15 Clever Ways to Explore the Outdoors While You’re Stuck Indoors
By Kay Rodriguez
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Updated November 17, 2022
Let’s face it, we’re in a bit of a bind right now when it comes to truly getting outdoors like our outdoor souls are used to. State and national parks are closed, government warnings to stay indoors are plastered all over the place…and yet, with each passing day, you’re craving fresh air and a day of exploring more and more. (At least, I know I am…) Moreover, the media is pummeling us with foreboding messages about quarantine and staying inside, and it seems like our ability to go on true outdoor adventures is screeching to a halt.
Trust me, I get it. Being inside when your heart belongs in the wild frankly sucks. Being stuck indoors when spring is finally here and it’s hiking primetime is literally making my soul cry. But we’re just trying to survive as a species, here.
Given that there’s really not much we can do to help the current situation than by following the rules of social distancing, this means a lot of us intrepid outdoorsy people will be stuck indoors, trying everything we can to maintain our sense of wonder and adventure. While it surely won’t make up for that big trip to Yellowstone or the overnight backpacking trip you were planning nearby, I hope these suggestions help you bring some of your favorite things about the outdoors into your own home.
Psst…read all the way to the end of this post for an EPIC Giveaway we’re doing to help you explore the urban outdoors (without leaving the comfort of your own home).
1. Pitch Your Tent Indoors (and Sleep In It)
If you’re itching to go backpacking but are sad you can’t plan a trip yet, I’d strongly recommend pulling out all your camping gear and setting up your home as its own makeshift “campsite.” Pitch your tent, blow up your sleeping mat, unroll your sleeping bag, and get ready to have your own indoor camping trip.
This idea might sound stupid, but it worked wonders for our mental happiness and rekindled a lot of fond memories outdoors in the wild. Plus, it made me feel like a total carefree child again in a world where there’s a lot to be worried about.
If you need some outdoor gear for your indoor camping trip (and for future outdoor ones), head to REI.com to check out their awesome gear. They’ve got a fantastic return policy, meaning you can try out your gear and decide if you like it before you commit.
While setting up your campsite indoors is a great way to start, there are a lot of other things you can do to further enhance and enjoy your “outdoors indoors” experience, like…
2. Turn on a Campfire Video and Sing Songs to It
There are tons of videos on YouTube like this one where you can play a campfire video for hours at a time, and it even comes with crackling sounds for an added realistic effect. Sure, it’s not a real campfire, but there is a silver lining: you don’t actually have to light it (anyone who has gone camping and has unsuccessfully tried to light a fire knows what I’m talking about). For an even more realistic effect, you can buy a campfire scented candle, campfire marshmallow essential oils, or a campfire air freshener to really seal the deal.
One of my personal favorite camping activities is strumming on my ukulele and singing songs into the night around the fire. This is an experience you can absolutely replicate at home! Even if you don’t have any musical instruments, turn on your favorite mountain or camping-themed songs and jam out, by yourself or with roommates/family. It’s fun, I promise.
3. Open Your Blinds and Windows
This might seem like a minuscule change, but the fresh air blowing into your home will make a HUGE difference. If you’ve been self isolating for several weeks (like we have), you’ve probably grown tired of your home’s recycled air without even knowing it! By opening your windows to let some new air in and closing your eyes, it will feel like you’re outdoors even when you’re sitting on your couch (or in your tent).
4. Meditate to Outdoor Sounds
You may not know it, but many outdoor activities are meditation in their own way. Whether you’re wandering through the woods, listening to your feet crunch under you or you’re closing your eyes and listening to the birds in the morning from your tent, mindfulness and meditation go hand-in-hand with outdoor adventures.
My favorite meditation app, Calm, offers dozens of fantastic guided meditations that come along with some wonderful background nature noises, like running water, birds, rain, ocean waves, and more.
Meditation itself has helped me tremendously with the anxiety and fear I’ve been feeling during this outbreak. I try to do a guided meditation every single day, but if that’s not your thing, you can simply open the app to listen to the different outdoor sounds they have pre-programmed.
Listening to nature sounds in your own home is a way to remain mindful and immerse yourself in nature in a way that’s second only to hearing the actual noises in the wild. For now, this will do, right?
5. Grow Some Indoor Plants
One of the best things about being out in nature, in my opinion, is being surrounded by lush vegetation and colors around every corner. While you can’t exactly grow a forest in your home, you can start cultivating a collection of indoor plants. In my house, I have 12, and it makes me happy every day to catch glimpses of green, yellow, and pink leaves all over the place.
Your local plant store may be closed right now, but they often sell plants at grocery stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Alternatively, if you want something a little more tropical or aesthetic, consider ordering plants from a boutique online provider like Bloomscape. In my opinion, though, the best way to cultivate a garden is by growing your plants from seeds.
Additionally, you can sometimes put your produce waste to good use by replanting seeds or roots and growing them from your own home. There’s a great book, No-Waste Kitchen Gardening by Katie Elzer-Peters, that will tell you all about how to plant your used vegetables to grow your own food indoors. That’s pretty cool, huh? You’ll get your hands dirty AND create less waste – a win/win for outdoor lovers in my book.
