How COVID cabin fever is changing the way people interact with the outdoors, with Steve St Jean
For many of us that include the outdoors in our routine, it feels like second nature to slot in some activities within our busy lives. But as COVID has taken hold, we’re seeing some significant shifts in the behaviour of those that live in cities trying to find some space and breathing room for themselves. This has led to huge upticks in everything from biking, to camping, to fishing, to skateboarding. To get an inside look into what’s happening and why, we picked the brain of our Associate Creative Director Steve St Jean that lives in the heart of Toronto.
Origin: There’s a lot of people that traditionally haven’t been seen as outdoorsy taking up outdoor sports as solace through this whole thing. Have you noticed that in Toronto?
Steve: Yeah, it’s been very noticeable and quite refreshing to be honest. As someone that has always dabbled in both an urban and outdoor lifestyle, it’s nice to see more people opting for the outdoors since all things urban have been the hardest hit from COVID.
Origin: How have your weekends changed with COVID?
Steve: No more drinks with friends and social get-togethers. It’s pretty common to hit up brunch with a group of friends, bar hop, hit up some shops, and grab dinner. That’s all long gone. Now it’s all about finding big open spaces to hang out, going for walks with friends instead of sitting in a cafe and so on. Personally my weekends haven’t changed too much, I spend a lot of time at skateparks and running by the beach where I live in the east end of Toronto.
Origin: What tips would you have for those feeling claustrophobic in busy cities?
Steve: Walk out your door and start exploring. The perception of a big city is that it’s urban, a concrete jungle, and sometimes desolate (especially during these times), but there’s a lot of beauty in a city and far more green space than you would imagine. Here in Toronto we have incredible lakefront trails that you can walk, run and bike from one end of the city to another. Beautiful beaches (even in the winter) and some hidden ones to discover. Not to mention we have the Don River Valley Park that runs through the city with a ton of mountain biking trails and even more hiking opportunities. It’s out there for the taking, you just gotta go get it.
Origin: Do you find that many of your habits have changed? I know you’re big on running and skateboarding, have you looked into doing other sports that have more space?
Steve: I’ve actually been running and skateboarding more than ever before. With outdoors being one of the safest places you can be, I’ve maximized my time outside and those two are my go to activities. This fall I’ve picked up lake surfing, my neighbor is an avid lake surfer and gave me the lowdown on all the gear I need so this winter I’ll be spending a lot of time in icy Lake Ontario.
Origin: Have you noticed these same changes with some of your friends that weren’t outdoorsy before?
Steve: Big time. Everyone has had to adapt and it's been pretty entertaining to see my less active friends embark on running adventures and stand-up paddleboard sessions. The outcomes have been lots of panting and even more good times.
Origin: Do you think these shifts in behaviour will stick? Or will people quickly ditch hiking for music shows again?
Steve: I think for the most part they will stick and hopefully create a city of more people wanting to dabble in both the outdoors and urban activities.
Origin: Any last final advice for those out there feeling the cabin fever?
Steve: Be open and take a bit of initiative to get out of your comfort zone. Find a local community of enthusiasts doing something that interests you and join them (safely). Here in Toronto there’s a local shop and community called Surf the Greats and they actively share and support the local lake surfing scene. Provide tips and go to spots to hit up when conditions are right.