By Taylor Griggs
I live in Eugene, Oregon, in the outrageously beautiful Pacific Northwest, where you can look in any direction and see some of the most remarkable natural scenery on this planet. But mostly, for what feels like forever, I’ve lived at my kitchen table, trying to avoid the news abyss on my laptop and thinking about whether or not I should order takeout for the fifth night in a row.
So, it seems, has everyone, since we were relegated to our homes during the pandemic. But whether you live alone or were starting to feel a little cramped with your family or roommates, getting outside can reinvigorate some vital connections: to your loved ones, to nature and – importantly – to yourself.
Though I’ll brag about how beautiful the natural surroundings around my apartment in downtown Eugene are, anyone can connect with the outdoors. Here’s my guide to finding your “true place” and shaking off some of the cabin fever blues.
First, abandon the electronics. I know from personal experience that your phone can feel like a phantom limb, but I promise you’ll survive without it for an hour. (This is me telling myself this, too!) Working from home allows us some freedoms, but it’s also whittled down some of what was left of the separation between humans and computers.
Usually I walk with my headphones on, but leaving those behind can be freeing. One of my favorite places is on top of a small butte near my house, with a mellow hiking trail that leads you to a fantastic view of the city. If you sit quietly, you can foster connections with things you never knew you might connect with. Birds and squirrels, sure – sometimes you might even spot a deer. But also the wind’s movement through the trees and then your hair, and the drizzle of the rain.
I am a horrible meditator, with a racing brain that wants to implode at the thought of sitting still for five minutes. But mindfulness can be as easy as counting the orange leaves on the tree that’s slowly getting bare, or genuinely listening to another person, no distractions. Try to acknowledge everything you see, and then let it go.
Finding your true place doesn’t mean hiding it from the rest of the world, either. You can forge a meaningful connection with a spot that other people have access to, and smiling at a stranger, even from behind masks, can be a part of that. It’s hard for me to remember that I used to share spaces with other people – at restaurants, on the bus, in schools – and I'm looking forward to getting back to that. Your relationship to a place will always be unique.
Getting a change of scenery used to be a lot more simple than during the past year, but doing it is vital. Cut yourself and those you live with some slack and allow yourself the simple luxury of enjoying the places right outside your door. You deserve the connections it will bring.