Tom Lohr hates being stuck in the house, loves dogs, and did not get a flu shot this year.
Got Cabin Fever? Find Things to Do Alone Outside
On lockdown? Laid off? Suspended from college? Avoiding a global pandemic? Or perhaps just retired? Either way, you need something to fill your time constructively. You can only binge watch so much television before the great outdoors beckons; even if that means the backyard.
Somedays, you want to—or need to—be left alone while enjoying the world outside of your house. Often, we tend to spend hours sitting around trying to figure out what we want to do that day, and then, before you know it, it's late afternoon and we decide to do nothing.
Have a plan. Get up at a decent hour and get your butt outside. If you want to be isolated from people or just left alone, here are fifteen activities that you can enjoy alone while outdoors.
Derived from the practice of having a semi-secret place back in the very old days, where rural folks would hide their outgoing mail. The next person going into the village or town that had a post office would pick up the letters and mail them for everyone. It might have been inside a hollowed out tree or under some rocks—wherever only the locals knew about.
During the 20th century, it became a game. Participants would have a small pad of paper and set out to find hidden letterboxes. The boxes had a small, personalized, rubber stamp and an ink pad. After finding the box, a person would put the ink stamp in their pad of paper. It becomes a game of collecting as many stamps as you can. Enthusiasts not only collect ink stamps, but craft and hide one of their own letterboxes.
Finding the letterboxes is part of the fun. On a website dedicated to letterboxing, you can get a list of boxes hidden near wherever you live or are currently located. Each letterbox comes with instructions guiding you to its hiding place. Sometimes the instructions are simple; sometimes it is a riddle or cryptical message. It is a great way to get outdoors and get some light exercise.
Geocaching is the 21st century version of letterboxing. The difference is, instead of receiving written instructions and directions, you get GPS coordinates.
2. Watch Airplanes
Airplanes are fascinating machines. Getting such a huge hunk of metal to fly is an extraordinary engineering achievement. Normally, the only time we get to see large airliners up close is when we are boarding them or at an airshow. If you think gawking at aircraft is fun, wait until you have one fly close above you.
Some airports have areas where you can observe aircraft. The best ones are small parking lots along service roads that pass by the airport at one end of the runway. You can park there and let the landing or departing aircraft pass a few hundred feet above you. It's loud and awesome. It is also a great location for aircraft photography.
3. Use Your Local Park
Take a look at a map of the town or city you live in. Normally, it is dotted with green spots that designate parks. Local parks are one of the most underused public facilities your tax dollars fund. If you go during a weekday during the day, you will often have the park to yourself. At best, there a few moms with toddlers or dog walkers in the area.
Just walk through the park, enjoy the greenery and fresh air. Being trapped inside all day is not good physically or mentally. Think of a visit to the park as a free visit to the wellness clinic.
4. Explore Monuments
Whenever I drive through the city, I pass dozens of monuments. Some are easily recognized as war memorials, others I have no idea what they represent. Especially when the monument includes a statue of a person. Who is that person and what did they do to deserve to be recognized in perpetuity?
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Pick out a few that catch your interest and either walk or drive to them. Take time to read what the monument was erected for or who that person immortalized in bronze or granite is. Monuments are part of your local cityscape and history. You should know at least something about it.
5. Go Fishing
Fishing is not as easy as it seems. You have to know all sorts of gear, handle icky bait and have a license. Plus, some streams, rivers or lakes are not easy to access. But once you get the become familiar with it, hanging out by the river can be very relaxing.
There are plenty of websites that will teach you all about fishing. Just remember it is for recreation. Don't let it become your personal quest for the white whale. And if you are not going to eat it, catch and release.
6. Bird Watching
Once relegated as an outdoor activity for senior citizens, bird watching is making a comeback. The beauty of it is that you can probably do it in your backyard. Get to know the local bird varieties and see if you can spot one of each. In the old days, people kept logs and you would have to take their word that they actually saw a bird that has been extinct for decades. Today, you can capture an image on an inexpensive camera or cellphone.
Birding takes lots of patience. And birds seem to instinctively know when you are about to take a picture of them and fly off. At least they do for me.
7. Landscape Photography
You can couple bird watching with landscape photography and use your camera to capture both. Wherever you live, there is at least one spot worthy of being immortalized on your files of digital photos. You don't have to have an over the top camera to get great images. If you are serious about it, then a high end camera does help, but if all you want is a cool screensaver from a photo you took, your phone will do.
