Fresh-faced and optimistic for 2020, many of us were busying ourselves in the annual festivities of losing weight, giving up alcohol, learning new skills and making those all important travel plans for a whole new decade.
So what happened? Where did it all go wrong?
Enter COVID-19, or Coronavirus, a dead cert for Merriam-Webster's word of the year, and quite literally a global fly in the ointment and spanner in the works for pretty much all of your best-laid plans for the coming year.
Dominating the news cycle in a way previously reserved for Donald Trump's twitter account, the Coronavirus pandemic has half of the world practicing self-isolation as governments step up their plans to contain its spread and flatten the curve of transmission.
And as for self-isolation, who hasn't dreamt of giving up the 9-to-5 and scooting off to a retreat in Bali for some much needed rest and relaxation?
Well, they say be careful what you wish for as you just might get it.
Unfortunately for most people self-isolating this spring, international travel is now very much off the table with trips cut short, flights canceled and governments closing borders at short notice.
Stay. At. Home. Those three words that no self-respecting Worldpacker wants to hear.
Many governments are now forcing the closure of museums, art galleries, bars, restaurants, tourist sites, parks, cafés, pubs, bars and nightclubs. So that's pretty much anything and everything fun that involves stepping outside of your house then.
Thankfully, not all is lost.
Despite the doom and gloom in the news, enforced self-isolation could actually be a fantastic time to follow up on those New Year's resolutions of losing weight, giving up the booze and generally becoming a smarter, sexier and better person.
Are you stuck for inspiration in isolation?
Here are 13 things to do during quarantine to lift spirits and keep you busy until the world gets right on back to normal.
13 things to do during self-quarantine
Learn a new language
Improve your mental health
Give something back
Reconnect with family
Read more books
Learn how to cook
Get on your bike
Take a hike
Unleash your inner artist
Get really, really organized
1. Get healthy
Getting healthy and losing weight is the most common New Year's resolution there is, yet so many of us find it difficult to make progress as good intentions fall victim to the allure of office treats followed by after work drinks and bar snacks.
So why not think of self-isolation as the perfect reset to your healthy eating regime?
With many social gatherings now canceled and workplaces going remote, there has never been a better time to drop a few kilos and get into shape.
Set the right intentions by swearing off the snacks and stockpiling healthy fruits, vegetables and whole foods at home. Working from home gives you total control when calorie counting making it an ideal environment for following up on your health goals this year.
Exercise is also important so don't forget that even if your local gym is closed you can still work out in the great outdoors while practicing social distancing. Running, cycling and circuit training are great places to start or alternatively replace your usual commute with pilates or yoga.
2. Learn a new language
Trying to learn a new foreign language can be daunting.
Whether you want to brush up on your high school Spanish, explore Korean or take a crash course in Chinese to burnish your CV, self-isolation is the time to challenge yourself to learn a new language.
The Washington Post estimates that over half of the world now speaks a second language and many studies suggest that speaking two or more languages offers considerable benefits when it comes to careers, creativity and even our neurological health.
Interactive apps such as Duolingo and Babbel are a great place to start, offering a fun and affordable alternative to classroom based teaching. You can even swap languages or get paid for teaching english using websites such as Cambly.
And the best part? You study to your heart's content with nothing more than an internet connection — ideal in the times of Corona!
3. Improve your mental health
Mental health charities have warned that a toxic combination of negative news, businesses going under and social isolation could cause depression, anxiety and other concerns so there has never been a better time to check in with your mental health and self-care.
Rather than focusing solely on the negatives, self-isolation is also a one in a lifetime chance to take a respite from the daily grind.
It's the perfect setting to become conscious of how attitudes, behaviors, habits and values contribute or detract from your happiness.
Take a step to improving your mental health by practicing meditation, taking a digital detox or using interactive apps like Calm to promote better sleep, lower stress, and less anxiety. You can also take the chance to return home and catch up with your parents if you prefer to self-isolate away from the big cities.
Taking time to invest in your mental health is always a good idea so take the opportunity of self-isolation to practice better habits now and benefit from an objective improvement in your overall well being as things return to normal.
4. Give something back
As Coronavirus spreads, borders close and more governments implement lockdown measures to contain its spread, it's natural to focus on yourself and your loved ones first.
