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10 Important Lessons A Year of Lockdown Life Taught Me

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Updated on March 22nd, 2023

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.”


A map with a blonde woman avatar on it near St Albans in the UK

At home alone in my flat in St Albans, UK…all year!

Sue, in a blue face maskWhy?

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.”

If you are looking to get your fix of travel when you can’t leave home, check out my post about a Virtual Fortune Teller Experience – How to travel to Bolivia without leaving home! Alternatively, to see all my top tips for travelling internationally in this new world, click HERE.

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Where did it all start?

A view of a green field and large oak tree and a reflective lake with trees on an island in the middle

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

Sue's flat, 10 Important Lessons That A Year of Lockdown Life Taught Me1. Routine

One travels to run away from routine, that dreadful routine that kills all imagination and all our capacity for enthusiasm.”
Ella Maillart

…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.

Sue and friends on Zoom, 2. Friendships

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”
Walter Winchell

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 that span over 20 years, it’s amazing how 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.”
Bobby Fischer

Sue and friend Jill in America, 10 Important Lessons That A Year of Lockdown Life Taught Me

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 that had been denied for months.

4. Strangers

There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”
William Butler Yeats

St Albans Abbey, 10 Important Lessons That A Year of Lockdown Life Taught Me

…apart from the annoying ones, William!

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.

5. Grief

Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.”
Anne Roiphe

'Dandilion clock', 10 Important Lessons That A Year of Lockdown Life Taught Me

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.

But in 2014 I lost Terry. I will never get to speak, touch, hold, kiss or laugh with him again. Or my Mum & my Dad. And that will never end. Grief enables you to deal with an awful lot of life.

6. Solo Travel

You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.”
Frank Cane

Lochside scenary in Scotland, 10 Important Lessons That A Year of Lockdown Life Taught Me

Lessons from travelling solo had prepared me for a number of aspects of lockdown. The 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.

Local countryside walks, 10 Important Lessons That A Year of Lockdown Life Taught Me7. Envy

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.”
Damian Barr

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.

Sue and Manda in Scotland, 10 Important Lessons That A Year of Lockdown Life Taught Me8. Home

I learned many things in England. Above all, I learned that until you leave home, you don’t know to appreciate what you have.”
Gerard Deulofeu

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.

Sea food, 10 Important Lessons That A Year of Lockdown Life Taught Me9. Fear

Ultimately, we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.”
Marilyn Ferguson

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.

Sue and family in Australia, 10 Important Lessons That A Year of Lockdown Life Taught Me10. Gratitude

Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.”
Doris Day

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 us 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.

What next?

A sandy beach in a cloudy but sunny setting. Antigua

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.

Sue in Scotland, 10 Important Lessons That A Year of Lockdown Life Taught MeInterested to read more?

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10 Important Lessons A Year of Lockdown Life Taught Me

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  1. I think that learning how to be an excellent traveller helps with the pandemic situation. An expert traveller leaves what was normal at home behind, when they go abroad. They rapidly adjust to the local norms and expectations, without complaint or questioning, without comparing it with what they’re used to, and just roll with it. Although they (usually) tacitly intend to return home or see family and familiar friends, while travelling they occupy a mindset that is sanguine about being not-home indefinitely. I mean, you can’t travel well if you’re constantly thinking about going home.

    The only difference with the pandemic normal is that we didn’t choose to travel there, it came to us. In my case, it just meant that I had to plan fast for the ‘trip’ I’ve been taking to this strange pandemic-stricken local confinement, and prep even faster. But I’ve used the same travel mindset I use when I’m the one moving, and I think it has served me well this year.

  2. What an excellent post Sue! I enjoyed reading it and can relate to so many of your life lessons. I have found myself pondering meaning and fulfillment, especially with our ability to travel severely hampered. I do think there are some good things which will come out of the pandemic. Realizing our own strengths and resiliency is one of them! Great post!

    1. Thank you, Jenn, & really pleased you enjoyed my thoughts. I agree, good things will come & I am open to embracing them…when I’m allowed again 😉 Sue x

  3. Think we all underestimated the impact of covid. I definitely identify with you on this one the running away part. My travel is a chance to escape and bury my head from some realities and maybe I need to not take my own area and home for granted so much.

    1. Thank you, Nicole. Glad I struck a chord with you & agree. I have learned to appreciate what I do have so much more. Sue x

  4. It has been such a strange year. We have all had to learn new ways to stay in touch with people who we could no longer hug or even see. We are not normally extroverts but we found ourselves moving further away from people. It seemed that every stranger was a potential risk. That may be the thing that will be hardest to give up when things get back to a new normal. I totally understand the experience of waiting after every interaction to see if we develop some kind of symptoms. I hope you have a great time in the Caribbean. This is the first year in a long time that we have not escaped Canada to somewhere warm. But we are not yet sure we are prepared for the risk.

