For the last 13 days, I have been locked up alone in hotel quarantine in Sydney. Thankfully, I have been lucky to stay in a spacious room in the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel with a harbour view and lots of light.
Given I am working remotely full time and am pretty used to my own company in general, it’s been a generally positive experience. I’m quarantining on my own without kids or a partner, (which could be a blessing or a curse depending on one’s comfort with being alone!) But I have wonderful family and friends from around the world supporting me via care packages, calls, messages, and pep talks. The only downside is not being able to open a window for fresh air.
I already wrote this article about the planning and preparation it took to get to Australia from Europe. Now, with just 1 day to go, I wanted to share my top tips for surviving hotel quarantine. Broadly, my main advice is to keep busy and to fill your days with meaningful activities that are good for your mind, body and soul. If you have tips to share, add them to the comments!
1. Adopt a mindset that commits you to get through quarantine
Accept that you need to quarantine, commit to get through the 14 days, and set your mind and actions accordingly.
This doesn’t mean trying to stay positive all the time. It’s more about accepting that having to do quarantine is not something you can control or change, and instead recognising that there are steps you can take personally to manage it.
I recognise that for many this will be the toughest part of the experience and will require different actions for everyone, depending on your own circumstances. For me, it meant minimising news, prioritising exercise for my mind and body, and committing to daily tasks that connected me to friends and family outside.
2. Treat each day like any other
Think of each day as just another day. Wake up at your usual time, do your standard morning routine, and go about your day in a way that makes the most of your time — whether that be work, sleep, play, exercise, mindfulness, or catching up on reading or shows.
There are some added bonuses of quarantine for some as well:
- Precious time alone to rest, think, or create
- Useful time to get over jet lag
- An opportunity to kick-start an exercise regime
- Two weeks without drinking alcohol, smoking, or eating junk food (if you are so inclined!)
- No need to plan meals or cook for 14 days
- Breakfast in bed every day!
3. Prepare for no fresh air
The air in hotel rooms is dry and you may not have an open window or balcony, so be prepared for constant AC.
In the weeks leading up to travel, prepare for this by getting lots of sunshine and fresh air or, if this is not possible, taking vitamin D supplements. Also, pack lots of moisturising products for your skin and hair and essential oils for some natural aromatherapy.
When quarantining, make sure you drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Bottled water is provided by the hotel and tap water is drinkable, but you might want to consider ordering a few big bottles from the grocery store to keep you going. Consider asking a friend to drop off a plant, air purifier or a humidifier. If you have a big window, make time to sit with the sun on your face.
4. Check in on your mental health daily
The hotel has a team of nurses and doctors available and the opportunity to request to speak to a counsellor as well. You also get a daily call from the nurses to check in on your physical and mental health. The daily phone call is comforting and the team at the Marriott Hotel has been upbeat and caring so I have really appreciated this.
And, if you don’t already do it, meditate! I have a daily meditation practice anyway, which has really come into its own for the last two weeks. Given the lack of air, I have prioritised practices focused on the breath and longer sittings. There is a ton of meditation content online, but one I really recommend is the Fitmind app, which provides a simple yet profound set of meditations and guidance notes to help train your mind and learn more about the huge variety of practices available to us.
Finally, avoid consuming too much news, especially about covid. Instead, listen to podcasts or audiobooks or watch feel-good movies and TV shows. Believe me — this will really help your mental health!
5. Be a social butterfly
It goes without saying that your friends and family will be your main source of support during quarantine. Make time to speak with or message them daily as their words of encouragement will keep you going.
One thing I did — which is slightly out of character — was to share my experience in a daily vlog on Instagram. It blew me away that people took the time to watch and send lovely words of support and motivation every day. I chatted with people I haven’t seen in years — it was really a wonderful way to reconnect with old friends and colleagues.
A point of caution here as well — preserve your boundaries and time so you don’t get overwhelmed or exhausted. Switch off your devices and have some me-time each day — take advantage of this opportunity to rest and recover.
6. Think about your dietary requirements and plan accordingly
Before travelling, think about your own needs. Are there drinks and food you can’t live without?
The hotel will ask what your dietary requirements are on arrival — I indicated I am a pescatarian and I have mostly received vegetarian meals with a few lovely fish dishes sprinkled throughout. By and large, the food has been nutritious, filling, and varied, with a good mix of protein, vegetables, salad, fruit, dairy and carbs.
You get three meals per day provided but no snacks in between so either save some food from meals to nibble on through the day or organise for what you need to be delivered by a friend or via a grocery shop.
While I’ve had a great experience with the food provided by the hotel, there were a few things I am glad I brought along with me, the main thing being coffee! I packed an electric cooker, a mocha pot, and ground coffee so that I could have my usual few proper strong cups each day. My family delivered some milk and I purchased from Coles online extra fruit, vegetables and hummus to snack on in between meals.
7. Get your sweat on
It goes without saying that exercise is an absolute necessity and will be one of the best ways to stay sane in quarantine. Being in captivity for two weeks is actually a really good opportunity to kickstart a fitness regime.
And to make things easier, there is a growing cottage industry of fitness startups from whom you can rent a bike or treadmill, yoga mat, weights, etc. Definitely take advantage of this — my treadmill from Quarantine Fit Club has been a lifesaver. Also, take advantage of the wealth of HIIT, yoga or pilates videos online and you will leave quarantine feeling strong and ready to face the world.
8. Work is a great way to pass the time
As mentioned above, I have worked remotely full time during quarantine. Given Sydney is 7 hours ahead of Tallinn, I made sure to diarise my work hours and availability in my calendar prior to travelling. I shared this with my colleagues and have kept them updated in our Slack workspace on a daily basis when I’m logging in and out.
If you will also be working, make sure to plan and pack all the equipment you need, like charging cables, speakers, headphones, HDMI cables, keyboard, mouse, camera, lights, etc. Most quarantine hotels provide open wifi. If you need secure wifi, e.g. if you are remote working and your employer has a policy requiring it, then you will need to organise your own secure hotspot.
If you don’t plan to work, I highly recommend planning some personal projects, e.g. writing, creating, etc, to keep you busy each day. It will really help the time fly.
9. Balance work with play
Pack books or load them on your e-book device. Bring items to satisfy your love of arts and crafts, games, or puzzles. Bring an HDMI cable to connect your laptop to the TV. Remember the importance of good sound — bring a portable speaker and headphones (especially if you are quarantining with someone!)
Join quarantine Facebook groups like this one to get more quarantine tips and to enjoy the fruits of creativity of other quarantine inmates around Australia!
10. Essential items to pack for quarantine
Last but not least, don’t just pack for your stay in Australia… pack for quarantine.
I have already mentioned a lot of these things above, but to recap, here are some of the essential items I packed for quarantine (or organised to be delivered):
- An electric cooker, fry pan, cutlery, bowl, plate, sharp knife or swiss army knife, bottle opener, coffee pot
- Tea, coffee, drinks, snacks, condiments
- Electrical adaptors, power board or extension cable, HDMI cable, speaker, headphones, books or e-book, arts and crafts, games, puzzles
- Cleaning products for washing clothes, cleaning kitchen items, toilet
- Lots of moisturiser, face masks, face and body oils, hair care products
- Very loose, comfy, airy clothes for lounging and exercising
- Slippers or ugg boots