These days Masashi and I discovered the show Win the Wilderness on Netflix, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The TV mini-series is about a survival-based competition between 6 couples for the right to inherit the property and legacy of a husband and wife in rural Alaska.
The Ose family was the last to stake and successfully file a homestead claim in the U.S. in 1986, under the Federal Homestead Act. They moved to the Alaskan wilderness over 30 years ago and built a homestead by hand, where they lived until finalizing their retirement in 2019.
While watching the Win the Wilderness program, it was interesting to consider about what it must be like to live in such an isolated location. Particularly during this time of mandated social distancing, the concept of thriving in conditions of isolation is intriguing.
Recently, the state of emergency was lifted in 39 prefectures of Japan. This excludes 8 prefectures, where the stay at home orders could extend until June. Our prefecture, Hyogo, is still under a state of emergency.
Although living in Hyogo may not be as wild as homesteading in the Alaskan bush, our area is still rural. It includes around 220 people (or about 89 households), and it is not easy to drive to the nearest restaurant if we have a sudden craving for takeout.
The state of emergency highlights our physical distance from the city centers.
As an introvert, I enjoy being alone. I love spending time with small groups of people, but I don’t like being surrounded by crowds. Even during my college days, I usually ate lunch outdoors under a tree versus inside the crammed cafeteria.
However, despite being an introvert, I am not necessarily fond of being alone for extended periods of time. I recharge by being alone, but I do enjoy being around people! Masashi is much the same.
So, while we are perhaps better suited to survival in isolation than our more extroverted counterparts, that doesn’t mean that “staying at home” during a pandemic comes effortlessly!
In Win the Wilderness, homesteader Duane Ose comments that “isolation is an opportunity“. While in isolation, he and his wife built an off-grid, self-sustaining home: including a three-story house, an air field, a water collection system, and a garden.
Just hearing about their efforts makes me feel tired!!
Certainly it is not necessary to turn isolation into productivity all of the time. I am a firm believer in the slow life, and having a healthy work-life balance. In addition, not everyone is called to a life of extreme isolation or survival conditions like that of the Ose family.
Still, Ose’s comments caused me to pause and consider about how to better thrive in isolation.
How can isolation be an opportunity?
As Ose writes in one of his autobiographies**, “Being alone gives one time to search their soul, time to reflect on their past and present, and to ponder their future.”
Isolation allows us to think deeply and do soul-searching. It can also be helpful to creativity.
When schedules are relaxed, it is easy to fill the time with new distractions. Yet, sometimes isolation from distractions is necessary. Silence is a valuable tool to help creativity grow.
That being said, it is important to remember that isolation may be just one part of the creative process.
In addition, being alone may be a less important factor of isolation than whether you choose to create an environment where you can face new challenges, even from home.
Silence does not equal stagnation.
The point is not whether you are able to write a novel or compose a musical before stay at home orders are over. It is also not about filling every spare minute with productive tasks. Rather, it is about continuing to stretch and grow, no matter your physical environment or social distance.
Do you view isolation as an opportunity? Why or why not?
Please leave a comment below.
**Quote source: “Alaskan Wilderness Adventures III”, by Duane Ose. Photo credits: (c) the harunafamily.com.