With the current shelter-in-place order, many of us have drawn on past experience to pass the time: revisiting old hobbies and reconnecting with memories that bring us comfort. But nostalgia can only provide so much consolation, and if you live alone, there's no denying that the enforced solitude will feel increasingly difficult to bear. Which means it's time to create some next steps in your self-isolation plan.
While most of my friends were finishing their degrees and starting their careers, I spent the majority of my twenties on the road, working, living, and traveling in over 30 countries on five continents. And now, somewhat ironically, I find that the experience of roaming from place to place has prepared me best for sheltering-in-place.
For many accustomed to the compressed experience of a one- or two-week vacation, traveling can feel like a constant bustle. But a vagabond with an open-ended itinerary might spend years traveling in places where they have no roots, no friends, and rudimentary-to-no language skills. And since every penny must be conscientiously budgeted—limiting the number of extracurricular activities and entertainments available—even a gregarious individual will wind up spending a lot of time alone.
But "alone" need not mean "desperately lonely." As the Bay Area enters its fourth week of sheltering in place, I’ve found the following techniques from my drifting days to be helpful for both keeping my distance and keeping up morale. Adapting some of them may help you stay the course.
Stay Active: I love loafing, but barring underlying medical conditions, you’ll generally feel better if you keep moving. As walking and cycling are still permitted activities (as long as you keep the proscribed distance from others, and consider the CDC's recommendation to wear a mask), you may decide to brave the great outdoors for a daily constitutional. For individuals resolutely remaining inside, even a basic exercise routine will get your blood circulating and your muscles engaged.
I’m a personal fan of this seven-minute workout, which I’ve adapted to many a small room while touring the Fringe Festival circuit. Currently the internet is awash with zoom fitness classes and quarantine routines, including one from none other than ex-Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger. Whatever works for you, try to spend at least an hour a day in active motion.
Experiment With Food: One of the great joys of traveling is discovering the foods of different regions, and I’ve made it a point to learn to cook many of them, from aioli to yassa. But even a non-cook can take this opportunity to try something new. My Twitter feed is bursting with people trying sourdough bread for the first time. If you have access to extra veggies, make a quick vinegar pickle or try fermentation to preserve them. Grab a cocktail shaker and try to recreate your favorite pre-quarantine drink. Now is the time to play with your food.
Alternatively, since many restaurants are struggling to stay afloat, and if you have the money, consider ordering a meal—not just from your favorite restaurant, but from one you’ve never tried. Where do you want to travel to next when travel is allowed again? Find a restaurant that makes that food, and savor those flavors when you're there next.