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Last Updated on 23/12/2020

For many of us, self-isolation is synonymous with loneliness. We humans, on the whole, tend to find isolation an undesirable experience but for many of us across the world, it has now become the difference between life and death. As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the globe, countries are closing their borders and enforcing lockdowns to keep the worst of it contained. The message is simple, stay home and save lives. 

In lockdown, life from the outside seems to be on pause as people all over the world find themselves standing still for perhaps the first time in years. For non-essential workers, the world barely exists beyond the home. However, these lived experiences of self-isolation show that no matter what, life does and will go on whether it’s taking comfort in chores or spending time with family. 

From the distant jungles of Borneo to an apartment in Hong Kong, isolation may be the key to our survival right now but in isolation, we are very much united. In this time of fear and uncertainty, little pockets of normality and peace shine like lights in the darkness. Here’s how the world is coping with self-isolation in lockdown: 

Dionne Rayner from Dionne Rayner Travel, China  

Dionne in self-isolation

Another day begins in self-isolation. This time with the sound of B’s mum opening the door and handing us a bowl of what can only be described at gooey salty egg porridge. It’s called ‘mian si tang’ (面丝汤) or egg soup in English. As much as I think her cooking is great, this particular time, I have to smile and then immediately give it to B when she leaves the room. I wouldn’t rush to ask for this particular dish again, as much as I appreciate every meal she cooks for me.

We are now over a month into this life. 

I have stopped looking at the statistics now. 

The days are spent trying to pass the time.

We must have gone to the supermarket a thousand times. Sometimes to get food, but mainly for something to do. Sometimes, on a rare occasion, when the guard at the gate of the community lets us out, we will go for a long walk. These are my favourite days. But at this point in quarantine, we must have covered every inch of the city and all it has to offer. There also comes a point where there is only so much walking that you can do. But still, it gets us out of the house.

Two days ago we walked along the river. The path came to a small waterfall with stones we could clamber over. It led into a slightly wooded area, with abandoned stage areas and small seating structures with classic Asian style roofs. 

Often on these walks, my mind almost forgets life pre-lockdown. Until it hits me. I’m still here. 

I look at the river and imagine sailing down it in some make-believe boat or raft. The river would flow until I disembarked at another city or town. The excitement and sense of freedom would be brief. There would be no freedom there. There would be more isolation, more lockdown, more closed shops, more hiding away inside. 

I took my life before for granted. Before lockdown, instead of grasping at any opportunity to be entertained, it seemed to have been constantly at my fingertips. Life was busy. I was always working, always socialising, stuck in a routine. This turn of events reminds me of a dull summer break from school.

I feel like a grounded teenager.

I actually miss going to work. The socialisation aspect of it, as well as the kids I teach.

Another day.

Another day.

Another day.

You can follow Dionne’s adventures in China on her YouTube channel here. 

Dustin Main from Lightmoves Creative, Canada 

Dustin Main

I had already booked a flight out of Tunisia the day before when the Prime Minister announced that they were going to be shutting the borders down and limiting flights. The next day, less than 12hrs before my flight out of Tunis, I received word that it was cancelled.  Racing back to my apartment there, I quickly found some new flights to get me back to Canada, doing everything I could to not get trapped in the borders here.

The trip involved four flights on two tickets and three airlines, each getting me one step closer to the security of home, and each successful one releasing a little weight of uncertainty from my shoulders.

My mostly empty flight from Istanbul to Amsterdam seemed to be about as good as a flight could be when halfway through the flight, things immediately changed.  The plane quickly dived down, and I instinctively looked out the window as a flight attendant ran down the aisle. Over the intercom, something was yelled in Turkish four times, and then the oxygen masks dropped.

That pre-flight exercise that you’ve witnessed hundreds of times before makes things happen pretty naturally it turns out. People stayed pretty calm as they put on their masks, and we soon leveled off and continued to fly at a lower altitude. There was talk that we might have to make an emergency landing, and the first thing I thought was “yet another obstacle to getting home.”

After 45 minutes or so, we were told that we could take the masks off.  Less than 24 hours later, I was back home, and it’s never felt so good to be back.  After all that, self-isolation is no big deal for me. 

Dustin also leads small group tours to Myanmar. You can find out more information here. 

Edith from World Travel-Able, Barcelona  

self-isolation

I am a French expat living in Barcelona since 2010, and I quickly got used to the Spanish way of life – which is basically socializing outdoors!

