Adventure at home: Travel lovers climb 'mountains', go 'camping' while stuck indoors

Mr Scott Tay says being outdoors at his balcony campsite helps him spark new ideas.
Mr Scott Tay says being outdoors at his balcony campsite helps him spark new ideas.PHOTO: COURTESY OF SCOTT TAY

SINGAPORE - Mrs Arundhati Saha had exciting travel plans - a small-group expedition to Kazakhstan and a trekking trip in the Philippines with her elder daughter - both meant to take place in the first quarter of the year.

But due to the coronavirus, these have been put on hold indefinitely.

Mrs Arundhati decided that if she could not go out to seek adventure, she would recreate it at home.

For the past month, the 45-year-old member of women's hiking and mountaineering group Amazing Trekkers Club (ATC) has been scaling various peaks by climbing stairs in her two-storey landed property in Upper East Coast - an idea sparked by her "community of mountain sisters".

"I didn't want to let the situation get the better of me. I also hope to set an example for my daughters - to reinvent themselves and adapt when things don't go well," says the director of marketing and communications for an advertising agency, whose daughters are aged 14 and 15. Her husband, 48, does consulting and project management for an IT services company.

She has climbed the equivalent of Phu Chong Si (420m or about 2,800 steps) in north-eastern Thailand.

With travel plans scuppered by the coronavirus, active folk everywhere have come up with various ways to satisfy their wanderlust and quell their thirst for adventure.

A search for the hashtag #adventureathome on Instagram throws up about 2,400 posts from people camping in their living rooms or building bonfires in their backyard.

Swedish furniture giant Ikea has also jumped on the bandwagon, last month releasing instructions on how to build six different blanket forts with common furniture items.

Dr Shawn Ee, director of The Psychology Practice, says such "pretend play" is a healthy coping mechanism for both adults and children.

"Our capacity for imagination enables us to enter our internal world through creativity and play. This frees us from the boredom and monotony of being stuck indoors," says the clinical psychologist and psychoanalytic therapist.

ATC members have climbed - in their homes or apartment blocks - the equivalent of peaks large and small, including Mount Scenery in the Caribbean Netherlands (887m) and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (5,895m).

Members update one another on their progress via a WhatsApp chat, which Mrs Arundhati says makes the process more fun and interactive.

"We encourage each other to reach a goal during this time of isolation," she says.

Meanwhile, entrepreneur Scott Tay, 28, works in a home office with a difference.

He sits on a foldable safari chair perched next to a coffee table, uses solar panels to power camping lights and takes naps in his tent a few steps away. His "camping ground" is the balcony of his condominium apartment.



Mr Tay began "camping" in early April, when circuit breaker measures aimed at reducing coronavirus infections kicked in. He does not sleep outdoors as it is too hot, but spends about a third of his waking hours on the balcony.

"Different spaces trigger new ideas for me," says Mr Tay, who is the founder of travel company Beyond Expeditions, which runs small-group tours to Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Ladakh in India.

"This is a time for people in the outdoor industry to rack their brains and come up with creative ideas," he adds of the travel drought.

For him, being closer to the outdoors sparked a newfound interest in bushcraft, or wilderness survival skills. He has been picking up skills such as knot-tying, carving utensils out of wood and various methods of fire-making from books and YouTube videos.

Mr Tay, who is in a relationship, intends to launch new outdoor cooking events that will include bushcraft techniques, once it is safe to do so.

Photographer Eric Cheong is also gearing up - quite literally - for new adventures.

Mr Cheong and his wife, both 45, are nature lovers who enjoy camping overseas and at various parks in Singapore.

Last month, they took out all their gear for a thorough equipment check and cleaning, which they do about twice a year. This included checking batteries, sharpening knives and tent pegs, and making sure ropes had not frayed.

With more time on their hands, Mr Cheong and his wife, a civil servant, also practised pitching their tent quickly - a skill he says is critical when exposed to the elements.

Photographer Eric Cheong and his wife camped for a night in their Housing Board flat. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ERIC CHEONG

"If we arrive late to a campsite and have only 15 minutes before sundown, we need to have a systematic and efficient way to pitch our tent. Rain or snow can be life-threatening. Mother Nature does not give chances," he says. The couple have no children.

They spent one night camping in a room of their four-room Housing Board flat, where they also discussed how to adapt their gear, which is designed for colder climates, for summer camping trips.

Meanwhile, Ms Ashley Chu is offering a different sort of escape for those who want to live vicariously through her travels.

In April, she published One Million Miles - a follow-up to her first travel book, The 550,000 Miles in 2017.

Both self-published titles are compilations of her journal entries as she travelled to 138 countries over the past decade. Her goal is to visit all 197 countries in the world.

Ms Chu, who is in her 30s, works as an investor and adviser to start-ups and investment funds in Singapore and Silicon Valley and splits her time between both locations.

While sheltering in place in San Francisco for the past three months due to the coronavirus, she decided to bring forward her book launch by two months so more people could read it.

"Working on the book gave me a lot of focus during this time," says Ms Chu, who spent about two months designing and proof-reading the e-book.

One Million Miles contains chapters on her solo jaunts and serendipitous encounters.

A chance meeting with a former Uber driver in Singapore who runs an orphanage in Nepal led to Ms Chu's "birthday trip" in 2018, where she volunteered at the orphanage. The bachelorette also describes visits to tribes in Namibia and Swaziland, and watching the Indian spring festival Holi in Tbilisi, Georgia.

"If you are staying home and feel bored, I hope my travels will keep you company," she says.