Man Who Has Lived in Abandoned Mine for 50 Years Offers Social Distancing Tips

Some insights into the nature of solitude right here

Gothic, Colorado
You could do a lot of social distancing out here.
Jeffrey Beal/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / April 7, 2020 6:30 am

For a lot of people dealing with social isolation, quarantine or social distancing, that separation from others — whether loved ones or strangers — can start to take a toll. At NPR, Rae Ellen Bichell talked with someone who has more experience than most people with living in isolation. That would be Billy Barr, who calls an abandoned mining town in Colorado home. He’s resided in Gothic, Colorado for nearly 50 years and is the town’s only full-time resident.

Bichell writes that Barr “lives in an abandoned silver mine at nearly 10,000 feet in altitude in the Rocky Mountains.” He doesn’t live in complete isolation: he works for the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, chats with local skiers and stays in touch with his family. Still, if there was ever someone who might be able to offer good advice about relative solitude, it’s Barr.

Barr’s advice includes maintaining a daily routine and choosing things to keep track of on a day-by-day basis. For him, this can include the weather and which animals are nearby. He’s made his peace with the fact that he’ll be grumpy sometimes, and his celebrations tend to be around things that are the most relevant to his life — including supply runs and sunrise times.

And Barr is also a fan of using movies as a way to change his mood — including Love, Actually. “He also recommends Bollywood movies like Om Shanti OmBride and Prejudice and English Vinglish,” writes Bichell. Most of us don’t live in former mining towns, so not all of Barr’s tips may apply — but turning to movies in a complex time? That’s something many of us can relate to, regardless of where we live.

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