6. Explore through Online Outdoor Photography
Photos are one of the most special ways to capture the beauty of places and the fabulous memories of adventures past. And, if you haven’t noticed, there are some extremely talented photographers out there who share their photos of their adventures FOR FREE to the outside world. It’s so easy to get lost flipping through photographs of the most beautiful places on Earth. I couldn’t probably do it all day every day.
Instagram is a great place to start. Some of my personal favorite outdoor Instagram accounts include: Jimmy Chin, Chris Burkard, Elizabeth Gadd, Tiffany Nguyen, Hello Emilie, and Lost With Purpose. Other wonderful sources of outdoor photography include National Geographic YourShot and Photo Contest Archives, 500px, and Flickr.
Alternatively, if you take your own photos, you can take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of your own adventures by flipping through photos on your computer or in an album. You’ll feel so excited as you’re reliving your favorite hikes, excursions, and adventures…trust me.
7. Make Some Nature-Inspired Arts and Crafts
Just because you can’t actually be out in nature doesn’t mean you can’t use natural elements to make beautiful artwork for your home! From flower presses to wreaths to candles, potpourri, and woodworks, there are a TON of things you can make from items gathered outdoors (or in your local flower shop). The Organic Artist is a wonderful guide to creating your own paper, paint, and other handy crafts completely from natural elements. I’m definitely going to be using this guide with alllllll this free time I have now.
For those who are less artistically-inclined, coloring books are a fantastic way to relieve stress and get in the zone – I recommend the National Parks Coloring Book for those of you dreaming about visiting (and don’t forget the colored pencils, too!).
8. Watch Epic Movies or Videos of Incredible Places
If you’re stuck indoors, in your tent, bored out of your mind but unable to go hiking or biking or paddling, the next best way to feel a sense of adventure is by watching an outdoor-themed movie. The best movies are those that can completely transport you to another place and make you feel like you’re part of the adventure. While there are hundreds of outdoor-themed movies to immerse you in an adventure, here are a few of my personal favorites:
9. Investigate Conservation Organizations to Contribute To
Earth day is coming up! While we’re all crossing our fingers that we won’t be stuck inside by then, do your part and research some Mother-Nature-friendly causes to help. It can be difficult to figure out where your hard-earned money and time should go to, especially given the number of charitable organizations out there. Take the time you’re spending indoors to do the research on something that will help the outdoors, letting you and others enjoy it for generations to come.
If you want to make it even easier on yourself, or if you don’t have the cash to spend right now, there’s an easier option. Amazon Smile allows you to shop the entire amazon catalogue with your same amazon profile, but for every purchase you make, the company will donate 0.5% of the price of your order to an organization you choose. Over time this can really add up into a large quantity, and the best part about it is that you don’t even have to think about it!
10. Call a Friend and Plan an Adventure
With the rise of video conferencing apps like Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts, it’s now easier than ever to have a virtual hangout with your friends. Take advantage of your next virtual hangout session to call up your favorite travel buddies and plan your next adventure together. As the warmer months draw closer, it’ll be the perfect time to go on a long hike when the quarantine lifts. Dreaming about adventures is most fun when shared with friends!
New York Times 52 Places to Visit in 2020 – I love awaiting this list every new year, because it gives me so much excitement about new places, as well as nostalgia for places I’ve already visited and explored.
11. Exercise to Prepare for Said Adventure
Whether you do stair climbs in your apartment complex, calisthenic workouts in your living room, or yoga in a quiet spot, getting some exercise in is a great way to burn off some steam and make sure you’re physically in shape when the outdoors is available to explore again. While you can definitely do the workouts that jive with you the most, here are a few I really like:
Sweat by Kayla Itsines – This paid workout largely requires equipment you can find in your own home, like chairs and small weights (I use large bottles or cans). The programs offer 3 strength workouts weekly, plus cardio (low intensity and high intensity) each week.
BIG Power Yoga at Home – Put on my my favorite yoga studio in the entire world, their online classes will kick your a$$ while also leaving you in a blissful, meditative state. Show up, get on your mat, and deepen your practice with their Powerful Flow classes, which they offer several times daily.
HIIT at Home – For those who prefer HIIT style workouts, here are 10 that you can do from the comfort of your own home.
Calisthenics – Calisthenic workouts are circuits you do using only your body weight. Believe it or not, when done correctly, you can get REALLY strong and build a lot of muscle this way.
12. Read Epic Outdoor Books
Reading is yet another way to escape your living room for a bit and be transported out into the beautiful, spectacular world. Whether you’re reading memoirs or fictional stories, books about the outdoors can help you follow along on some of the most epic adventures in the world.
Here are a couple of our top outdoor book recommendations:
You can also find tons of other book recommendations on Amazon Books or on Barnes and Noble’s website. If you don’t want to wait for shipping, Barnes and Noble has this great Curbside Pick Up program where you can order online and pick up a book at your local store. Win!
13. Eat Camping/Hiking Food
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been subsisting mainly on things you have lying around in your house already (helllloooo, pasta and ramen). As you know, food is one of the best ways to bring back fond memories, and outdoor adventure food is no exception. Stock up on your trail favorites, like trail mix, dried fruits, Clif bars, Snickers, and whatever else you enjoy eating while on the trails or paddling the river.
