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OLD-FASHIONED HOBBIES HAVE MADE A DRAMATIC RETURN AMID THE NEW LOCKDOWN LIFESTYLE. BY HALEY SHAPLEY. ILLUSTRATION BY J.R. AREBALO
BY J.R. AREBALO
When stay-at-home orders began, the pace of American life slowed, but one thing rose: a whole lot of bread loaves. Social media was filled with photos of the wonders that can result when flour, yeast and water are mixed in the right combination. Plus, a plethora of back-tobasics activities filled our time.
“When people are under stress, they look to their surroundings to identify sources of comfort and coping,” said Stephanie J. Wong, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist. “Activities of leisure and relaxation that are easily accessible, like baking a tasty loaf of bread, fuel motivation to work toward a goal and provide purpose and a connection to something other than yourself.”
New outlook on time
Strategic programs manager Erin Beacham was one of those who hopped on the bread bandwagon. Although she’d grown up baking, she’d always been scared of yeast — but with a wideopen calendar, she figured now was the time to give it another go. In her pre-coronavirus life, proofing bread for 18 hours would’ve been tough to manage with her schedule. Now, that was no longer a concern.
“Before the pandemic, I had a lot of plans up in the air; there was always something in play,” she said. “As soon as the pandemic started, everything just dropped. It was that feeling of music stopping and you didn’t realize it was going on, and all of a sudden it was really quiet.”
Beacham also started cooking more elaborate recipes and dedicated herself to training to run a Boston Marathon- qualifying time. Both gave her something to look forward to. “Routine and structure help me get through the day,” she said. “Now that the pandemic’s here and it feels like I’m just floating through it, untethered to other people and other things going on, it’s nice to have that structure and routine as part of daily life.”
Planting seeds of hope
Baking isn’t the only old-fashioned hobby that Americans took up during hours off. Suddenly, pursuits such as gardening, knitting and other practical, hands-on hobbies came into vogue. Jim Chen, who works in investment management, learned to use a sewing machine and began growing a variety of plants on his patio.
Without having his usual experiences like meeting up with friends and going out to dinner to inject variety into the day, Chen found that caring for his plants — and experimenting with which conditions worked best for them — provided a way to see progress in a time when it felt like nothing was moving forward.
“With these plants, you start with a seedling, and they grow a little bigger as you take care of them. It was a nice marker of the passage of time during this period,” he said. “I’d move the plants several times a day to optimize the sun exposure, which helped break up the day a little bit and gave me a reason to stay more active throughout the day.”
In times of uncertainty, a simpler, self-sufficient life is appealing — there is great value in learning the basic skills that can sustain us and save money. Tactile hobbies also provide a grounding element that’s not only calming but can make you feel more useful and connected to the world around you. With news headlines that can feel out of control, there’s comfort in knowing that seedlings will still sprout, stitches will still create a finished product and bread will still rise.
is the author of
HOME NO THE ROAD
BY JORDAN RANE
What makes a great American road trip? There are just three basic, agonizingly subjective factors.
First, you must pick the perfect road — or roads. Whether it’s Route 66, Highway 61, Natchez Trace Parkway or your favorite interstate, there are no shortage of long and winding options crisscrossing every facet of the country — full of pull-over attractions, novel experiences and lifeaffirming scenery en route.
Next, there’s the right mode of conveyance. This year, according to recently soaring numbers, that would be an RV. According to
Roadshow by CNET,
motorhome rental increases have spiked as high as 650% in 2020 due to a sustained thirst for healthy domestic adventure in the age of social distancing.
Finally, there’s the passengers. If you’re going to be sharing this mobile residence with close company for hundreds (perhaps thousands) of fun-filled miles, you’ll want to be clear about the right folks to share the road trip.
As for the road and the ride, here are three iconic behind-the-wheel destinations plus an RV primer to inspire a transporting experience on your next rolling odyssey.
