As founder of Walking Ibiza, Toby Clarke – who was born and bred in Ibiza – spends much of his life in the great outdoors, for business and for pleasure. So the news of the impending lockdown meant his entire lifestyle would have to change for the foreseeable future, as residents were confined to their homes for eight weeks. Fortunately, Toby has a dog, which gave him the privilege to go for a short walk every day, but nothing like his usual epic adventures. As the news about COVID-19 was dominating world headlines, Toby and his wife Belinda were in the USA, on an extended holiday to celebrate his upcoming 50th birthday before the season began.
Five weeks into their trip, as they were headed to Dallas, they realised the severity of the situation and decided to return home to Ibiza, which means making a lot of last minute flight, hotel and plan changes. “It was quiet nerve racking watching the media at the time,” says Toby. “When we finally got onto the last plane back to Europe, we expected it to be empty but it was jam-packed. Hearing from the media how infectious the virus was was scary, and we didn’t have any face masks. At one point I felt a big sneeze coming on and it came out as five big loud sneezes – well, that cleared some space around us!” The couple made it back to Ibiza at the end of the first week of lockdown, and have remained in their campo home ever since.
Describe your current Ibiza lockdown situation? We are at home in the countryside and I’m very lucky to have my wife Belinda, and our daughter KC with us, plus our dog Cosmo and two cats, Tanit and Twinkle. The vibe at home’s been really good actually – we all get on very well. We’ve been taking turns cooking, and as we’ve got a dog, it means we can actually go out walking. We’re blessed to be in this situation, although we didn’t quite expect the whole situation to be as long and crazy as it has been and continues to be.
What is your daily life like now? I get up in the morning and do some HIIT workouts or some good cardio with my daughter for half hour to an hour. Then I do some weights to really get a heart rate going. I spent a week cleaning the pool, so now it’s lovely and ready for and I’m getting in every day for a swim. A bit chilly, but it’s a rather gorgeous way to start the day. After that, I take Cosmo out for a walk. I get connected with nature. And then get on with the day’s email – I’m still trying to work, but basically there isn’t any work. So it’s very difficult – preparing systems and changing things, but not a lot else.
How are you feeling on a personal level right now? Right now, as Ibiza has started coming out of the lockdown, I’m feeling rather frustrated to be honest because we’re still not allowed to walk. I think the whole situation that we’re allowed to go out for a beer and get drunk in bars and restaurants, but we’re not allowed not allowed to go out and walk in nature is just absolutely crazy. So I’m rather frustrated with it all and have been telling the head of tourism so, but he cannot do anything about it.
Who or what do you miss most right now? Definitely walking in the countryside, by the by the sea, and seeing clients – that’s what I love doing most. I love walking with people and being with clients.
What’s been most the challenging thing for you throughout this experience? I think it’s the lack of freedom. The freedom to be able to go out when you want, to walk where you want ,and be with who you want – that’s all been taken away and maybe not for the right reasons. That’s why I’m very frustrated about it.
Has there been anything about the lockdown experience you’ve enjoyed? I was really, really enjoying it and I’m still enjoying it now. Because I’ve never ever had this much time off to do what I want each day. The routine is lovely, getting up and doing exercise. Not doing too many emails, not too much screen time. And I’ve really really thoroughly enjoyed being with the family I’ve got with me, having that time to bond with my daughter more and my lovely wife. I’ve enjoyed cooking – a lot, a lot, a lot! We take it in turns to cook, on rotation. And I really, really, really enjoyed doing that. Home made bread, some spectacular veggie burgers and pizzas – better than a restaurant!
How do you keep in touch with the outside world? Basically there’s been screen time and too much screen time. I’ve made a concerted effort to be less and less on the computer if I can be and get outside. I also did a 48-hour total detox from everything: phones, computers, everything. And that was really, really lovely. But yeah, I’ve been using Zoom with the family, with our guides for meetings, and I’ve been doing lots of Facebook Live virtual walks. Even the odd phone call!
What’s been entertaining you during this period? Every evening, whoever did the cooking also chooses a film to watch. We’ve watched some very bad films, but also some amazingly good films. I’d probably say Wolf Of Wall Street was the best, it’s a brilliant, great film really, great acting, great fun.
What’s been educating you? The book I’m reading at the moment is Richard Branson’s autobiography. It’s very inspiring to see what he went through in life and in business. He’s an amazing guy and doing so much good with all the money he has – a real shining light of what people with money can do. I love listening to podcasts. I’ve been listening to The Model Health Show podcast, it has great guests breaking down the facts about health and really giving you the truth behind it all as well. A couple of clients of mine, Luke and Gavin, have a podcast called The Health, Fitness and Lifestyle Show which is absolutely brilliant. Jo Youle’s The Reset Rebel podcast is fantastic and of course, I’ve got my own podcast , Walking Ibiza, which I sometimes go back and listen to as well – there are some nice memories on there.
I’ve been reading the Diario de Ibiza most days, the newspaper of Ibiza. I’ve never looked at a newspaper much in the last 20 years. I don’t normally read any media at all. So it’s been quite strange reading. I only spend five minutes just looking for the facts about what’s happening. And then that’s it, but it’s been very strange looking at so much media because we normally do a media blackout. We don’t have a television. We’ve been doing that for about 15 years. So it’s been very strange to be back into the media to try and find out what’s happening.
