In November 2019, I was packing my things to travel in Southeast Asia & the Pacific. I needed a break from everything: work, life, routine… At first it was only a dream but then it became reality: my fiancé and I had a solid plan! Bearing in mind that even the most robust plan should expect the unexpected at some point, we left confident that we knew exactly what we were doing (for 90% of it). At that time, no one suspected what would happen shortly after we left. A virus spreading all over the world, is that even real? It still sounds like fiction to me.
Now that we’re back in London, it’s weird to realise we couldn’t have timed it better, given the current rules with international travel. By the time the pandemic started to restrict our freedom of movement, we had already managed to visit Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Australia & New Zealand… It’s only when we got to Fiji that reality started to kick in: the world was in crisis and we got stranded there for 3 long weeks.
Everyone has been affected by the pandemic somehow, and even though it’s still far from being over yet, I think now is the perfect time to reflect. Because it’s been 12 months since we were “released” from the island and “allowed” to fly back home. Trapped and vulnerable tourists were easy targets in Fiji, it really felt like we were hostages. Today marks the anniversary of our first day back in the UK.
“Home” is where you want to be when the world is in crisis
If you consider that the number of infections were rising very quickly in Europe, we could have considered ourselves a lot safer in the Pacific. But it was mentally difficult to stay so far away from home for any longer. I remember our flight back home like it was yesterday. The country was in lockdown but passengers were still entering freely through airports. We didn’t interact with anyone. No one to give us any rules to follow, no mandatory quarantine… We were just “released” into the wild, with no clue how to adapt to this new world.
This is when I realised we had overlooked our mental health. Our first few days in our temporary flat were a mix of relief and exhaustion. We had so many unanswered questions, the future seemed so blurry. The main one being: what happens now?
Time is precious, and there is always a way to make the most of it
It was difficult enough to have no choice but to interrupt our dream travel plan, the last thing we wanted after spending so much time abroad was to be surrounded by too many people. We had to quickly return to reality, even if it was hard to swallow. Back in London, we isolated for 2 weeks, using a non-compulsory quarantine as an excuse to focus on our wellbeing. This time was very much needed for us to mentally recover from all this nightmare. We needed to get our lives back together and prepare our future the best way we could.
At least I will remember lockdown(s) for being the catalyst for all the things I’ve done this past 12 months:
- I learnt how to cut my fiancé’s hair myself. New hairdresser skills for me and lots of savings made for the rest of his life. Not to brag about it but he receives many compliments for his haircuts…
- I decided to focus on my health, as a result I lost 25kg by revisiting my eating habits.
- I significantly improved my cooking skills, read a lot about veganism and included many new foods in my diet (mostly vegs I didn’t think I would ever like). Proof that the good kind of unexpected can also happen.
- I discovered intermittent fasting, which was a revelation for me.
- We adopted Luna, to give our older cat Miko some company. Raising a kitten requires a lot of time within the first few months and we knew it was the right moment. Now they’re inseparable, mission accomplished.
- I decided to delete my personal social media accounts. Oddly enough, lockdown made me become more selective about the technology used to communicate with friends and family. Best decision ever!
- Last but not least, I started this blog to share my journey.
When I look back, I sometimes try and visualise how different the present would look if I chose a different path. For example, if I decided to soothe my anxiety with more food (like many people do) and became obese. Or what if I chose to spend my time learning how to play the guitar, instead of starting a blog. Overall I’m very happy about how it all turned out and I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason.
Also, you can have all the time in the world, there are always going to be some things left sitting at the bottom of the list. We got engaged in December 2019 and I can tell you almost nothing has been done with the wedding planning. Sometimes, we just need to accept we can’t have it all. The world has been moving at a slower pace, let’s embrace it and trust the fact that the best is yet to come!
Post-COVID, the world will never be the same again
Now that I have reflected on this past crazy year, I realise that most things are here to stay. At a personal level of course, but also on a bigger scale. It seems to me like mental health received more attention than it ever has in the past. It’s not invisible or taboo anymore. People value their work-life balance even more and prioritise things differently, maybe in a better way. I’ve noticed a bigger focus on environment too, which is key for me. That’s right, we’re about to enter a new era and I’m excited about it.
That being said, with the lockdown cautiously on its way out in the UK, I can’t help but feeling a bit anxious about the return to “normality”. After so much time spent at home, I got used to my very own comfort zone and it seems daunting to get out there again… Back to a year ago when we were clueless how to behave, once we got off the plane. Even small things like taking public transport make me anxious and I wonder how I did it so “normally” before. What if lockdown enhanced my introversion for good? Will I ever be able to socialise without the help of technology?
Tell me what changed for you since the pandemic started, I’d love to know! What do you think will never come back to the way it was before?
Big Girl x
I’ve read a lot of articles about how COVID has affected people’s lives but this one really stood out. I loved everything you said. I never thought about this but home really is where you would stay when the world is in crisis. You accomplished so much! They’re honestly great ideas for everyone to learn from like being more selective with your technology. Thanks for sharing x
Thank you! I was born and raised in France but from this experience I know that London is now where I call “home”… x
Thanks for sharing your perspective on the past year-as a fellow traveler, it has been so difficult to stay put for over a year, but I definitely think you’re right-home is where you want to be when the world is in crisis, and I’m glad you made it home!
Tell me about it! I still don’t have any travel plans for 2021 so far… It’s too risky, rules can change anytime. Hopefully things will come back to a more “normal” situation very soon.
Personally, I don’t think we will ever return back to ‘normal’ (whatever that meant anyway!) I think things like telemedicine are definitely here to stay (no more waiting in packed doctors’ waiting rooms – how was that ever a good idea?) I also think the way we work has changed forever. I work in the NHS and I hope we will take the learning about how powerful working towards a common goal can be. I’m immensely proud of all the NHS has achieved in the past year and that I’ve played a (very small) part in that. I agree with you that the focus on mental health has changed, which is such a good thing. I hope you get to resume your travels at some point.
Me neither, and it might be better that way 🙂
I think the entire country is immensely proud of the NHS… It must be very rewarding to play a role in it! Onwards and upwards xx
I love that so many of us have come to change our perspective for the better because of the last year. I personally have realized that my family time is more important than anything else, my self-care is essential, and I have a support system that I am super grateful for! All major lessons (and blessings!)
Exactly. If anything, it shows a lot of good things can emerge from bad ones! We all received valuable life lessons.
Whoa! I suppose if you were to be stranded somewhere, you could do worse than Fiji. But point taken! The separation from my wife happened at the beginning of the pandemic and I was living in Indiana – a whole state away from my family and biggest support system in Michigan. It was quite lonely. But I also found something special in my pet. My dog, Finn, is my best friend and gets me out of bed in the morning. Oh, and my blog was born during the pandmic too. Thanks for sharing this!
I got that a lot… Although Fiji during a worldwide crisis is not really Fiji, if you know what I mean!
Sorry to hear you’ve been separated from you wife because of the pandemic, it must have been tough. But it’s good to see you found some positives out of the situation too x