While you are waiting for the perfect light (and in landscape photography, lighting is everything), get in a little bird watching. Combine both and you are well on your way to becoming a naturalist.
8. Walk a Rescue Dog
Most animal shelters are 'no-kill facilities.' That means they must care for the animals until they are adopted. In addition to food, water and veterinary care, they need exercise. There are far too many dogs for the small staff at the shelter to walk all of them. Nearly all rely on volunteers to help keep the pups fit.
Normally, there is some sort of quick training and orientation involved before you are allowed to walk the shelter dogs. But afterwards, there is nothing more rewarding than taking an appreciative mutt out for a stroll and watching its tail wag in happiness.
Looking for something to do outside that doesn't involve driving somewhere? Grow something in your yard. Flowers are beautiful and can really accent the exterior of your home. Vegetables are tasty, healthy and can save you money.
Growing your own takes a little research, but consider a raised bed garden and try the square foot method. There is always something to do with your garden: weed pulling, staking up plant vines, reducing pests and harvesting. Not only is it convenient, but can be accomplished in small chunks of your time. Grow well, eat well.
10. Pick Up Litter
Somewhere near your home is a spot just waiting for you to clean it. I live near a bus stop and gas station. When I finally cleared the tall weeds off of the embankment near my house, I picked up two, large garbage bags of trash. All of it was small stuff. There was that much litter hiding in the weeds.
Not only is picking up litter a great community service, it is decent exercise as well. Take a before and after photo of the area you policed and post it on your social media. Perhaps you will inspire someone else to make a spot near them litter-free. And if they inspire someone to do the same, eventually you could live in a town free of litter.
11. Take a Scenic Drive
Chances are, there is a stretch of road near you that boasts some spectacular scenery. There are dozens of byways in the United States that are selected for their beauty. Do yourself a favor and bone up on specific things to look for as you drive. Most rock formations, meadows or historical buildings do not even require you to exit your car to take in their grandeur. Hit the road for some out of the house fun.
12. Take an Architecture Tour
If you don't want to drive far, and live near a city of at least modest size, there are likely some pretty cool buildings to admire. You can research historical buildings in your city and make a drive to look at those, or choose a specific type of architecture: gothic, art deco, mid-century modern, etc.
Do a little research, plot the locations of the buildings you want to see, and then use one of the map programs available to chart a course that takes you on a sensible route. This is a great weekend activity. Many of the major cities have downtowns that are eerily abandoned on weekends.
13. Take a Walk in a Cemetery
Cemeteries can be very peaceful places to visit. In the 19th century, before cities evolved in their design, cemeteries were the equivalent of our first public parks. People would picnic and stroll there.
Today, you can still walk, run, or stroll though the manicured grounds of a local graveyard. For larger, more grand grounds, it can also be a place to admire the granite artwork of some elaborate headstones. See if you can find the oldest section and compare those headstones to those of today.
When you become bored with the world around you, explore the cosmos with your eyes. Sometimes it will require a drive to escape the light pollution, but the night sky is full of wonder. We all see the stars, but do you know which are which? Can you find the constellations? Do you know how to find the North Star? How about Sirius or Deneb? Many of the planets are also visible to the naked eye if you know when and where to look.
The air is typically clearer (lacking the distortion of rising heat) in the winter. Bundle up and spend an evening sipping some hot apple cider and taking in the awe of outer space.
15. Visit a Historical Battlefield
Most are national or state parks, and most are rarely visited (famous battlefields like Gettysburg excepted). There is also probably one within a few hours drive from you. While the major battlefields of the Civil War are well know, there are a slew of them that were smaller skirmishes you probably never heard of. Don't limit yourself to the Civil War. There are War of Independence battlefields as far south as the Carolinas. Don't forget the War of 1812, or the battles with Native Americans.
Before visiting, read up on the battle. Get to know the terrain. Knowing who was where during the battle makes it much more interesting and informative.
Get in Gear
When you are tired of binge watching shows on television, do your body a favor and get outside. Sunshine and fresh air are good for you. If you are hellbent on avoiding most people, pick one of the listed activities and embrace it. When you become bored with that, choose another.
You could fall off of a cliff or get eaten by a bear and die doing some of these. Or, you could sit on the couch, eat potato chips and die. Which way would you rather go out?
Liz Westwood from UK on March 26, 2020:
Even though we are in lockdown in the UK, some of these could be incorporated in our one excursion of the day for a walk or run. Although the planes in the sky are few and far between at the moment.