When my husband and I received the news that we had to self-isolate in NYC because of COVID-19, my first thought was: why don’t we live somewhere like Colorado where we could just escape to the mountains?
I was actually in Colorado when everything started to shut down in NYC. Honestly, I contemplated not coming back. Quarantined life sounded a heck of a lot better if you could at least get in your car and drive somewhere that was far away from others and be at peace with Mother Nature.
Alas, I realized I couldn’t escape my real life forever and had to figure out a way to manage in a big city, in my case, NYC. This is a difficult time for anyone — for different reasons — but I think it’s taking a special emotional and spiritual toll on those who live in big, congested cities and aren’t able to easily get out in nature.
My husband and I live in a 400 square foot apartment (and that’s being generous with the tape measure). No balcony, no porch, no backyard. One bathroom. A desk that we both must share. Needless to say, quarantined life is starting to get to us. I have come to cherish the few minutes I get to be outside every day. Whether it’s a quick walk around the block or a three-mile run in a nearby park, I’m thankful for a few minutes of sunshine on my skin.
I know not everyone is able to spend time outside, though, so I wanted to share four ways to connect with nature from inside your house and four ways to connect with nature outside while staying compliant with the social distancing guidelines for COVID-19.
Indoor Suggestions for Connecting with Nature
1. Grow houseplants
Houseplants are a great way to feel connected with nature from the comfort of your home. My tiny apartment is covered in them and they bring me a lot of joy. I recommend getting a pothos or a philodendron because they are easy to take care of and easy to propagate (meaning you can cut a clipping, put it in water, and grow an entirely new plant from it!).
2. Virtual national park tour
Thanks to Google Arts & Culture, you can take a trip to the great outdoors right from your computer screen. If you’ve always wanted to check out, say, Yellowstone National Park, now is the time! You’ll get free access and won’t have to bother with any other tourists.
3. View the cherry blossoms via Google Earth
Google Earth offers an incredible opportunity to view the famous cherry blossoms from any part of the world. From the Meguro River Cherry Blossoms Promenade in Tokyo to the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. — there are plenty of virtual tours you can take that make you feel like you are right there watching a shower of pink blossoms.
4. Join a livestream of the beach
This might be my favorite find because I love the beach. It turns out that there are several beach towns that have livestreams you can join. Tune into Hvar’s 24/7 YouTube livestream to get a feel for this Croatian beach town, Bermuda’s daily livestream for some casual beach vibes, or @TravelSaintLucia’s Instagram Live where you can catch a live DJ party!
Ways to Get Outside While Remaining Socially Distant
1. Run or walk during off hours
Given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advice to stay at least six feet away from everyone — to “socially distance,” going on your regular run or walk can be a bit stressful during peak hours. While not always possible, I’ve been trying to go earlier in the morning when fewer people are around. I’ve also noticed there are fewer people out and about on weekdays than the weekend. This might be different where you live, but take note of what time of day there seem to be fewer people around in your neighborhood and plan your runs and walks around those times.
2. Schedule a walking meeting
If you’re working from home during this time, consider changing one of your virtual meetings to a walking meeting. Even standing outside to take your call could give you the quick boost of energy your body might be craving. Walking up and down the steps in your apartment complex is another good option if you don’t want to travel very far.
3. Plant a garden
As I mentioned, right now I wish, more than almost anything, that I had some outdoor space — I would love to have a garden. If you do have this space, now would be the perfect time to get your hands dirty and spend some quality time in nature. A lot of people see gardening as a form of active meditation. If you don’t have any outdoor space, you might consider growing some herbs inside, which can also be fun!
4. Rent a shared bike or scooter
Bring your Lysol wipes, rent a shared bike or scooter, and go for a ride down the empty streets. You’ll be able to keep distant enough from everyone while still enjoying the fresh air. Since there are fewer cars than usual, it can be a nice time to check out new neighborhoods and ride across bridges that you wouldn’t normally be able to catch some spectacular views.
Connecting with nature can be healing. In these anxious and unsettling times, it can be easy to forget that taking care of your emotional well-being is just as important as your physical well-being. So just as you are taking extra precautions to wash your hands, get enough sleep, and socially distance, prioritizing time to connect with nature — either indoors, virtually, or outside away from others — is worth the effort. Taking care of your mind, body, and spirit is the name of the game right now!