COASTING ALONG THE PACIFIC
Defined broadly, the Pacific Coast Highway is a border-to-border, 1,650-mile bucket lister comprising stretches of U.S. Route 101, California State Route 1 and Interstate 5 from the top of Washington to the bottom of California with front row seaside views a good chunk of the way. Rolling past temperate rainforests of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, giant desert dunes and sea stacks of Oregon, giant redwoods of Northern California and SoCal’s Riviera, with several world-class cities in between, a Pacific Coast run is really several unforgettable road trips built into one.
Somewhere in the middle of it all (if we had to direct you to a single area) is Big Sur. Serpentining for about 90 spectacular miles between San Simeon (Hearst Castle) and Carmel, California’s central coast showpiece is guaranteed to summon waves of joy, awe and palm-sweat all while sitting behind the wheel.
Exploring this American National Scenic Byway in an RV gives you license to rise above the usual Big Sur dash, experience central California’s spectacular edge at your own pace — and make good use of several motorhomefriendly campgrounds hiding along the Big Sur coast without having to pitch a tent or shell out for a pricey hotel.
Explore Sand Dollar Beach. Take a hike into the hills of the neighboring Ventana Wilderness. Lounge on the ocean-facing terrace of Big Sur village’s storied cliffside restaurant, Nepenthe, with an Ambrosiaburger and sweeping coastal panoramas. Then pull into Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and you’re home for the night in a grove of towering redwood trees and California Scrub-Jay alarm clocks.
PARK-HOPPING IN THE DAKOTAS
On a meditative roll through the heartland, South Dakota’s rambunctiously designed southwest corner is an obvious road trip magnet. Rugged, removed and rife with history and legend, the hauntingly beautiful back highways of the Black Hills aren’t just built for Harleys and zippy compacts. Meandering through the land of Custer and “Wild Bill” Hickok in a sturdy RV gives you license to cruise Highway 385 and fabled Iron Mountain Road (aboard compatible smaller models only, if you dare) with its tight pigtail bridges, narrow tunnels and innumerable switchbacks at your own courageous, leisurely pace.
Deadwood. Mount Rushmore. Wind Cave National Park. Crazy Horse Memorial. They’re all in the neighborhood. Along with Custer State Park and its aptly named Wildlife Loop Road where the deer, bighorn sheep and buffalo herds are waiting for their close-ups.
About 100 miles east along I-90 (after a mandatory stop in the small town of Wall, dominated by the must-see retail emporium, Wall Drug) is Badlands National Park — where most of the park’s million annual visitors barely spend enough time to glimpse this place’s wild earthen architecture from behind a windshield. That’s good news for unhurried RVers spending a night or three at Cedar Pass Campground to experience sunrise and sunset in one of the continent’s most haunting geological imprints.
American Airlines Federal Credit Union
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Ready to raise the solitude and odometer a notch? A mere 300 miles up the road along Interstate 85 is North Dakota’s hidden jewel, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, an even further off-the-radar badlands preserve.
MARVELING AT MOUNTAINS IN WEST TEXAS
Yes, there are mountains in the Lone Star State. Sufficiently big ones, and you’ll have to drive big distances to see them. The payoffs are some of the most secluded and starkly beautiful hills anywhere.
Starting from the upper left corner in El Paso, the “Top of Texas” is less than two hours east in Guadalupe Mountains National Park home to the state’s highest point, 8,749-foot Guadalupe Peak. Amazingly, this lofty expanse of ancient wilderness — geomorphologists call it “an Island in the Desert” — isn’t the most off-the-beaten-path park in the West. That distinction goes to its distant neighbor Big Bend, hiding about 200 miles south, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
WHICH RV WILL IT BE?
RVs run the gamut from bus-sized crowd pleasers to ingeniously compact living spaces on wheels. Which roving residence has your name on it? Here are the three main motorhome classes and some towable options to get you up to speed.
Thinking big? Here’s your RV. These are the behemoths built for comfort and classic comedies like
and your very own fearless family road epic. Ranging from 20 to 45 feet in length (or more), Class A’s can fit up to 10 passengers and generally come with all the luxury amenities one is expecting for the price. On the compromising side, fuel cost is high, agility is low and some states may require special driving permits.
