Healthy Mind

How To (Safely) Explore a Sense of Adventure During the Pandemic

Emily Laurence

Photo: Stocksy/Lauren Lee
For a great many people, life during the pandemic hasn't been all that exciting, and the ways many seek adventure have been completely squashed. With travel to far-flung countries, group outings with friends, and half-marathons with jittery runners at the starting line all off the table, in many ways, 2020 served as a forced pause for those fortunate enough to be able to safely stay home and bide their time. And considering how long it may take for the vaccine to roll out, it seems likely that the first-half of 2021 will largely include much of the same.

While being compliant with COVID-19-safe guidelines in the name of our own health and that of our loved ones, community members, and beyond is the top priority, that doesn't mean our desire for adventure during the pandemic has completely vanished. Rather, the want for a thrill or an adrenaline rush is still very much present. The good news is, experts say it's absolutely possible to stoke a sense of adventure during the pandemic. Doing so just requires some creativity.

Step 1: Identify what adventure looks like to you

"'Adventure' has different meanings to different people, so the first question to think about is how you define it," says therapist and Manhattan Wellness founder Jennifer Teplin, LCSW. For some people, it's the feeling of being challenged that's exciting, while for others, it may be the opportunity to discover something new. To decipher what adventure means to you, Teplin recommends you spend time writing out what you consider to be an adventurous activity, and then list the exact traits about each that are enticing to you.

"Identifying the traits and characteristics of what exactly you like about adventurous activities you are drawn to is the first step to figuring out how you can satisfy that need in another way [during the pandemic]." —Jennifer Teplin, LCSW

If you like to travel, for example, she suggests digging deeper to identify what exactly it is about traveling that you love. Is it the discovery element? Is it the time away from your laptop and lounging on the fluffy hotel sheets? Is it the uninterrupted time you get with your friends or family who are traveling with you?

Or maybe, adventure to you means putting on a cute outfit and striking up conversations with people you never met before, whether it's at a networking event or a local bar. In this case, social activity is key to your sense of adventure."Identifying the traits and characteristics of what exactly you like about adventurous activities you are drawn to is the first step to figuring out how you can satisfy that need in another way [during the pandemic]," Teplin says.

Step 2: Find safe ways to satisfy your thirst for adventure

After identifying the activities you believe appeal to your sense of adventure, you can next consider the safe ways to explore alternative activities that have the underlying traits in common. For example, therapist Alison LaSov, LMFT, says that if "discovery" is an underlying trait you identified, you might consider what you can discover in the place where you live to cater to a sense of adventure in a pandemic-safe way. For instance, is there a new hiking trail you can try, a new restaurant from which you can order takeout, or a new cuisine to cook? "I have a friend who decided to cook a dish from a different country every week," she says.

If your underlying trait is doing something social, LaSov says there are pandemic-friendly ways to lean into that, like by seeking out more virtual events or even starting your own, if you're not finding one that sounds exciting to you. Meetup, Evite, and other event-hosting platforms have evolved into veritable discovery zones for virtual events, many of which are free.

If spontaneity is a component of adventure for you, and you feel stuck in a rut of every day feeling the same, LaSov suggests finding small ways to switch up your routine. "Get your morning coffee someplace new, or take a new route on your afternoon walk," she says. Putting yourself in a new environment in these ways makes each day feel a bit different and also allows room for more unexpected surprises to unfold—even if those surprises are simple.

There's also adventure to be uncovered via self-discovery, which many of us have ample time and space to explore during quarantine. To make the most of this, LaSov suggests asking yourself what you've always wanted to explore, despite never having had the opportunity to do. "I have one friend who started painting as a creative outlet," she says, for an example. "Just trying something new like that helps scratch that itch for adventure."

Plan for future adventures

Teplin and LaSov agree that in addition to leaning into pandemic-friendly adventures, planning for the future can also appeal to to the sense. "Often, adventure is about having something to look forward to," Teplin says. "It's fun to have something to get excited about. Sure, you may not be able to go on vacation right now, but you can still figure out where you want to go and make a list of everything you want to do once you're there. Then, all that you'll need to do [once it's safe to travel] is book your tickets."

It's this balance of not putting your life on hold while simultaneously planning for the types of adventures you can't have right now that both therapists say is key for not feeling stifled during the pandemic. "Instead of focusing on what you can't do, identify new things that you can do while getting excited for what's in the future," Teplin says. "Part of what we love about adventures is the sense of freedom, and many people feel that COVID-19 has taken their freedom completely away. Focus on what you can control and what you can do."

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