Updated on January 9th, 2021
What an extraordinary year 2020 was! As someone who has been privileged to create a world full of travel, being grounded for a year has been challenging. I have learned a lot about life & myself. So, here I share the important lessons a year of lockdown life taught me.”
At home alone in my flat in St Albans, UK…all year!
For the last 5 years, I have dedicated my life to travel. However, as with all of us in 2020, I had my wings severely clipped. Traditionally I have used December as an opportunity to reflect on the year & the achievements I’ve ticked off my Life List. However, for once this is minimal in comparison to the inspirational life lessons that lockdown has given me. It’s been a challenge, but I’ve learnt a lot about myself in the process.
In 2020 staying in became the only going out. When clearing your throat in public attracted the same looks as if you had just confessed to murder. People who hated exercise suddenly discovered its virtues & doing it outside was the panacea in healthy living. Wine at any time of day was now acceptable & ditching our bras, the main bit of freedom we enjoyed. Some of us were even paid while being told we were not allowed to work. For me, while travel used to be a thing of awe & jealousy it was now deemed shameful & irresponsible.
Life is just a party & parties weren’t meant to last.”
Where did it all start?
On a personal level, as this decade began, I knew early on that I was set to struggle. It marked 5 years since losing my beloved husband, Terry. Loneliness & reality was starting to take hold. I had established a new life for myself, immersed in travel. I was away from home for around 8 months each year, relishing a nomadic existence which challenged & energised me. In addition, I was writing about it in the hope of inspiring others.
I realise now that I have been like a toddler, constantly moving forward but slightly out of control. It was never clear whether I would continue to propel ahead at speed or land on my face, in tears & inconsolable. It doesn’t take a psychology genius to diagnose a little running (away?) in my behaviour.
As the distances between us became greater, the world united against a common enemy.
And real-life stared me in the face as borders closed, plans were cancelled, in became the new out & face masks the latest must-have fashion accessory. Travel was both a memory & a future hope. So, from a potential car crash, I made some important decisions & learned some valuable life lessons.
10 Important Lessons A Year of Lockdown Life Taught Me
One travels to run away from routine, that dreadful routine that kills all imagination and all our capacity for enthusiasm.”
…Not mine Ella!
I had left my family in Australia with the promise of returning soon. Saying goodbye somehow seemed even harder than usual. I felt like I was on the brink of a crash & it panicked me slightly. So, I took control. Being at home was something I needed to come to terms with, so I invested in a routine. Every morning I meditated, exercised, showered & by the time I had everything covered was ready to go with a plan for the day. Granted, “getting up” was now taking me 3 hours but each day started with positive intent. In addition, I actually knuckled down & learned how to blog. My site underwent a complete redesign & I committed to a regular writing schedule. It was a revelation in my living room & a revolution to becoming a proper blogger.
A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”
I kept a close eye on my comrades also digging in while living alone. Zoom was a saviour for me as it was for everyone as I reconnected with friends across the globe. When you have friendships which span over 20 years, it’s amazing how the time melts away. A couple of hours spent in front of a computer with wine feels like the blink of an eye. I will be forever grateful for my friends & family who added me to their weekly routine. One of the best life lessons is that friendships are priceless & investing in them is a thing of beauty.
3. Human contact
Nothing is so healing as the human touch.”
Just before the UK went into lockdown, I was in the US, struggling to escape after a fated road trip around America’s big music cities. The hug I shared to say goodbye to my friend Jill was the last physical contact either of us had for months. When she told me she had accidentally brushed a man’s hand at the supermarket, I felt she’d cheated on me!
Then, finally, the UK government recognised how hard lockdown was for those of us doing it alone & released us from solitary confinement. I headed excitedly to my friend Gemma’s before feeling completely overwhelmed as I turned towards her house. It was there I burst into uncontrollable tears as I treasured my first long hug. I just didn’t want to let her go!
I have become a master at burying my head in the sand. Pretend something isn’t happening & it can’t affect you. But it had, way more than I realised. After weeping on Gemma’s shoulder, I then moved on to her husband & finally blubbed all over her daughter. Then came revelation after revelation. For example, sharing a drink & eating with others (my table manners needed a bit of work!) were all everyday activities which had been denied for months.
There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”
William Butler Yeats
Living alone was something I was acutely aware of from the start. I am someone who is energised by being around people. I made a point of greeting everyone on my morning run. Each person who responded made me feel triumphant. Everyone who chose to ignore me felt like a dagger to the heart. And then there they were the ones who flaunted their ‘not alone’ status. Blatantly taking up the pavement by walking side by side or failing to keep control of a toddler on a wayward scooter.