That said, the ongoing pandemic also presents a great opportunity to strengthen community ties and give something back to those most in need either through volunteering your time or simply spreading a little joy to ease the burdens of those around you.
Giving back locally is also a great way to get to know your own community and its citizens — this might be particularly enjoyable if you have had to put travel plans on hold or perhaps you already spend a lot of time outside of your country for work or leisure.
Why not create a local support group on Whatsapp or offer to pick-up groceries for elderly neighbors?
Counterintuitively perhaps, it's often times of crisis that bring out the best in people and remind us what is truly important in life.
5. Reconnect with family
Wherever you travel in the world, the importance of family bonds are obvious.
For those used to living away from home for work, travel or study, the experience of self-isolation creates an opportunity to reconnect with distant family members and strengthen family ties.
Whether you want to deepen your existing relationships with immediate family or reach out to contact long lost relatives, Coronavirus provides the perfect excuse to build bridges and strengthen familiar bonds.
A family is important because our mental growth, well-being, and stability all depend on them. Strong relationships teach us how to build trust in others as family members share both good and bad times together.
You can start small. Make a commitment to call elderly relatives or take a renewed interest in family photographs and videos to bond with those closest to you.
Alternatively, if your relationship with a family member isn't good, you can use this moment as a chance to bury the hatchet and reset the relationship — helping you to overcome past difficulties and look towards a better future.
6. Read more books
When was the last time you had time to read?
Supposedly the average person reads just four books per year and, while many of us strive to read more, it can be difficult to fit a good book into our hectic urban lifestyles. As bookstores know, quite often people will only read a new book on holiday.
This is a shame as reading creates cognitive engagement that improves lots of things, including vocabulary, thinking skills, and concentration. It also can affect empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence. So basically, it's a pretty good habit to read.
But just like a two-week vacation, going into self-isolation creates the time, space and tranquil mindset that makes reading truly enjoyable.
So whether you prefer to fuel your wanderlust with travel tales, catch up on the classics, pour over psychology or settle down with the latest science bestseller, you can use the time in self-isolating to burnish your bookworm credentials or explore something entirely different.
The first step in crafting the life you want is to get rid of everything you don't.
Cheerfully combining the art of mindfulness and minimalism, Japanese tidying up guru Marie Kondo became a household name last year inspiring millions to declutter both physical and mental space with her own idiosyncratic system.
So if you find yourself cooped up at home in 2020 and unable to travel internationally, why not consider doing your very own decluttering exercise to harmonize your living space.
Free from the distractions of travel, entertainment and events, self-isolation gives you plenty of time and space to sort through bric-a-brac, hoarded possessions, old papers and clothes that don't fit anymore.
Even if you don't think of yourself as particularly messy, we all have a tendency to keep hold of things we don't really need. It's human nature. But who has the time to stay on top of the house while a thousand other things need doing?
Self-isolation creates that window of opportunity, so why not declutter during your downtime?
8. Learn how to cook
"No-one is born a great cook. One learns by doing."
So says Julia Child, the archetypal celebrity chef, who is credited with switching on the American population to the joy and pleasure of cooking.
For many Worldpackers, one of the essential pleasures of travel is the experience of immersing yourself in the great food cultures of the world whether that be learning to make pasta in Italy, sampling Indian spices or experiencing the fire and heat of Mexican cuisine.
Of course, while Coronavirus persists, traveling for the love of food is strictly off the table. But self-isolating doesn't mean you have to exist on a diet of instant noodles, snacks and essentials. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to cook from scratch.
As long as you have an internet connection, Youtube tutorials are a great way to learn how to cook your favorite global recipes from scratch, and even if you don't live in a big city it's now easy to find good quality ingredients from around the world by shopping online.
So instead of simply telling people about all the great Vietnamese food you ate in Hanoi or the scent of fresh croissants in Paris, you can actually bring home your travel experiences and physically share them with your lesser-traveled friends.
Who knows, you might even encourage them to join you on your next foodie pilgrimage when the borders reopen and everything gets back to normal.
9. Get on your bike
"Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike." — John F. Kennedy
It is often said that life is like riding a bicycle as it never gets easier but it does get faster.
Coronavirus sure has thrown a spoke into the wheels of the world economy this year but as a physical activity that combines a sense of freedom, a boost to the immune system and an inexpensive way to explore the great outdoors, cycling is very much in vogue.
