos rancheros with refried beans on cobbled plazas in Morelia and Guanajuato. Last summer, I cruised the Interrail and hiked the Italian Alps for a whole month straight.
Now, I’m stuck back at home: Wales.
Coronavirus rules the airways. The life of the so-called digital nomad (not my choice of title) is, for now at least, on the proverbial back-burner. I’ve already cancelled a two-month surf trip to Portugal. The point breaks and Atlantic rollers of Peniche will have to wait. I live in fear that COVID will claim the summer, too. Poland, Germany, and Peru – all places that could have the chop.
But if there’s something that the first three weeks of isolation in Wales have shown me, it’s that things ain’t all bad for those of us who are currently stuck when we’d usually be moving. I’m slowly rediscovering what short-distance adventuring means. I’m re-finding the joys of my Celtic homeland. Simple pleasures are enough to please – my dog chasing a stick; a fire on the beach; a sunset. Oh, and my carbon footprint is a slice of what it might otherwise be.
If, like me, you find yourself anchored to home in these trying times, read on. Below are some pointers on how to add excitement and energy to your sojourn on familiar soil. They’ll let you stay ethical with your social distancing, all while helping you stave off that wanderlust and conquer the cabin fever.
Reconnect with local nature
Strange with a potentially deadly pandemic going around: The thing I dread perhaps the most is a complete lockdown. But until the situation dictates that we must stay inside, nature can be our great escape. Use what’s around you. Find those urban parks. Drive out of town for a day in the valleys and the woods. Hit the cliffs to feel the salt spray.
I’ve been returning to a beach that I’ve been going to since before I could walk. All the nooks and crannies there are filled with memory. There’s the spot I cut my shins on brambles while playing cops and robbers. There’s the place I wild camped when I was 15. There’s where I used to roll down the dunes with a mouthful of sand.
But now I’m building more. Under the craggy cliffs and the dashes of spiny gorse, between the headlands and the high dunes, I light fires and watch the sunset. I swim in the ocean until my bones hurt. I yodel at the waves like an idiot – there’s no one to hear, or to judge. I roll in the sand and run through hills of swaying sea oats.
Scratch being stuck. This could be your chance to reconnect with the place you thought you already knew so well.
Isolation can be awesome!
Sunrise. 6am. Car loaded with that 6″ board, last surfed in Sri Lanka, but this time a 5/4 wetsuit to match. Then I’m cruising between gnarled oak trees and sheep-speckled farm fields on the way west to Llangennith Beach. Handbrake up under the dunes. Waves a-beckoning. They are three- or five-footers going left and right, peeling beautifully along the 5,000-meter bay. There’s no one else around. All to myself.
It’s never like that, just as the cliff walks and the beaches I am visiting are ever as empty as they are now. Isolation is keeping people apart, but it’s also giving you a chance to be alone. You can use that to find solitude and calm. Do it responsibly, though. Reports of crammed national parks show that the search for segregation can backfire badly in the age of Coronavirus.
It’s tricky staying productive in a world that seems to be shutting down. Work slows and there’s not so many tasks you have to do. Places close and there aren’t so many things you can choose to do. But being home should mean you have somewhere comfy and safe to ride out the storm. And that means you can enjoy the constructive pursuits that being a busy body usually means aren’t on offer.
Settle in that cushiony armchair and delve into a book. Read those dusty tomes that have been stacked on the shelves since you were a kid – last night, I found a A3-sized copy of Don Quixote with thick-paper pages and a date circa 1880! Or, learn a language. It’s all for a good cause; a bit of Spanish to use next time your hopping taco stands in Mexico. Do a course, from coding to writing to web design, there are all sorts of skills out there you can hone before the world comes back from the brink.
Get your fix of sun…and rain
It’s a cruel coincidence that COVID-19 hit Europe just as winter was leaving off and spring creeping in. I’d usually be making the most of the shoulder seasons island-hopping in Greece, catching the close of the skiing in the Alps, or getting a last beach fix while backpacking Southeast Asia before the monsoon.
However, where I’m from, daffodils are dotting the parks in Swansea. There are yellow buds in the tough gorse that rolls down the cliffs behind the beaches of the Gower. The Brecon Beacons to the north are filled with young lambs and blooming wildflowers. It’s actually stunning.
I don’t know what your hometown offers in springtime. However, there’s beauty in this transitory time of the year. Try to enjoy the sparks of the first summer sun if you’re in the north. Try to revel in April’s showers and the intermingling of icy winter winds and balmy breezes. Down south, in Asia and NZ and Australia, you can look forward to wrapping up warm, getting wet in the rains, and watching the leaves drop from the trees. Coronavirus won’t stop the seasons, so let them ground you.
Plan your future travels…but maybe hold off on bookings
If this Coronavirus lockdown offers anything, it’s time. Without packing to do or visas to score, digital nomads relegated to their homes are like newbie jailbirds, suddenly finding themselves with hours and hours to fill. But your dreams of globetrotting don’t have to cease. You can plan your travels, but it’s probably best not to book them.
That means scanning Airbnb for the next best surf pad on the shores of Costa Rica (guilty!). It means looking for cheap flight deals that go from around October or later – and there are some seriously amazing flight deals available right now! It means delving into travel blogs and guides to find new places you want to visit.
One day, the world will return to something more normal. When it does, you’ll be raring to go.