For cooked camping concoctions, the New Camp Cookbookprovides a lot of camping-friendly recipes that will definitely remind you of nights in the wild. While the recipes definitely lean gourmet, they can be made with mostly non-perishables and produce, meaning you probably already have these items in your home or can easily get them via delivery or in your local grocery store.
14. Practice Leave No Trace
Just like you would on the trails, lakes, and rivers, practicing a Leave No Trace mindset doesn’t stop when you’re not on an adventure. You can take these principles home with you and reduce your environmental footprint by reducing the amount of waste and disposable items that you use at home. This could mean buying more produce and avoiding putting it in plastic bags. It could be prioritizing paper, metal, or glass packaging over plastic. Or, it could mean challenging yourself to have waste-free days, where you do not throw away anything that’s not biodegradable.
You could also go a step further and upcycle or reuse your disposable items, like turning old soda bottles/cans into gardening pots or using glass jars as flower vases. There are so many ways your can continue to minimize your waste and your carbon footprint while stuck at home, and this will help preserve and revive the beautiful nature that exists in the world. For more reading on a zero-waste lifestyle, check out 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg.
15. Support Your Favorite Outdoor Businesses
Travel, outdoor, and recreation businesses are facing a harsh reality during this pandemic, and it’s incredibly difficult for small businesses to stay afloat. Many of the restrictions are preventing people from taking long outdoor trips or traveling to new places, meaning that many online publishers, tour operators, gear outfitters, clothing/gear brands, and exercise studios are really struggling right now. There are tons of ways you can help these folks (myself and Skyline Adventurer included!) keep their businesses afloat during these difficult times, including:
Reading lots of travel articles on your favorite websites – Online media businesses like Skyline Adventurer make a significant portion of revenue from advertising, and we can earn money when people simply read and spend time on our websites. If you like what you see on our site (or on any other blog/publisher on the web), visit their websites often, read their guides, and consider purchasing from their gear recommendations.
Signing up for email newsletters from your favorite businesses – Another great way to help out small outdoor businesses is to sign up for their email updates. This way, you’ll know when things are open back up or if they’re having an online sale, AKA the perfect excuse to buy that new pair of hiking boots you’ve been eyeing. You can sign up for the Skyline Adventurer email list here, and we’ll send you lots of outdoor inspiration and the best guides for you.
Following businesses on social media – Same thing here, but following your favorite businesses on social media can help you stay updated on their latest offers, and also helps them perform better in social media algorithms so their messages will get shown to more people. Want extra credit? Share some of your favorite posts with your friends and family! You can follow Skyline on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.
Leaving positive reviews – If you love a particular outdoor shop, tour company, rental kiosk, or nature center, consider leaving reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, or TripAdvisor. When times are good, many customers rely on these reviews to inform their purchasing decisions. If you really believe in a company and want to help them thrive, this is an easy and small task to do that makes a huge impact.
Buying gift cards, making advance bookings, or purchasing products online – Many people who run small businesses rely exclusively on the revenue generated from their customers to survive – both as a business and as individuals. If you have the means, consider purchasing a gift card or making an advance booking with one or more of your favorite local businesses. Or, alternatively, buy a product you need online from businesses that are still able to fulfill eCommerce orders. Every purchase, no matter how small, helps these businesses survive, and your support will help them see through these tough times to much better (and sunnier) days.
Look, I’m just as frustrated as you are that we have to stay indoors for so long, under such strict provisions. However, we have to in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
Moreover, there has been ZERO explicit advice by any US authority that prohibits people from going outdoors at all. The government permits going outdoors for essential activities. You can still walk your dog, go for a run, wander through new neighborhoods, or even take a stroll through empty pathways in urban parks that remain open.
Just DO NOT FORGET to follow the recommended precautions, including:
Don’t leave your house if you feel sick or are exhibiting any symptoms of cough, sore throat, fever, or respiratory issues
Stay at least 6 feet away from any other person you do not live with
Avoid touching public surfaces and your face
Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as frequently as possible (yes, regular soap works)
Follow local guidelines and avoid any parks or areas of the city that have been closed
You can find the complete list of recommendations from the CDC here. Stay safe, stay vigilant, but most importantly, stay hopeful. We’ll be out of this and back exploring the outdoors in due time, and we’ll hopefully appreciate the sunshine even more this time around.
Don’t Worry, I Didn’t Forget About the Giveaway…
Skyline Adventurer is giving away a virtual outdoor book bundle to help you stay sane and inspired (and maybe learn a few things) during these difficult times. We’ll be giving away all 5 of the below books from our article to a lucky outdoor-loving winner in Kindle version (valid for the app or on a physical Kindle):
The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley
101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg
Epic Hikes of the World by Lonely Planet
The New Camp Cookbook by Linda Ly
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Entering the giveaway is super easy: simply submit your email below and follow us on Instagram and Facebook to enter!
The giveaway entry period ends on April 12, so go ahead and get those entries in! (One entry per person – we WILL be checking for duplicates!)
Urban Outdoors is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
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