Unless you are already a weekend warrior or an urban commuter cyclist, the chances are that your beloved bike has been gathering dust in the garage, so why not use the opportunity of self-isolation to polish things up, calibrate those gears and get peddling?
To respond to the ongoing climate crisis, many countries have recently built dedicated cycle networks and this fact combined with traffic free streets means that there has never been a better time to enjoy life on two wheels.
Cycling is known to boost cardiovascular health, decrease stress, improve posture and provide many other benefits, making it a superb choice for those seeking to exercise during their self-isolation.
It's also pretty darn difficult to catch a virus when you are traveling at speeds of 10mph or more. Just be sure to disinfect your handlebars first!
If cycling isn't your thing why not take up hiking this spring?
The beauty about hiking is that it's truly an activity for everyone. Whether you're young or old, an expert or an amateur, there's a trail out there that will be perfect for you and the experience of walking alone in the great outdoors is tailor made for self-isolation.
Hiking clears the mind and helps the body in many different ways. As a cardio exercise, it has the potential to lower your risk of heart disease, improve your blood pressure and your blood sugar levels.
It also helps to break up the routine of homebound isolation, reminding us that there is more to life than canceled festivals, closed shops, empty bars and abandoned town centers.
Despite Covid-19, the wonders of nature are as irrepressible and beautiful as ever.
And when it comes to scenery? You don't need to travel to Norway or New Zealand to connect with nature or experience the thrill of scaling a mountain or getting lost in the wilderness. Often you can find these treasures much closer to home than the tour guides suggest.
Checkout the Alltrails App to access over 100,000 detailed, hand-curated trail maps at the tap of a button. Even if you have never explored the great outdoors before, hiking will teach you that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
"If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." — Toni Morrison, RIP 2019
If you have ever felt the need to write, self-isolation is the perfect time to achieve your goals.
Nothing fuels the creative impulse better than true isolation. In fact, it is said that the famous author Victor Hugo would lock himself into a room naked with nothing but his typewriter in order to create literature free from distraction.
While your housemates or family members might prefer you keep your clothes on, there is nothing to stop you from harnessing the routine of self-isolation for your own creative process this year.
Perhaps you always planned to write a travel blog or maybe you always wanted to work on a stand-up comedy routine? The possibilities for budding writers are truly endless.
What's more, in the digital age of ebooks, blogs and self-publishing, there has never been a better time to put your ideas on paper and present your creativity to the world.
All you need is the time and space to write.
So why not give writing a go this year? Who knows, you could even turn it into a profitable side hustle when things get back to normal.
12. Unleash your inner artist
Are you getting bored of being alone and cooped up at home? Good.
In fact, researchers have found that boredom felt during passive activities heightens the "daydreaming effect" which spurs creativity.
In fact, many of the world's best artists spend hours each day doing so little each day, a data-entry job is exciting by comparison. Just ask Picasso, who was admitted into a leading art school in Spain at 13 but dropped out soon after citing boredom.
The Covid-19 pandemic is no art school, but it remains to be seen whether the collective boredom of millions of people will spur a new golden age of art as millions of budding Picassos come to terms with the temporary restrictions of self-isolation.
Who knows where your inner artist will take you.
13. Get really, really organized
It is said that for every minute spent organizing, a whole hour is earned.
That sure is an uplifting thought for anyone considering self-isolation. After all, who wouldn't like to return to normality with extra hours on the clock?
It's a rare person among us who doesn't feel the need to get more organized. From a tidy desk to efficient daily planning, a methodical approach to life helps clear your mind to focus, recognize important tasks and prioritize them with a smooth and slick efficiency.
However, if you are similar to 99% of the population, it's pretty darn difficult to actually get organized. That's because there are usually just so many things piling up in life's inbox to actually set time aside to work through it.
All of which makes self-isolation a golden opportunity to get really, really organized.
From taking total control of your sleep, work and social life to planning out your next travels in excruciating detail — there is no such thing as being too organized in life.
Take your first step today by setting aside a full day dedicated to mapping out your most important priorities in life. With so much time and space to think in isolation, Coronavirus could be your perfect excuse to become more organized in 2020!
If you have any suggestions for things to do during quarantine, please share your ideas with your fellow Worldpackers in the comments below!
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