I didn’t think I would ever be writing this, but I’ve finally taken my first few steps outside after 3 months locked indoors. 2020, you sure have thrown a curve ball.
I’m usually someone who is busy 24/7. I have work, plans with friends, time with family, outdoor adventures and of course, lots of travel abroad. It was a nonstop, exciting and fulfilling lifestyle.
And what felt like almost overnight, my life changed.
Lockdown life has been hard for me for many different reasons including being unwell for a lot of it and finding it soul piercing to stay away from my family. But I am also vulnerable to covid-19, which meant doctors’ and government orders were to stay home for 12 weeks.
Was that even possible? Can I manage that? Will I survive this? Is this real? It’s surely just a horrid nightmare, right? Wake me up please.
Nope. It was frighteningly a very real fact.
And I don’t live in a big house with a big garden. I live in a tiny, city centre, one bedroom flat with my boyfriend and the only silver lining was that we have a balcony. That small wooden ledge was genuinely a life saver throughout this whole unexpected experience.
So, when the news finally came that even though I was high risk, the infection rate had lowered enough that I could tentatively go outdoors, I was elated. Imagine it, I was stuck in this flat for MONTHS. Other than direct trips to the hospital and GPs, I can’t believe I endured a life inside these four walls for so long.
But then… the reality of leaving the safety of my home for the big, scary, pandemic riddled outdoors became unsettling. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced anxiety, but this was probably the closest I’ve ever come to it.
Covid-19 has changed my life for the long term. Why not read about how I think coronavirus will affect my love for travel?
Preparing for the outdoors
Usually, you know, we’d just leave the house and go on an adventure. But not anymore.
Firstly, we chose a short, local walk so we could return home sharpish if it all got a bit too much. Next, we picked a day and time that we expected to be quietest. The more people we could avoid the better. We also tried to plan a route that had larger spaces.
And then I made a little covid grab bag of things including my mask, hand sanitiser and hair ties. The last one might sound weird, but I did not want hair flying in my face when I’m meant to avoid touching it.
Finally, we washed our hands and I took my first steps on the pavement outdoors.
The reality of taking a walk in times of covid
With all the planning in the world, we still had to adjust for two things. The condition of the route and selfishness of others.
We swapped sides of the road like it was a game of ping pong. Most paths were tiny, so we regularly had to walk on the road. My boyfriend would continuously swap sides with me so I was furthest from anyone else. We paused and edged around corners, never sat on a bench and didn’t touch any railings.
But that was all in our control. The worst part of the experience was other people.
Most of the time they would swagger in the middle of the path. No consideration to get into single file or edge to the side. Groups would gather on bridges and small roads taking up all the space. Some even chose to skim past us even when there was room to keep a wide berth. It was infuriating. I was meant to be relaxed and instead I was fuming.
I was also worried about children whizzing around on scooters and bikes. Playing tag and cartwheeling on the grass. Wondering whether their frantic energies would edge them uncomfortably close to me.
And those random, funny, and sometimes deep chats Rob and I would have, became focused on decision making and judging the behaviours of others. That is not the headspace I expected on a casual stroll.
Did I feel my chest tighten because it was humid, because I was angry or did I feel like I couldn’t breathe because of anxiety? I think I was overwhelmed. I don’t think a local walk was the right choice. Next time I would choose a wide open space like Tatton Park.
That wonderful experience of going for a walk feels stripped away from me.
So what once was a calming pastime, has become a stressful necessity. I do not want to become reliant on indoor living. That is not a life to me. I will continue to get outdoors and face a fear I never imagined having.
Simply stepping outside this flat will take so much more planning and consideration than before and this new normal will certainly take some getting used to but I refuse to feel trapped because of my chronic illnesses. They’ve taken too much already.
I’m sensible, organised and strong. As long as I am able, I will continue to safely get outside. I trust myself. I just wish I had the same faith in the UK public.