I decided that it wasn’t doing me any good. I stopped saying Hello & changed my route to one with fewer people. A valuable life lesson was that lockdown had made me intolerant of others & the only thing I could control was my own behaviour. I changed my route & my attitude.
Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.”
As we watched the world change in a matter of weeks, the one thing that became clear was that the road ahead was going to be relentless. However, fundamentally we always knew it would come to an end (thank you, vaccines!). In that way, it is very different from grief.
When you lose someone you love with all your heart & soul, you never “get over it”. However, you do learn to live with it. My heart goes out to anyone who has felt this loss during the days of coronavirus. I have a sense of how devastating it is.
6. Solo Travel
You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.”
Lessons from travelling solo had prepared me for a number of aspects of lockdown. First was to be at peace & enjoy being alone. Next, employing strategies to keep myself occupied. In addition, travelling alone as a woman brings a unique perspective. You often have to trust complete strangers, while always having an expectation that they have an ulterior motive. For me, coronavirus is no different.
In the supermarket, we have to trust that the person next to us in the queue is not experiencing symptoms. We have to assume that the assistant serving us has got into the habit of excellent handwashing. After each interaction, we brace ourselves for a week in the hope that each of us is protecting ourselves & therefore each other.
We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm. Some of us are on super-yachts. Some have just the one oar.”
Comparison happened a lot during our time behind closed doors. Were parents dealing with homeschooling in a worse position than the ones who were shielding? Were my friends living with grumpy teenagers in a better or worse position than me living alone? And should I have given up my garden when everyone was extolling the virtues of growing their own veg?
For my friends, I envied their company, while they were jealous of my time alone. Again, I chose my attitude & opted to be thankful for what I had & not be eaten up by the things I didn’t. Suck it up, became my new mantra for life.
I learned many things in England. Above all, I learned that until you leave home, you don’t know to appreciate what you have.”
As a world traveller, everywhere is exciting…& where I live slightly less so! But when you are not able to go anywhere, you have to make the most of what is available to you. Although our borders in the UK were (kind of) open again, I wasn’t comfortable to get on a plane. So along with my friend Manda, we planned a trip to Scotland. And it was spectacular! From the moment we made the decision to go, I felt a huge sense of relief & release. Being out in the fresh air & seeing the glory of somewhere so close to home blew me away. I will be back & you can bet there’ll be a lot more UK based content here in the future.
Ultimately, we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.”
One of the joys of solo travel is a constant challenge. But after months with just myself for company & being told to stay away from restaurants & people. We are told to go & eat out. And I have to admit that I was scared. Scared over how seriously people were taking the risks rather than being worried about becoming infected. I was suddenly gripped with fear doing the most natural thing in the world to me, leaving home. A train ride was a revelation & taking a plane filled me with terror. I felt like I was starting to lose myself.
Additionally, the industry I love & have strived to be part of is on its knees. We need to juggle the responsibilities of keeping those around us safe with the need to save travel. The less we do it, the fewer choices we will have & the more expensive it will be. I have battled long & hard but for my own mental health & my commitment to the travel industry, the time for a flight is nigh.
Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.”
A global pandemic has made us all reflect on what we have, what we miss, what is most important to us & what we want in our lives for the future. It has also given an opportunity to wallow in what we have lost. For me, that’s a loving partner to share the experience with, my parents to care for & my family who are now out of reach on the other side of the world.
Christmas is around the corner & there have been big discussions in the UK about whether the restrictions will be lifted to enable families to be together. They have, so most are. Except for the first time ever, I can’t. The relentlessness of not feeling comfortable to travel, the life that gives me energy & vitality has started to grate.
But despite all this I’m grateful. Grateful to have all those amazing people in my life, past & present. I’m grateful that my previous adventures have given me so much to reflect on over the last year. Grateful to all the fantastic people on the front line who have cared for those who needed it & allowed us to stay safe.
In conclusion, lockdown life has taught me some important life lessons. But mostly I have learnt to appreciate the moment & not assume that times will always be the same. That sometimes it’s good to stop, reflect & find strength in the good things. To be grateful for everything I have & not to let that fear stop me from continuing on my mission, just to maybe slow it down a bit.
When everything changes, change everything”
Neale Donald Walsch
So, for Christmas, I will finally be getting on a plane & heading to the Caribbean. My hope is to have lobster rather than turkey & go to the beach rather than a cold brisk walk. I may not be with my family, but I will be with someone who cares & has been there for me every day during the lockdown.
I will be grateful & I will make plans for the future. Because things will change, this will end & we’ll be much stronger for what 2020 taught us about ourselves & our world.
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