We have been in lockdown in New Zealand since the 23rd of March 2020. The last few months have affected us all. Our family, friends and colleagues have had their lives turned upside down in a period of time that is short even when measured against a human lifetime. The last Intrepid Medicine in the Mountains Conference was only three months ago and yet so much has transpired since.
En route to the conference through San Fransisco International Airport, there was an awareness of what was transpiring in China. Some of the travellers returning from family visits during Chinese New Year could have been exposed. But the heightened awareness of the true impact of COVID-19 wasn’t there.
From “normal” to “lockdown” in a matter of days.
This changed a mere two weeks after our arrival back in New Zealand when the impact of the pandemic in Italy, then Spain and the United Kingdom was relayed to us. Of course, already Seattle had been dealing with increasing cases, then New York and New Orleans in the United States.
Not long after that we too were in PPE gear ourselves in the emergency department when treating any respiratory patient. As medical professionals, we were experiencing some anticipatory anxiety and the “pre-TSD” seen in other parts of the world was emerging with the march of the pandemic toward us.
In this age of international travel, an island nation at the southern end of the world has not been exempt from the experience. Early and significant lockdown laws have had a tremendous effect in limiting the numbers being seen in New Zealand.
Although the horrific number of infections and deaths has not been seen here as elsewhere, the need for lockdown restrictions has had significant effects on people’s ability to earn a living, and have access to things that until only a few weeks ago they deemed normal aspects of their daily lives.
Lockdown affected us in ways never imagined until now. And not all negative.
Perhaps our usual outdoor recreation has been restricted: surfing, backcountry skiing, climbing, trekking…..truly all first-world benefits, yet arguably important aspects of self-identification and mental health for those who participate.
Here in New Zealand and no doubt for our friends worldwide its been a time to reflect, be creative and explore new ways to exercise and recreate within the safety of our bubbles. Despite uncertainties about the immediate future of travel, nature is still magnificent and the mountains, ocean, forests, rivers and lakes are all still there waiting to be enjoyed for those lucky enough to be able to do so at the other end of this health crisis.
We may approach our interaction with the world in a different way and still reap the benefits of being one with nature. Hopefully more so. Tourism, travel and outdoor recreation will still be there in the future albeit perhaps with a new paradigm that with fresh eyes can mitigate such a health crisis recurring and also take time to consider how we impact the world around us.
A hope for a better future
We are measured by our reactions to any situation and as the author, Arundathi Roy has eloquently stated: the pandemic
“is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can walk through it, choosing to drag with us the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
So we can plan and imagine. Hope for a better future. Appreciate what we have now.
And although depending on our local restrictions we may not be able to venture into the backcountry to ski or ride some waves we can still be keeping active and prepared.
What can we do now to keep ourselves fit and healthy mentally and physically?
Getting outside for some fresh air, even it’s on your balcony or back yard is important. Get some sunlight. If you are fortunate enough to be able to- get out for a long walk or jog in your local area. A forest trail, a city park, a tree-lined street. All these offer the calming and immune-boosting benefits we mentioned previously in regard to green spaces.
Do some plyometric bodyweight exercises that relate to your favourite outdoor sport, relevant to your upcoming season. Maybe a lot of leg work for the skiers, runners and snowboarders such as squats, lunges and skaters. Burpees, pop-ups, rotating squats, Russian twists for the surfers. You get the picture. Core work based around plank and it’s many iterations for all. Spend some time daily doing yoga or learn some Tai Chi online: improve your mobility and mindfulness.
It can also be a time to go through your outdoor gear. A checklist of clothing and equipment from the season just gone- for those coming out of winter. What’s the condition of your backcountry or mountain gear and clothing? Are repairs or replacements in order before next season? Is any minimization in order? You can refer to our previous articles if you are looking at your backcountry ski gear or clothing lists.
Our Core purpose has been to improve the wellness of our busy colleagues by providing CME in fun destinations. We would like to continue to do so.
As we emerge from this health crisis there are so many unknowns relating to travel, particularly international travel.
Intrepid Medical Conferences have provided a service for adventurous medical professionals to combine their CME (continuing medical education) with travel to fun destinations to trek and ski. The education has been based on wilderness emergency and urgent management, yet at the core of this has been a focus on the wellness of the individual health professional. An opportunity to escape outside, experience nature and exercise in an environment that offers a learning opportunity.
Going forward from here at Intrepid Medical Conferences, we envisage still serving that purpose of improving the wellness of our busy colleagues. We anticipate that it will be some time before this is in the form of international travel, however, we will continue to offer opportunities and information and services for you.
We will keep you posted as to the form these will take. We are thinking of those with whom we collaborate in the travel industry and know it will be a hard time ahead. In the absence of international travel, it will be important to support your local tourism operators while keeping within the regulations of your region.
We hope it won’t be too long before we are back in Bukit Lawang with our friends at GreenHill and exploring the amazing biodiversity of Gunung Leuser National Park, and getting to Japan for some fabulous backcountry powder. Until then, stay safe, stay posted to our new developments and get outside when you can.