Keeping occupied in isolation

Posted by Maike Kottig on

The world is a strange place at the moment. We have not faced a situation like this before on such a global scale. For the adventurers and explorers among us, the COVID-19 pandemic has left us stranded in our very homes which we are usually longing to escape. Spending so much time inside is a new scenario for many of us, and it can be terribly stale and boring at times. But we will get through this and persevere, and before long we will be back hiking through the wilderness.

Imagine being thousands of kilometres away from civilisation,
dropped off on a glacier with just one other person – now that’s isolation!

From personal experience as a geologist, I have spent a fair bit of time in isolated field locations such as Antarctica, Timor-Leste and remote Australia, where we have lived in close quarters with little to no connection to the outside world. Here are some personal tips and tales on how I have learnt to pass time when stuck in a remote spot:


1. Stay active

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be difficult under isolation, but I have found exercise to be a great way to break out of a funk, relieve some stress and get your heart pumping. Whether it’d be walking around the block, doing some home exercises in the living room or cleaning up the house, find whatever works for you and try and do it regularly.

Hiking in the Australian Alps – can’t wait to get back out there!

2. Create events to look forward to

Put some events in your calendar that you can look forward to or an event that requires you to prepare something for in advance. These events don’t have to be anything fancy, simple things such as movie night, or a video-call catchup with friends, or a Sunday roast help you plan your week ahead and pass time as you work towards them. When I was in Antarctica, we would all gather in the living room twice a week for yoga sessions using a video instructor – we weren’t very good but we had plenty of fun and were always excited to join in!

Simple, but cosy, accommodation in Antarctica, we managed with
what we had and had a great time getting to know each other.


3. Bake! Or try other hobbies! Or learn new skills!

I really enjoy baking desserts, and with the extra time at home, it’s the perfect opportunity to try a new recipe. I was constantly baking treats in the station. In Antarctica, there was an old classic cookbook there and I just flicked through and picked out different recipes to try, which was a great way to kill time indoors when it was blizzarding outside. If you’re not much of a baker, try find another hobby! You could learn to paint/draw, try a new language or perhaps pick up that musical instrument that’s been collecting dust for a while. Hobbies help keep the mind active and there’s a great sense of accomplishment when you learn something new. 

Campsite during fieldwork on the SW coast of Tasmania –
nothing but empty beaches, rainy days and good company.


4. Get to know people better and reconnect with friends/family

A lot of the time I have been out in the wilderness with a few people, the best memories I have are of simply sitting around a campfire talking to each other. In normal circumstances, we interact with heaps of different people every day, but now that we have a bit more time take a moment to learn more about the people in your life - your partner, your housemates, even your children! You can be pleasantly surprised and entertained by the stories people have to tell. And if you haven’t spoken to an old friend for a while, now’s a perfect time to reach out and check in on them.

Sharing stories around the campfire is the best way to get to know people better,
especially on chilly nights in outback NSW.


5. Look after yourself

There are going to be good days and bad days but it’s really important to take care of yourself and your mental wellbeing. Do the things that make you feel happy, even if it means sometimes being a little selfish. Stay positive and we’ll get through this pandemic!

Remember to put some time aside for yourself and relax once in a while!

Written by Jeremy Lee. 

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