The Challenge: Spend 2 hours outside for each day of a month
The Rules: Any time spent outdoors will be recorded on an ongoing basis and added up; the 2 hours per day do not have to be done in 1 set chunk; time may be banked and added to other days so long as the equivalent of 2 hours/day for 31 days is reached by the end.
The Iffy Stuff: Time spent in the snow castle gets put on the clock. It’s kind of an indoors-outdoors sort of thing, but I still technically consider it outdoors. It’s cold and there’s no heat! Time spent in a vehicle does not count.
The Exceptions: None.
The Background: I live in Yellowknife. A place where temperatures drop to minus 40, the wind chill can leave an angry slap on your face that’s more serious than any woman scorned, and where it’s easy to coop up for the winter while your mental well-being dwindles with each passing day. Getting outside is good for you. Sometimes, though, it can be really hard to get up the gumption to be out there. This is particularly challenging for office dwellers who work indoors every day, like me.
Possibly even more important than all of that, is that there are people who don’t get to have the luxury of choosing to be indoors because they don’t have homes. They use day shelters and social support systems. In Yellowknife, where the average winter temperature is -27 degrees Celsius, the day shelter closes at 5 pm and the emergency shelter for men doesn’t open until 7 pm. The homeless have to spend 2 hours outside (or trying to find places they won’t get kicked out of) regardless of how cold it is or if they want to or not. There is also another hour-long gap in the morning between shelter hours. Though people may know this, it is much different to know it than to conceptualize the reality of it. Although by no means an equivalent representation, I’d like to help with that by taking on The Frozen 31.
The Journey: Like building any habit, it’s harder at the beginning. Every day I had to conjure up an extra 2 hours which is not an insignificant amount of time. I found that I had to spend my noon hour going for walks because it was too difficult to do 2 hours outside after work in amongst all my other commitments. At first, it was disruptive because I like to come home over lunch and relax, but I soon realized that going for a walk half way through the day was really enjoyable. It was also extremely easy to fall behind in this challenge, but it felt great to be out there and I would encourage any indoor workers to make a resolution to themselves to spend a certain amount of time outside every day in the winter even if it’s just 30 minutes. It’ll do wonders for those winter blues.
While most of the challenge seemed to be more about making time and getting outside, there were still moments where I was given a glimpse into those hours that the homeless have no indoor options. While I cannot accurately comment on what the true experience is for them, I began to look at things differently while I was outside. I spent so much time outside alone with no purpose other than being out there and it was in these moments that I began to see things differently and began to reflect on what it really is like for the homeless. For me, it was an experiment with a start and end date – not my life – and that is what makes it impossible to really understand, so I end this challenge with questions that are more distinct rather than realizations about homelessness in Yellowknife’s winter. It’s something that should be given more consideration. Many people don’t actually think about what it’s like other than broad generalizations that aren’t always accurate. Like anything, if people spent more time looking at things from other perspectives and caring just a little more about what they think doesn’t impact them then maybe positive change would happen more readily. Maybe the world would be a better place. Maybe.