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Indoors or Out-of-Doors – How has the COVID epidemic changed our behavior?

By Mary Lou Harris August 03, 2020 Lifestyle

Some of us have always been out there. The runners, the walkers, those with dogs and not – we have always expanded our days, from sunrise to sunset and beyond, with time in the out-of-doors.

Due to what I hope are temporary health concerns, I am one of the runners who has slowed to a walk. During this epidemic, I’ve found myself to be far more observant as a walker, taking the time as I walk to visually explore the streets, fields, homes, businesses, and people.

We have all continued to endure necessary constraints in how we shop, work, and move about in our world. Call it cabin fever, being “cooped up,” or whatever emotion each of us is feeling, I have observed a change in patterns with many people spending a greater amount of time in the outdoors.

In previous years of outdoor exercise, I was intrigued by the few people I would see outside of their homes, even on the most beautiful of spring, summer, and autumn evenings.

If there is even a shred of the positive in this epidemic we continue to endure, perhaps it is that more of us are expanding portions of our day in the outside world. We are in the hands of nature, whether that be our backyard, a park, or a trail. Let me share some of my changed behavior observations.

Out-of-Doors Friendship

Several mornings a week, I walk through a park with ample picnic tables, deck chairs, and benches. Each day I see groups of friends – usually two or three together, comfortably socially distanced. I will see a couple of thermoses on the table, maybe a snack. Sometimes this setting is a bit more elaborate with a colorful cotton throw covering the table.

If we were not continuing in this epidemic, where would these friends likely be? My guess is we would find them on summer mornings meeting in an air-conditioned coffeehouse or diner. Instead, here they are, breathing fresh air, feeling the breeze off the river.

The morning coffee get-togethers are not gender exclusive. Particularly in the Sixtyandme age range, I frequently see men who are clearly friends sitting down to talk. I also pass couples taking a walk and we say hello. On my return, I see that they are at a picnic table with their insulated coffee cups and a post-walk snack.

Out-of-Doors Work and Study

A few days ago, I walked through a section of park known for its large trees. I saw a man sitting on the lawn on a blanket in the shade of one of those huge trees. He was surrounded by printed spreadsheets, laptop in front of him as he worked.

Clearly, this was someone who held a position where he could now “work from home” and had, at least for this particular morning, moved to a “work from the park” status.

Pre-epidemic, would this gentleman have been in an office building? I think so. His outdoor time likely would be limited to a lunch break or walk to his mid-day workout at a gym.

Out-of-Doors at Home

For years, as I have run and walked by a newer neighborhood near my home, I have admired the beautiful wrap-around porches decorated with welcoming chairs. I admired the architecture but rarely saw a person in sight. All that lovely out-door living space and everyone staying inside.

Now, I pass by those same streets and most evenings I will see homes with several family members sitting outside. They wave and I wave, perhaps exchange a short greeting. Sometimes they are on their sidewalk talking from a safe distance with a next-door neighbor who is also outside.

Out-of-Doors with Family

With more children away from their classrooms learning on-line, family schedules are more fluid. Hiking trails early-on in this epidemic became overcrowded with families finding ways to engage children.

Many new to those trails needed to learn trail etiquette. Those problems have abated as everyone learned how to avoid busier times and how to leave the trails in pristine condition. I also see many more families out walking or cycling together.

Will We Continue to Enjoy the Out-Of-Doors Post-Covid?

Whether it is two months or two years, the day will hopefully come when we are far less restricted in where we work, where we dine, where we study, and how we socialize.

Will we continue to appreciate and take joy in the outside lifestyle we developed in a need to expand beyond the four walls of our interior homes?

Soon, we will move from summer to the chill of autumn. Will we continue to enjoy friendships and a hot cup of coffee on a picnic bench while we are wrapped in a warm jacket?

The out-of-doors has been there for us during our need. I do hope we will continue our appreciation.

Have you had a need to expand your work, family, and leisure time from indoors to out-of-doors during these past months? Have you made use of your out-doors space at home, or perhaps the parks and trails near you? Please share your experience and observations collected in the out-of-doors.

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The Author

Mary Lou Harris is a proponent of active living, community volunteerism and inquisitive travel. After a post age 60 retirement from a career in public service, she expanded those interests to include ultra-trail running, hiking and extended-stay travel. She can be contacted through her website https://stillarunner.com or on Twitter at @stillarunner.

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