The good thing in my case is that working in the travel industry I kind of saw it coming. I guess it helped me accept and adapt more easily to this new reality.

I am passionate about travelling and exploring, and I try to go to various events in Barcelona as much as I can to get content for my travel blog, so the lockdown did hurt. At the same time, this “event” has something to offer: time to think and prepare for the future.

I decided to take care of my body, mind, project and relationships. From that moment on, it’s just a matter of finding a routine. 

As I have a chronic illness, having to stop my regular walks and treatments have cost me sleepless nights but I am trying to plan my day around my physical ability. 

I also do yoga, mindfulness, physiotherapy and I even managed to attend my choir rehearsal online! 

We are lucky enough to be connected online so we’re not alone during lockdown. We can take this time as a valuable opportunity to call family members and friends we haven’t connected with in ages. 

While offline, I have also never enjoyed chores more, especially hanging my clothes out to dry on the rooftop. 

I also enjoy cooking with members of my family who I don’t usually get to spend time with. And I can now finish that course or that book which my hectic life didn’t allow me to do before.

Finally, every night at 8 pm, we all come to our windows and clap in honour of our hospital staff. It’s a way of creating a bond with neighbours, being grateful and remembering that we are lucky to only be in lockdown at home…

Follow Edith’s blog here. 

Kylie Chung, Hong Kong 

Hong Kong

In late January, it was the Lunar New Year and most of our scheduled gatherings and visits to relatives were cancelled because of COVID-19. Most Hong Kongers were alert to when the outbreak hit so when it started to spread the number of confirmed cases here was not too high as almost 90% citizens (in my area) put on surgical masks (after SARS, every family has 1 to 2 boxes of masks at home). 

Hand-washing / sanitizing with alcohol gel has become such a frequent part of our routine that almost all of us have a layer of skin on our hands that has been peeled off. 

It’s my 18th consecutive day of self-isolation. I decided to stay at home since 18th March as I saw the confirmed cases increase so dramatically that I felt safer and more comfortable staying in. I was scared in the beginning as SARS did leave a scar in my heart, but I feel better during self-isolation.

I live in a 40 square-metre apartment with 4 family members and only 1 toilet to share. We don’t even have a balcony. I spend most of my time on the computer, both for work and entertainment. We are lucky to have internet connection and we can surf the internet for funny stories, news and buy groceries.

I do love going outside normally but during this outbreak, I don’t want to add any unnecessary burden to the healthcare staff.  Staying home with family is actually perfect as we were all too busy studying or working before so we couldn’t really talk or play together much. Now we have a lot of spare time and we enjoy sitting down together and playing card games. I wish the disease would go as quick as it appeared. 

Jeremy Ranting from Planet Medallion, Borneo

Borneo

My partner Shannon and I are travel vloggers and we’ve ended up in different parts of the world during the coronavirus outbreak — and now we can’t get back to each other.

I’m currently on lockdown in the jungle of Borneo, so I’m posting updates about my scary/boring and crazy quarantine situation…

I’ve been under lockdown for well over a week now, keeping busy with chores, cleaning, sweeping, reading a lot, and writing. Even mundane things, like shaving and washing my clothes, provide comfort in their normalcy.

I still have something like 7 kilos of rice, so I won’t starve – but I have run out of vegetables. 

I’m grateful to be in a safe place and have an internet connection that, while unsteady and slow, is just enough to stay connected to Shannon and the rest of the world.

Keep up with Jeremy’s Borneo experience on his YouTube channel here. 

Haley Johnson from Prontopia, California

self-isolation
I have been working from home and self-isolating for about 10 days now, and in many ways, my daily schedule is fairly similar to my schedule before the pandemic. It’s hard being far away from my family, and of course, I miss getting out of the house to see friends, but I also get to work from home and I have everything I need right now. While I am in a fairly lucky position at the moment, it’s hard not to be reminded of everyone whose lives are impacted much more than mine – especially the elderly and those with chronic illnesses in self-isolation.  

I work for a California-based start-up called Prontopia that is actually offering assistance in Italy to those over 65 or those with chronic illnesses free of charge for the duration of the outbreak. If you or someone you love meets the criteria and needs help picking up groceries, medication, or walking their dog during self-isolation you can fill out this form here to get assistance.

Find out more about Prontopia here. 

How are you coping with self-isolation? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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