On March 12th 2020 I had tickets to see a gig with friends in the evening, and no plan to change that. I even bought wine and snacks to have at my flat before heading to the concert together. Outside my flat, people had been buying toilet paper, pasta shelves were starting to look pretty empty, and I found it somewhat silly. Coronavirus was all over Italy, and was actually spreading pretty quickly in Germany by then, but I felt safe in my bubble at home. I’ve always been a somewhat frantic hand-washer anyway, I have a good immune system and SURELY the world would not end. But that afternoon I began to understand what was really happening. Around 3pm the gig was cancelled. My friend I’d bought tickets with was afraid to come across town to hang out, saying the exposure would be too risky. And that’s when it really hit me that what was happening was very serious, and my actions would be important not only for my own health, but that of others. So, I cancelled my planned birthday party the next day, and, in full socially responsible pride and camaraderie, took to the couch. Stay the fuck home seemed the safest and smartest plan of action, and stay the fuck home I did.
Since then, I’ve been going through every wave of the Covid emotional spectrum of a non-infected person in quarantine. I’m self-employed, so financial dread was never far away, along with pretty terrible blows to my self-esteem every time yet another job fell through or didn’t get back to me. I also started to meditate daily during, the coronavirus lockdown, and I’m reading a lot more and am even really enjoying cooking and eating healthy food and taking a break from sugar and alcohol. I hoover my apartment 3 times a day, scraped a fossilising shellac manicure off my nails, sleep 9 hours a night (no naps!), am watching about 3 Netflix series… and still, I’ve been going crazy indoors. I’m an outdoorsy person and my weekends are normally spent hiking or leading group hikes, and I was hoping to train for an Alpine hiking trip in June all spring. Instead, the trip is cancelled, and my new hiking boots I bought in February are collecting dust in my apartment.
Instead of focussing on all the things I can’t do right now like travel or plan pretty much anything in the future, I’m trying to pull my attention to what I can do, and what I already have. And thankfully, even throughout the lockdown in Germany people were consistently allowed to spend recreational time outdoors. This was my absolute saving grace over the last weeks of accepting this new reality. Going outdoors every day in some small way, breathing in fresh air. Noticing the changes in plants as spring arrived, leaves on the trees, ever-longer days and the return of birdsong. Finally (FINALLY) warmer weather, less layers, wearing a different coat after 6 months in a 9-year old down puffer jacket. These external observances are a very welcome distraction from the hot mess inside my head and allow me to ground myself back to actual reality. I’m alright. I’m here and now and I’m healthy, and actually nothing is that wrong at all.
A lot of the longer hikes I’ve discovered around Berlin have been made accessible to me by public transport, which means I’ve had to be a bit more creative in my routes since the pandemic. So I’ve discovered: MY BIKE! The public transport system is so good in Berlin (and I am so lazy) that I’ve left my bike pretty much parked all winter, but spring is here baby, and it’s time to shine. I’ve been going on longer bike rides for exercise now, something I’ve never done before. I’ve cycled from Kreuzberg to Müggelsee and back four times in 6 weeks, which to those not familiar, is about as far as from your house to mid-northern Siberia. It is very, very far. We cycled, pretty slowly to be fair, for about 3.5 hours in total, mostly in lovely sunshine and with some wind to push against, took 2 breaks and made it home sort-of in one piece. And it felt soooo good. Back at home I was finally actually happy to sit on my couch again. I felt some real mental relief for having exercised my body, and so happy to finally have my regular post-hiking pink cheeks (read: beet red wind-burned face) back. And so long as I am allowed and it’s safe to do so, I will keep getting fresh air as part of my self-care programme during self-isolation, and do whatever I can to help remind people to get their daily sniff of fresh air and stress relief while they can.
This is an article about hiking during the coronavirus lockdown, by Alexandra Koken. Alex is the founder of Fresh Air Pink Cheeks, and organises group hikes in and around Berlin. You can have a read of her blog at freshairpinkcheeks.com and follow her adventures on instagram @freshairpinkcheeks.
This article was part of our 2020 Coronavirus lockdown magazine, which can be found here:
If you are interested to join one of our upcoming writing projects please get in contact!