How COVID-19 Affected My Life in the Last 12 Months

Window to landscape

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 - London

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.

Accomplishments

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

Is Christmas Really the Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

christmas season hot chocolate

Only 2 months until Christmas! But this post isn’t about telling you how excited I am about it. It’s just a post highlighting how 2020 was wasted so far… To a point I didn’t realise how quickly we ended up so close to Christmas already! I don’t want to waste any more time, time we’ll never get back.

Christmas is a season, not just a day

What I love about Christmas is the decorations in the streets, the festive mood people are in, the idea of drinking a hot chocolate (with tons of marshmallows) in front of a log fire, the snow falling outside and all the terrible Christmas movies we watch every year. Christmas is not just a day for me, it’s a season. I don’t really care about the day itself, I think “tradition” puts a lot of pressure on that specific day to be with all of your family. The idea sounds more like a chore to me.

It could be a nightmare for expats

I remember when I used to take the Eurostar every year during Christmas period to spend a few days with my family in Paris… I can assure you there was nothing festive about it, trains were always overcrowded (not to mention the huge luggage full of gifts you have to carry all along) and people were not very amicable during the journey. If anything, it ended up being the period of the year I avoided to visit family in France.

It’s actually quite nice to wander in the streets in London when everyone is busy lying on their sofa, after they’ve eaten so much food their belly is about to explode. Let’s face it, all you do during Christmas is eating, napping, repeat. And when you think about it, you don’t have to wait for that period of the year to visit family anyway. It should be whenever you want to, not whenever tradition or media tell you to.

Christmas doesn’t feel the same all over the world

For most of us in the world, Christmas is associated with cold months. If you are somewhere hot for Christmas, does it still feel the same though? Well I got to experience it for the first time last year and the answer is simple, no. I was travelling in Australia during Christmas period last year and seeing Santa wearing a pair of shorts on a beach was just weird. Just for the banter, below a picture on how Christmas projections looked like on a Church in Perth, so you can see what I mean:

Santa projected on a church in Perth

Santa doesn’t really exist

Do we really have to lie to kids about who’s giving them so many presents? Shouldn’t they know their parents and family are working hard (and sometimes saving for months) to make that happen? I really don’t see the purpose of this big fat lie as it’s always a traumatic experience for them to learn the truth when they’re “old enough”. I’m not even talking about “how” they realise their entire family lied to them for years, sometimes a school mate would deliver the truth in a very harsh way. I don’t remember having ever believed a big old bearded man would enter our home via the chimney to offer me gifts I didn’t even wish for… If you’re using Santa to make sure your kids behave, surely there is a lack of authority somewhere. But what do I know, I don’t have kids and I don’t want them.

Let’s focus on what matters

All this to conclude with one thing. Don’t let this wave of COVID infections and potential new lockdown affect your Christmas spirit. Maybe you’ll be able to be with your family, maybe you won’t. But if not, it’s not the end of the world. The important bit is to stay healthy, practise gratitude and remember there is a tomorrow. It’s up to us to make it brighter! In the meantime, good luck with all the gifts you will have to purchase, especially for the awkward Secret Santa(s) you got involved in reluctantly… You’re not alone.

Are you looking forward to Christmas 2020 the same way as every year? Or have you accepted good times are ahead, no matter what happens on that specific day?

Big Girl x

How the Pandemic Impacted My Social Life & Relationships

How the Pandemic Impacted My Social Life & Relationships

We’ve all been impacted one way or another by the pandemic this year… When it all started, I thought the world would be in crisis for maybe 6 months and then quickly recover from it. When I came back to London in April, I was convinced my fiancé and I would be able to get married in November this year. I remember saying to my close family: “It will be sorted out by then!”, they were a bit hesitant to agree and I thought they were pessimistic. As we’re now entering cold months and this virus is going to keep threatening us for at least another 6 months (or am I being too optimistic again?), I thought it was a good time to reflect on how the pandemic has impacted all types of relationships.

Family

Family reunion

My mum was born and raised in Japan, she moved permanently in France by herself when she was almost 18. A few years later, she married a French man (my dad) and started a family. I guess it made it difficult for her to go back to her native country. That’s the price you pay when you choose to build your life abroad… You might never go back to your roots. I might have subconsciously walked in her footsteps when I decided to come to England 8 years ago.

Even though England is a lot closer to France than Japan, I don’t see my family very often. It doesn’t compare to people who live a few minutes away from their parents for example. On top of that, the current covid rules mean we can’t travel easily at the moment. The positive impact is we talk more regularly over the phone. Keeping in touch to say nothing has never meant so much.

Friends

friends jumping in the air

I have friends all over the world. People usually choose to be friends with like-minded people, so I guess it makes sense that I keep in touch with people who have lived in different places throughout their lives. But one of the consequences is I don’t see them very regularly. Distance has never been an obstacle to our friendship though. A negative impact of this pandemic is to not being able to plan when we’ll see each other again. We can’t make any travelling plans until the situation gets a bit less murky. Basically, my wedding is supposed to be the next time we’ll see each other, in November 2021. But even that is not guaranteed…

Colleagues

colleagues around table

I quit my job before travelling last year and I haven’t found a new job since I got back. Maybe the absence of colleagues is the direct consequence of this pandemic for me! The job market is not exactly what it used to be. If anything, this situation made me question what type of job I should look for.

This blog is my full time job for now, it feels like I’m working from home. I like the tranquillity of my own office room at home, the liberty of listening to music if I want to, the easy access to my own kitchen to cook something healthy for lunch, the presence of my cats and of course the shortest commute I will ever have, from my bedroom to my desk. I don’t know when this situation will change but I learnt to enjoy it while it lasts.

Love

couple at sunset

When we were abroad for so long, friends & family were wondering if our relationship would either make or break. Some couples may split up after spending some time abroad, because travelling changes people’s mindset forever. But we knew we were made for each other before planning such a trip.

We had been on the road for 5 months before coming back. Having no choice but to stick with each other during a national lockdown was never going to be difficult in comparison. We also used to work together before, so we were already used to spending most of our time together. If anything, it confirmed to us we can’t wait to get married.

Pets

cat and dog cuddling

I personally can’t see my life without pets. It doesn’t matter if you’re surrounded by lots of people already, pets are not just for lonely people. They love you in a different way than humans, they don’t judge, they empathise with your emotions, they don’t have to do much to comfort you when you’re sad… And they’re so cute. There’s been a rise in pet adoptions since lockdown, let’s just hope people who adopted were fully aware of the responsibilities involved in owning a pet and that the abandonment rate will not also increase later on.

I already had a cat but always wanted a little sister for him. To me, that was the right moment to do it. Many charities warned against pet adoption during the pandemic but I knew what I was doing. I now have 2 cats who not only love each other but make me even happier than I was before! I would have adopted another kitten at some point anyway… But the extra time lately made it easier to properly take care of our new family member.

Nature

nature sunset

I think it’s fair to say my relationship with nature has also changed. Being able to take some fresh air is underrated. Seeing the positive impact on having less people polluting (thanks to covid19) made me realise how overcrowded our planet is. We’re currently damaging it by replacing the wild with the tame. It made me want to be more careful and considerate about my actions and their consequences on a bigger scale.

“Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.” – Bruce Feiler

How did the pandemic impact your relationship with the world?

Big Girl x