It’s been almost six weeks since our release from Perth’s hotel quarantine system. In that time, there have been lockdowns in Perth and Victoria, restrictions put in place temporarily in Sydney, and borders swinging open and shut like the door of some old-western saloon. We, however, are once again back in quarantine in our house in EG. It’s self-quarantine, five days with a negative test needed for release; the procedure that’s been put in place by the company we work for. We’re allowed to walk out onto our back deck (fresh air – yay!) we can cook for ourselves and we’re in a familiar environment. We’ve already been tested twice for COVID in the last week – once in Tewantin on the Sunshine Coast and once in a taxi at a drive-thru clinic in Dubai – and we’ll be tested again on Day 5 here. If our tests come back negative we’ll be cleared to return to the office where the now usual rules of mask-wearing and social distancing continue to apply.
Over the last month or so I’ve been reflecting on methods for helping one get through hotel quarantine. Now, with the benefit of a clear head, and finding myself yet again without anything pressing to occupy my day, I wanted to share some tips for those contemplating the dreaded 14 days’ confinement. Many of these won’t be new or even particularly ground-breaking but will perhaps echo the thoughts and experiences of those who have gone through (or are going through) a similar quarantine situation. So without further ado, here are my ten tips for surviving hotel quarantine:
1. Routine – set a routine and stick to it.
A common first piece of advice from those who have already gone through hotel quarantine. Simply put, you will find it far easier if your days have purpose and structure. Without, it is far too easy to find yourself slumping into moments of listlessness, boredom, depression or despair – wallowing in a drunken Netflix haze or tensing up in a whirlpool of social media angst. If you can find regular tasks to keep you busy at certain times of the day, time will pass much faster. Your days are punctuated by meal delivery anyway, so perhaps build your routine around these: morning (news, exercise, coffee?), post-lunch (project/work), late afternoon/early dinner (catch-up calls, happy hour), post dinner (movie time).
2. Project – Select a specific project or goal and work on it.
For fourteen days you have nothing but time at your disposal. My main project was my blog – I committed to write and posting an article for each day I was in quarantine – and did it, even when I couldn’t be bothered or didn’t have anything much to write about (not much happens in quarantine after all). A friend of mine created a video during her quarantine and posted it on YouTube. Some people are artists, some write music, or want to learn a language/new skill – whatever it is, find your thing and dedicate time to it. There may even be a surprising sense of achievement at the end – not only have you completed quarantine, but you’ve also created a masterpiece/bestseller.
3. Talk & Connect – Be social virtually.
With technology these days it’s easy to keep in touch with friends and family throughout the quarantine period. You’re not going anywhere so you’re pretty much available whenever (subject of course to your “strict” routine that you’ve put in place). Be wary of the usual social media rabbit holes, and stick to voice/video calls whether using Skype, WhatsApp, Messenger, Viber or even the good old-fashioned cell phone. Human contact kept me upbeat and also reminded me that life was continuing outside of our little box. It even gave me something new to talk about with hubby – while I was chatting away he’d recline on the bed with his headphones on so I could happily pass on the relevant news and gossip from calls with friends.
4. Resources – Lean on your friends.
I was fortunate to have friends that would call me randomly during the day even just to chat for a few minutes which is of course key to the “stay connected” principle. However, leaning on your friends goes further than that. Most hotels will allow delivery of care packages (within certain conditions) – so ask friends living in the vicinity of your quarantine city to drop off stuff that you might need/want or just to cheer you up. Unfortunately, we didn’t know anyone in Perth but I relied on my friends for remote support and asked them to take it in turns to set me a daily challenge to complete. The challenges were fun, silly and gave me another “project” to work on for the period – while also requiring me to stay connected to the group by providing progress updates throughout the day. Sure you can be creative yourself and set your own tasks, but why not get your mates involved to share the experience? It also helped to create a sense that I was not going through the whole thing alone (and I suppose being locked up with hubby 24-7 also helped with that too!)