Why is the smallest-sized RV class oddly plunked in the center alphabetical slot beside its heftier Class A and C brethren?
We’re guessing because this compact camper van-style motorhome—which can typically haul six and sleep four passengers — is designed for those in-between spaces (and more snugfitting campsites) where larger lettered motorhomes dare not tread. Bare necessities include bed, sink, toilet and limited storage space.
Here’s the comfy hybrid-ish middleground between Class A and B that spares you feeling like you’re in a party bus or a phone booth. Built from a standard truck chassis (i.e. not too intimidating to drive or park), Class C campers provide decent space and comfort for up to seven road-trippers.
Hitching a homey tow-behind rig to an able vehicle can be a cheaper, more flexible option on the road that lets you disengage the R from the V at will. Sizes and styles vary from chic, teensy “teardrop” trailers that a sedan can handle to standard-sized travel trailers, pop-up campers and burly “Fifth Wheels” customized for attachment to a large pickup bed.
Break up the trip with a visit to the dramatic Davis Mountains, looming above the West Texas flats in their own eponymous state park (near Marfa), furnished with RV-friendly campsites, miles of hiking trails and neighboring Fort Davis National Historic Site.
From here, it’s a stunningly lonely 100-mile drive to Big Bend, clearly one of the most timelessly remote outbacks on this side of its riverine, international border — marked by (and named for) that sweeping curve in the Rio Grande.
Lined with 1,500-foot gorges and desolate ranges, the park’s prize hike leads to the stony summit of 7,825-foot Emory Peak in the Chisos Mountains. Cruising in and around the park, you’ll stumble upon retired Comanche trails, abandoned mercury mines, pterodactyl fossil sites, and the satellite ghost town of Terlingua — now semi-revived with a few nearby RV parks and famed local outfitter, Far Flung Adventures, offering some of the most out-there river rafting adventures in the country.
is an award-winning travel writer whose work has appeared in
Working remotely during COVID-19 has disrupted work-life balance and upped stress levels for a nation of professionals. These habits can help reestablish lines and restore harmony.
of the most prominent workplace developments amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020 has been the proliferation of remote work. For many employees, the freedom to skip that rush-hour drive, throw on a T-shirt and work in the comfort of their homes has been a welcome change. But adapting to this new normal isn’t without legitimate pitfalls.
A July 2020 study conducted by FlexJobs and Mental Health America (MHA) reveals that 75% of Americans have dealt with burnout related to work. Another 40% link burnout specifically to working during the pandemic. With the lines between work and home now blurred or completely obliterated, professionals nationwide are having difficulty preserving work-life boundaries.
As the pandemic’s effects drag continues, the added stress caused by remote work most likely isn’t going anywhere. Initiating a handful of key lifestyle changes can help restore a healthy balance.
Separate work from home life.
It’s vital to maintain a separation between time allotted for work and everyday responsibilities around the home. While sticking to a 9-to-5 schedule might prove difficult, focus on work tasks and productivity during your designated working hours and don’t allow them to creep into time for family or yourself. Make sure to switch off email and work alerts, while letting your manager and coworkers know when you will be unavailable.
For many of us, consistent work productivity can be linked to routines that were disrupted by the transition from the workplace to the home. Jumping in the shower and dressing for work every morning can place you in the right mental space to be productive. If you have the available room, set up a home workspace away from televisions, shared family areas and other distractions. The goal always should be to maximize work time.
Diving into hobbies and activities can help you stick to time away from work.
Make time for hobbies and leisure activities.
Diving into hobbies and activities can help you stick to time away from work. The Mayo Clinic suggests stress-alleviating pursuits such as meditation, yoga or tai chi. Physical exercise of any type can contribute to physical and mental well-being. Stay connected to friends and family by scheduling video chats or designating personal time.
What if you’re still experiencing symptoms of burnout, despite your best efforts? Take the initiative to reach out to family, friends and coworkers for help or advice. MHA also offers an anonymous mental health screen on their website that can help you verify if you’re suffering from evidence of declining mental health.