Outdoor Activities During a Summer with COVID-19
By Michelle Lincoln, Photos by Christine Purdy
This year has been a difficult year already. As COVID-19 spread globally into the United States, we all began practicing social distancing and quarantining. Lack of social connection coupled with limited sunlight hours during winter means that many of us are in need of a boost. With summer weather tempting us all outside and many states lifting stay-at-home orders, here are some suggestions for activities that you can do outdoors to boost your mood and still practice public health safety. Please check out the CDC recommendations for limiting exposure to COVID-19. They have extensive guides and FAQs.
Now, grab your sunscreen and water and step outside!
Go for a walk, hike, or bike ride!
Feel the breeze on your face as you cruise around your neighborhood on your bike or longboard, or if you have access to a car, travel to local trails and parks to walk or hike. Make sure to bring snacks and plenty of water (hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!) from home. Keep a mask handy in case you need to skirt around others on the paths and have hand sanitizer in your pack or in the car. If you think you’ll need gas, bring sanitizing wipes or gloves to use at the gas station. As a reminder, don’t touch your face! Hand washing and limiting contact with your eyes, mouth, and nose are still the most effective ways to avoid exposure to most germs, not just COVID-19.
Gardening and Composting
Summer is a great time to garden! It’s a great way to stay very close to home but get some fresh air and movement outside. If you have a yard or plot to work with, you could do some “summer cleaning” and start an edible plant or native plant garden. In Michigan, butterfly weed and joe pye weed are both native plants that prefer full sun and do well in the summer. Most states have native plant directories, so if you’re not in Michigan this summer, you can find out the best native plants for your region or state online. If you don’t have an outdoor plot, you can create an indoor garden with the flora of your choice! Any container will do—just make sure there is proper drainage. If you are planting from seeds, you can make origami starter containers from newspaper. Many local nurseries or online organic seed distributors have resumed shipping. Work on planting your containers outside in the sun, soaking up that Vitamin D and creating a little nature for inside your home.
A great compliment to gardening is starting your own compost! I personally have an indoor vermicompost (which I highly recommend!), but if you have the space to set up a compost outside, this can be a good project to start now.
Whether you are dusting off a camera that you didn’t have a chance to use this year or you only have your phone, heading outside for a walk and some photography can be a good way to relax and get some light exercise. Charge up your devices, bring water and a mask, apply sunscreen, and snap some photos. Many online education platforms have made a selection of courses available for free due to COVID-19 and quarantine, so if you want to learn any tips and tricks for taking good photos, you could explore some courses online before heading out. Practice makes perfect, so take lots of pictures!
Sightseeing Day Trip
If you have a car, taking a day trip or going sightseeing might be an option for you. The CDC advises that non-local travel be avoided, as travelling increases your exposure to contact points for COVID-19. This option should be limited and not frequent, but following the CDC recommendations for car travel can help keep you and anyone that can travel with you safe while you visit parks and recreation areas that are further than your local park system. Make sure you have snacks, meals, medication, masks, water, and hand sanitizer with you for your trip. Plan your stops carefully and make sure to avoid touching your face and wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Even if restaurants have their lobbies open, still use curbside pick-up or the drive-thru for food.
Reconnect or Make a Connection
The weather is turning nice and warm enough to allow for social distancing outside, and if you have friends locally, you can set up friend dates to catch up and get some face-to-face social interaction, even if it’s 6 to 8 feet apart. Many people are also taking their video chats and phone calls outside, meaning that long-distance friendships can still involve getting sun and fresh air. This could also be a time for social-distance dating. In either case, you can cook or order food for delivery or pick-up (supporting local business!), and set up chairs and blankets in the yard or a corner of a park and connect. Don’t forget your water and sunscreen!
Lounge and Laze with a Book
Grab a blanket, outdoor chair, or hammock and bask in the sun with a book! Pull something from your own bookshelves, an old favorite or a new read, or take the opportunity to decolonize your bookshelf! The books available to expand the perspectives on your reading lists are vast: authors like Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Chang-rae Lee, Tommy Orange, Vandana Shiva, and Jesse Thistle can help you explore new viewpoints in whatever genre calls to you. These authors are just the start. Connect with your local library, bookstores, or book clubs to check out additional titles that can decolonize your bookshelf.
These are difficult times and difficult and uncertain times are ahead. It’s important to remember to get self-care, whether that be outside or inside, to keep yourself healthy so you can get out there, virtually or in-person, to volunteer, to protest, to work, to study. I’m excited to see my classmates again in the fall in any form, and I hope this short list helps you all enjoy your summer!