5. Fitness – Include exercise in your routine.
I’m a big believer in the positive effects of exercise for mental health. While not physically healthy to remain sedentary in a windowless room for two weeks, it’s also clearly not good for one’s soul, mental health or overall attitude. During our quarantine we regularly witnessed inmates in the windows opposite jogging around their rooms in a circle not unlike the proverbial hamster on the wheel – however there are plenty of other exercises you can do in the room if you just do a quick Google. Yoga, body weight exercises (push-ups, planks, squats), aerobics OzStyle, my husband even packed a skipping rope to use. In some cities, gyms will even rent you an exercise bike or treadmill to use for the two weeks. Being in a box doesn’t mean you have to turn into a self-pitying blob. Nothing like a bit of sweat and muscle soreness to boost the endorphins.
6. Rules – agree a set of rules.
This can be particularly useful for those quarantining with someone else. Think about it, there’s two (or more) of you in a confined space. No matter how solid your relationship is you’re bound to get on each other’s nerves at some point during those two weeks. We’re all thinking humans with emotions after all. Writing down a set of rules even while it felt lame, drew our attention to the importance of harmony and tolerance in the quarantine environment and also raised awareness of potential conflicts so they could be avoided. Whatever it was, it helped, and I’m happy to report there were no major blow-ups between hubby and I for the entire 2 weeks (I can recall only one silly spat about lunch). Even if quarantining solo, a set of rules in the style of a “note to self,” “ten commandments” or “positive affirmation” may also be beneficial in keeping your attitude even and your outlook positive.
7. Prepare – Pack what you think you need.
Every hotel is different and has different standards and items they normally provide. Before quarantining, we saw recommendations online to bring things like crockery, cutlery, garbage bags, dishwashing detergent etc. Before we were re-routed to Perth, we had intended for family members to drop off those kinds of items to our hotel rather than packing it with us. Luckily, given the lack of proximate family/friends, our hotel did supply limited cutlery/crockery and a sponge/cloth for doing dishes. Make sure you think about what you need and might not be able to get easily via Woolies online or friends/family. Hubby and I for example packed a bottle of squishy hand soap (frequent handwashing is important people) and some smelly reeds to ward off the inevitable hotel room stank. I also packed a can of Lysol in order to clean the room down as soon as we arrived. Which brings me to the next tip:
8. Sanitize your environment – Clean the room when you arrive.
Unfortunately, it’s clear from the number of leaks that we can’t trust the cleanliness/disinfectant standards of the individual hotels managing quarantine. Of course there are other issues at play here largely to do with the ventilation, but we’re talking about minimizing risk. You don’t know if a COVID positive person was staying in your room prior to you or not (perhaps they contracted the virus while in quarantine and didn’t test positive until after release). Do you really think the hotels are wiping down all the handles on the desk drawers/cupboards thoroughly before they deem it ready for the next inmate? It might be overkill, but if it brings you a little extra comfort, why not just wipe it all done yourself. I would never have done such a thing pre-pandemic but I definitely did not want to get sick in quarantine and land myself another 14 days’ confinement.
9. Courtesy & kindness – Be nice to the staff.
Even when they are treating you like a complete leper, remember, it’s likely a reaction to the portrayal of the pandemic in the media and the government’s strict closure of borders to lock out the virus. They are also probably being yelled at or complained to regularly throughout the day by other disgruntled quarantine inmates. They don’t need you bitching and moaning at them too. Working in hospitality sucks on a normal day and the COVID factor is definitely not making hospo-life any shinier. If all else fails, remind yourself you are presently helpless and more or less dependent on these people for everything while the period of confinement lasts. You don’t really want them spitting in your lukewarm pasta now do you. Particularly if they happen to have licked the door of a fellow inmate who’s tested positive for COVID. I’ll admit, I am guilty of breaking this rule on at least two occasions: Day 0 (cut me some slack, we’d just arrived) and one day when I had to call down 3 separate times regarding our coffee order. I didn’t yell, but it was not my finest moments.
10. Perspective – This is not forever.
Remind yourself and remind yourself regularly. This period is just a blip in the overall legacy of your life. Time cannot be frozen (although it may feel like it sometimes). Take it day by day. The sun will rise and then it will set. You are resilient – if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be putting yourself through this in the first place. Thousands have done it before you. You will get through it too.
And that, my friends, is it. Ten not so new tips for those upcoming quarantiners among us or further insight for those lucky people who have so far never had to contemplate such temporary living arrangements. Here’s hoping an alternative solution will be established in the near future, but until then – what else can we do but make the best of it!