    1. Thank you, Linda, & completely understand your perspective. Unfortunately 3 days before I was due to leave, my local area went back into lockdown & a travel an. I wasn’t able to escape to the sun in the end either. Hopefully I will soon…fingers crossed. Sue x

  5. I enjoyed reading through your lovely post. Yes, the pandemic has definitely taught all of us how to live in a different way and make it successful. I have been paying more attention to my blog and have seen my traffic grow each month of a year when no one traveled!! Most companies may now dispense with the space given to their employees who are doing a great job just working from home. Hopefully, we will see more travel opening up as the vaccines take effect in this new year! 🙂

    1. Thank you Jan & really pleased to hear you enjoyed my musings on an “interesting” year. Great to hear that you are getting results through focussing on your blog & I have been doing the same. It has actually kept me sane! Fingers crossed we can hit the road again soon. Safe travels when we can. Sue x

  6. I remember reading about your trip to the music cities earlier this year!

    I have to say that I’ve had some of the same feelings and emotions that you’ve had over the past year. And like you, I’ve been working on my blog this whole time. But unlike you, it seems like I haven’t gotten very far with it even with all this time.

    I do really like your redesign.

    1. Thank you, Julie, & really pleased you like the redesign! Glad I was able to hit a few similar feelings from your perspective too. Sue x

  7. I truly appreciate your positive approach as I’m actually unable to see anything positive coming from this situation. Sadly, I’m even losing a positive view of good things that happened, that’s how much the situation is bringing me down.
    Nevertheless, it’s very inspiring – and even empowering – reading about your positive views and plans – and positive inspiration I need alright 😉

    1. Thank you, Renata & I’m so sorry to hear that you are struggling to see the positives. I think we have all been challenged with that over this last year & there have certainly been times when I have felt very down & like I was losing myself. But I do also hope that I have been able to inspire you a little & fingers crossed this next year brings light at the end of the tunnel. Sending positive thoughts your way, Sue x

  8. This is such an interesting read Sue! I can relate to so many things you mentioned. I also kind of started appreciate the small things, I thought are “normal”, again. Plus I kind of realized how much my friends mean to me and how much I miss meeting them.

    1. Thank you, Lina & really pleased you could relate to my musings. Friends are vital, I guess sometimes we need a push to relaise just how important they are & nurture them even more. Sue x

  9. What a beautiful and poignant post. You have so well articulated the experience of the year. I was, and am, sending you virtual hugs. You are a brave and compassionate person and I admire your courage and your growth. ??

  10. The last one was I think the best lesson for all of us. I’m also grateful that despite the pandemic, my loved ones are all safe and healthy. It’s good to reflect on these life lessons.

    1. Thank you, Catherine, & I’m pleased to hear that your loved ones are safe & well. There is a lot we can be grateful for. Sue x

  11. Hi Sue, I’m so sorry for your loss but more so, I’m in awe of how you’ve lived your life since. You’re an inspiration for everyone of live life to the fullest. I love your 10 lessons from living in lockdown. I would not have expected ‘routine’ as #1 but reading your perspective, I can see why.

  12. These are hard lessons to learn that, unfortunately, I think many of us have had to learn and face this past year!

    1. Thank you, Megan – very hard lessons! I hope we can take them forward & 2021 will be a little easier…eventually. Sue x

  13. Reading this brought me to tears. It is such a personal and thoughtfully written piece. Thank you. I have felt many of these same emotions but am beyond thank full to still have my spouse. I truly wish you did too. I don’t know what is next for us, we had sold everything for a full-time travel life, and it seems it may be over. We continue to wait. Hang in there and thanks for such an uplifting yet truthful post.

    1. Thank you, Laureen, for your lovely words & I’m really pleased to hear that I hit a nerve with you too. I wish you luck with what the future brings & I am in a similar position. A life full of travel, when we can’t is a hard pill to swallow. Hopefully, we will al get back on the road again soon, safely…somewhere. Sue x

  14. Great insights! It seems that I have been luckier than you and had some travels last year anyway. I agree with what you are saying that it is important to appreciate the moment & not assume that times will always be the same. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Anita, thank you for your comments & I am truly glad that you got to see more of the world…even if your plans were curtailed somewhat like mine. Fingers crossed we can rebook all those cancelled trips again soon. Sue x

  15. What a great article Sue. I really enjoyed it – the realness and honesty of it. It’s certainly been a year to encourage us to count our blessings.
    I too was afraid on my daily forest hike back in March/April, but learned to just give people space and relax a bit. It helped as we came to understand more about how the virus is spread.
    Don and I talk from time to time about the odds that he will go before me, being 8 years older. I always think that if that happens I’ll do what you did and go travelling. This post helped me understand a little what a huge adjustment going solo will be, and your enormous inner strength.

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely words, Alison. This was a very personal post & it’s always good to hear that others felt the same as me when navigating this new & very strange world we are now in. I very much hope you & Don have many happy years & miles to travel together yet. Stay safe when you do, Sue xx

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