A Personal Reflection from Isolation

As I’m writing this blog post, I’m sitting within my studio apartment downtown Toronto on my eighth week of isolation. Only a few short months ago I was traveling across East Africa living my best life. COVID-19 wasn’t even a topic of conversation back then (at least in not in North America), and I would’ve never imagined how different our lives would be only a few months later.

I remember at the end of February when more cases were being reported, I still wasn’t that concerned. We weren’t forced to isolate yet, and most people that had contracted the virus had traveled to China or been in contact with someone who had. I was in the group of Millennials that were watching flights to see if any hot deals popped up as people became less and less eager to travel.

It’s crazy how things can so drastically change at the drop of a dime. The week of March 9th is when I started to feel a little bit uneasy about the whole situation. There was a case reported within my office building, and washing my hands/sanitizing definitely became more frequent. By that Friday, the paranoia of everyone in Toronto arrived in full force. Panic buying was a thing, and concerned I wouldn’t be able to get my basic weekly groceries, I left work early on Friday March 13th to pick up a few things. When I arrived, I was in disbelief. There were no non-perishable items left.

Shelves were empty. Freezers were empty. This was truly something I had never witnessed. I live in a first world country. Access to food has never, ever been a problem (I know we are very privileged in this sense).

That weekend we still weren’t forced to social distance. However, the city was eerie. Walking around Toronto with my boyfriend, I was hyper aware of people coughing, germs, and all that jazz.

We’re closed

By that Sunday, I began to receive email after email of different services suspending and closing. Primarily, all the yoga and fitness studios I belong to. This is when it really struck me hard and became a reality. Maybe I was delusional to think that they wouldn’t just shut down Canada, but boy was I wrong.

In those first days it was a weird adjustment and didn’t really feel real. I admit, I was upset and frustrated. It’s hard to give up your regular life and routine. Even though I could very much live off essential services only, I like being social, going out, being around people, heading into work every day, I think we all do. Suddenly all our lives were just taken from us and we were forced to adjust to a “new normal”.

No one really understood how long this would last. In the beginning it was just for two weeks. Then as we approached that two week mark, and saw our case numbers climbing, borders closed, flights grounded, we all knew we were going to be in for something much longer.

As the weeks have progressed, yes, this has become more normal. As normal as it can feel to live through a pandemic. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t personally have days (or weeks) where I struggle more than usual. Some days I just wake up depressed, missing my old life, frustrated I can’t do anything, bored, and can’t stop crying at random things. And I know I’m not the only one.

A great viral read about coping during a pandemic by Scott Berinato: “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief”

What I’ve learned

What I’ve learned through all of this is how much we take our day-to-day life for granted. How often do we complain about having to get out of bed for work? I’d kill to be able to work in my office again.

Speaking of work, I think that this pandemic will teach our whole country how do-able working from home can be. We’re seeing colleagues and companies pull together to be as “business as usual” as they possibly can be through this weird time. However, what I’ve learned from working from home for eight weeks is how much I love having a job that usually requires me to go into an office. I always thought I could be an entrepreneur, or have a fully remote job, but I’ve realized now more than ever how much I value job security, and an office (the things I’d do to have a proper desk set-up again).

I’ve also learned that I don’t actually value alone time as much as I thought I did. I’ve always been a person who said I was an extroverted introvert, turns out I’m WAY MORE extroverted than I thought. I also am a creature of habit, my schedule, my routine, that’s what keeps me motivated and sane. I like being busy, and social. I like always having something to do, even if it’s just going to the gym or yoga.

I don’t think I will ever take for granted those little things we don’t even pay attention to during normal times. I miss going to the grocery store without having to be anxious, I miss being close, face-to-face with my friends and family, I miss those moments of interactions with random strangers at stores, or events.

I also am going to be supporting local businesses more than ever when this is over. I’ve been trying to do so already through online shopping when I need things, or for gifts. Small businesses are what makes Toronto so special and unique, and my heart breaks at the thought that so many businesses I loved will likely never open their doors again. I’ve always been a supporter of small business, but after this I’m going to make even more of a conscious effort to support them as much as I can. They need us!

The future of travel for me

I read an article recently that talked about how it’s normal to not be able to think of the future during a time like this. I personally haven’t really thought beyond tomorrow. I no longer am excited about next month, let alone next week. I’m just trying to get by, and take it day-by-day.

This also applies with travel for me. People have been asking me about where my next trip will be when this is all over, but I have no idea. I can’t plan or get my hopes up for that. Even if restrictions are lifted in Canada in the next few months, the likelihood of travel going back to normal that quickly is low.

Yes, it does make me sad to think about when my next adventure will be. When I’ll get to explore this world again. Take in new cultures, new landscapes, new cuisines. I can’t wait to get lost in a different country where you don’t speak the language. Put my toes in the sand of a new beach. Hell, I can’t even wait to just be in an airport again. I think every adventurer can relate.

But my priority right now isn’t travel and it won’t be for the foreseeable future. I think my next adventures, if any, will be within my own backyard. I personally can’t wait to just be out and about in Toronto again. I love this city so damn much and I miss it.

I also haven’t traveled much of Canada, so if domestic travel reopens, this would be an excellent time to give back and support our local economy that’ll need our support more than ever. I recently shared an article titled “Half of Tourism Businesses in Canada Could Permanently Close by the End of the Month”. Without international tourists coming to our country, we need to be here for it.

Don’t get me wrong though, my savings for my next big adventure somewhere else in the world are building up while we’re stuck at home and not spending money. I’m not saying goodbye to travel abroad, only a “see you later” until our government allows us to travel again and it’s safe. I know that our own economy needs support from tourists, but I know other economies around the world will too. It breaks my heart to think about the state of countries that depend so heavily on the tourism industry to thrive and survive.

How to calm your travel bug from home

I understand that not everyone is able to accept the fact that international travel can be really out of reach right now and for the near future. I’ve recently discovered tons of ways to help settle that travel bug while you’re stuck at home. I wanted to share some with you to help you feel adventurous even if it’s from your living room.

  • Explore museums and galleries virtually (for a great list, head to Google Art & Culture)
  • Plan your next trip(s)
  • Read that travel book that’s been sitting on your shelf (some of my favs are: National Geographic’s Journeys of a Lifetime & Lonely Planet’s The World)
  • Look for trip inspiration on Pinterest or catch up on some of your favourite travel bloggers older posts
  • Preserve your memories by creating scrapbooks, or photobooks from your old trips. It’s so nice to have these in hard copies versus only digitally!
  • Look back at old travel memories (watch old videos, go through old photos, read old travel journals)
  • Learn how to make some of your favourite recipes from your travels (there’s no time but now to cook or bake)
  • Watch your favourite travel-themed movies or documentaries (I still love the travel series Departures)
  • Plan a travel themed night/date from home (throw on your swimsuit, turn up your heat, find a YouTube stream of your fav beach, make cocktails, and get a little cheesy with an at-home vacay)

I know the above will never replace the feeling of being in a new destination, but for now we all need to do our part so we can go back to traveling. This beautiful world we live in isn’t going anywhere, and it’ll wait for us when this is all over.

For now, stay safe, healthy & STAY HOME! xo

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