Bryce Carlson knows a thing or two about being locked up and alone without a life raft. For 38 days in 2018, the adventurer (and biology teacher) rowed his 20-foot dinghy (named “Lucille”) across the Atlantic Ocean. He fought through storms, broken desalinators, and sea life, but it’s anxiety that wore on him most. Here’s how he’s coping with the coronavirus moment.
You’ve been alone — really, really alone — before. What should people who feel isolated do to cope?
We can endure a lot when we feel safe, happy, and in control. So, I think it’s important to … put together a plan for yourself. Focus on your plan and on what you can control. Once you’ve gained control, I think it’s valuable to surround yourself by the sights, sounds, and people that inspire you and make you happy.
It’s interesting that you conflate practical considerations with emotional considerations. Do you see those things as entwined?
I had a plan and schedule for each day of my North Atlantic row. From time to time, weather conditions would necessitate a change to that plan, but I would quickly evaluate the new conditions or limitations, put together a new plan and then focus on the plan, not on the variables I couldn’t control. Once I had a plan in place, I listened to a lot of happy music — golden oldies from the 1950s and 1960s, hits from the 1980s, Disney movie soundtracks, and electronic dance music. I also stayed connected with some friends and family throughout the trip. My satellite phone allowed unlimited text messages, and I would routinely reach out when I wanted to talk.