What’s made you laugh during this time? Some of the laws at the moment – like we can go out and get drunk, but we can’t go to the beach or to the forest to go for a walk that really makes me laugh. And KC, my daughter, she’s got a great sense of humour. She’s always laughing so that’s kept me on a high. Watching some funny films is always a good thing – e watched a great one the other night called Game Night.
How has the lockdown impacted your business and industry? Basically, the lockdown has absolutely stopped my business. I haven’t done a walk in months now. No income at all. Luckily, what’s happened is that the around the island walks and the four-day challenges I had scheduled. I’ve managed to postpone most of them towards the end of this year, or into next year. So I’ve had to refund some people but not too many.
How do you manage stress during such uncertain times? I go for a walk. If I’m getting stressed, my dog comes in, puts a paw up and says, ‘come on, let’s go’. And that really is the the absolute key for me – to go out for a walk in nature. We can’t go too far, just go out into my garden, but that helps me.
How’s your general health and wellness? When we came back from the USA, I was actually not very fit because we had five weeks of being in America, eating too much, drinking too much and not doing enough exercise. But since we’d be doing the HIIT every morning, I’m now pretty fit again/ I’m feeling good and feeling strong.
What are your eating habits like these days? We’ve actually been eating very healthily because we’ve been cooking everything from scratch. We don’t do sugar, very few carbs and we have got into homemade bread, which is soda bread, so our diets have been very good. I was probably been drinking a bit much in the beginning then stopped. Now on the weekend I still drink a little bit too much, but I try and keep the weeks free. We’re lucky to live very close to a supermarket that has good food, we buy as much organic as we can. And in the whole lockdown, we’ve actually only had one food delivery, which was from Nagai, which was absolutely a treat to open it up and think, oh my god, we have not had to make this, and we can just enjoy it!
Are you factoring exercise and movement into your time spent indoors? I find it really, really important to do exercise or movement. Luckily, we have Cosmo the dog, so we go for at least a three kilometre walk every day just around the block by us which is a blessing. And I try to do stretching or something like that. We also got one of these things called a feet up, which I can now do. I wouldn’t call it a headstand, more like shoulder stands. So that’s been really good to have the confidence to use that to go upside down every day which has been brilliant.
Have you set yourself any goals during this period? I did set myself goals at the beginning, but then they seemed to stay on the list. I’ve found it a struggle that the less work I had, the less I was doing and the more excuses I was making to go and do a bit of gardening, to go outside and have a swim in the pool to read a book. I found the less work that I’ve had the less work I’ve wanted to do, which to me, was quite a surprise.
What are your hopes for Ibiza in the future? I hope that it continues to be an amazing place. This year is going to be a bit of a blip on the landscape. But we’ve been there before – we had the fuel crisis in the 70s. We’ve had other bad years but this will be something else for sure. But Ibiza has been going for thousands and thousands of years and I don’t think that’s really going to stop. This year will be a blip but then it’s going to come back into brilliant times. And I also believe this is going to be one of the best years ever on the island for just having a damn good time. There’s going to be some absolutely epic parties on this island, taking us back to the 70s and when I grew up here as a kid. I’s just going to be amazing.
What about your own future – how is that looking right now? This year is the 10th anniversary of Walking Ibiza, which is rather exciting. So I’ll be doing some great things for that although they’re on hold right now. I’m going to host a little festival later in the year for walking and kayaking with some live music. This October is also the 10th anniversary of when I originally walked all the way around the island, so that’s going to be brilliant. We’ve got the four-day challenge. And we’re going to get the community walks going again because so many people want to get walk again. We all need to get out in nature again, to be beautifully blessed by this lovely Island.
How do you feel Ibiza has come together (while staying apart) as a community? It depends what you look at – many have come very together in many ways, I’ve seen people doing a lot of things for free and offering help, but then I also feel like it’s gone back to a bit of the Franco times, when you tell on everyone if they do something wrong. So if you put something on Facebook that someone doesn’t like, they’re there in a second to shout you down, blast you out and report you to the police if need be. So on hand, there’s been a hell of a lot of love out there, but also a lot of people telling others if they haven’t been doing the right thing, and even though they really didn’t need to be told.
Is there anywhere else you’d rather be quarantined than Ibiza? I think of all the places in the world, I’m very, very happy that I’m in Ibiza. It’s definitely the best place to be in the world. I’m very happy we’re here not stuck in the USA, or England, which is where we were before we came back here. So feeling very, very blessed.
What are you most looking forward to when the restrictions are lifted? I’m most looking forward to going for a walk that’s really going for a walk without having to look over my shoulder, and to be able to go for a swim in the sea. I absolutely love going snorkeling and I can’t wait to get down to that beach and get my head in the water and go free diving again.
Is there anything you might miss? The things I’m hopefully going to take out of lockdown are to work less and have more free time to spend with family and friends. It’s the simple things that are important! I’ve really really enjoyed working less and feel it’s possible for everyone to do this.
Any other reflections or lessons you’d like to share? Never to trust any media or political person again, or any organisation that is linked to a political agenda, which is a massive shame because it’s throwing up our whole system of managing this world into question for me. You just don’t know what to believe or who to believe. I believe the only thing you can do is digest conspiracy theories, mainline media, and then you just have to make your own decision on what is best to do for your own livelihood, then switch it all off and carry on with life and get back to nature!