Here YA contributor Neha Paranjape, a kiwi who was born in India but is now currently living (re: stuck) in London as an expat, dives into what 101 days of lockdown in one of the world’s most glorified cities actually looks like.
How is it already July? We’ve just arrived in the second half of the year. Day 101 of being in lockdown in London has quietly slipped by. Where has the time gone this year?
On the one hand, I feel like I’ve been completely unproductive over the last 101 days. I work in travel, so COVID-19 has completely decimated my work. I haven’t actually worked for about 90 of those 101 days! But on the other hand, when I look back on the last three and a half months, I realize what a crazy ride it’s been!
From holiday cocktails to hoarding toilet paper
The month of March was a lifetime ago. It seems like such a distant memory right now. I’m sure a lot of you guys can relate to this.
My boyfriend and I had just come back to London from a wonderful holiday in Malta. It was a place that wasn’t even on my bucket list. We ended up in Malta because my boyfriend visited once when he was only two while on a cruise ship from Libya (whaaaaaat…!) and he wanted to go back. Plus we desperately needed some sunshine after a long winter in the UK.
Remember those days of holidays in the sun? Last-minute getaways? Yeah, me neither.
Malta delivered the goods, it gave us everything we had hoped for – sunshine, good food, a bit of relaxation and a lot of adventure!
Little did we know that it would be our last holiday for a while. Where was your last holiday?
Seemingly overnight we went from soaking in the old world charm of Valetta to running around all the supermarkets in London trying to find pasta and rice! We went from lazily people watching with a drink in hand in Malta to watching people losing their shit over toilet paper.
Honestly, what the fuck was that phase when supermarkets were stripped bare of staples? Remember?
No toilet paper, no pasta, no rice, no flour, no hand sanitizer. Just empty supermarket shelves and a whole lot of disappointment. How come everyone who never ate pasta and rice because they were too carb-heavy was suddenly stockpiling that stuff? Beats me!
Can I go back to the beach now?
It’s never been a better time to move in together, right? Right?!!
With the announcement of the imminent lockdown, my boyfriend and I faced a tough dilemma. Would we ride this wave together in one household or stay put in our respective homes?
We’ve been together for two years but have never lived together. Not sure if moving in because of COVID was brave or stupid. But we decided to give it a go at my place.
101 days in, and we’re both still alive, phew!
The lockdown in London was a blessing in disguise because it gave us an opportunity to trial living together. It helped us realize that, in fact, we really enjoy sharing a home. We’ve even taken time out to organize date nights Often we surprise each other with cute notes and flowers (eye roll, I know), and even crack into a nice bottle of wine every now and then.
Has it been smooth sailing? Hell no…!
We’ve argued about whose turn it is to do dishes (seems to me that I always get stuck with a big pile!). We’ve argued about what to cook for dinner, about whether to go for a walk or watch a movie instead. Have I had a breakdown every month and blamed it on PMS? Yes! But, we’ve got through all of that.
We’ve come out the other end, stronger, more in love, and ready to take on the next challenge! If you can survive lockdown in love, you can do anything.
Surround yourself with amazing people who uplift you
I am very lucky in that, I not only have a supportive boyfriend but also a great group of friends. This group of friends (you guys know who you are) – you’ve saved me in this lockdown without even realizing it.
The saying ‘your vibe attracts your tribe’ is so true.
I am lucky to be surrounded by friends who are positive, who seek to be the best, who question my set ways. This group of friends has made sure I read more – and thanks to them I’ve read more books in the last three months than I did in all of 2019!
For the first two months of lockdown in London, we’d hop on a Zoom call every Friday night and pick a cuisine that we would cook for the evening.
This allowed me to explore different cuisines (Baklava anyone?) as well as learn a little bit about the ingredients that are important in those cuisines and test my culinary skills.
The Friday night calls gave us all something to look forward to and were a great way to wrap up the week. We’ve had many a discussion over these calls – while COVID dominated the talk, we also talked about racism, different cultures, the stock exchange, books, mental health, politics. Everything!
It’s such a great feeling knowing there is a safe space where we can discuss our thoughts without fear of judgment. They’ve been the support that’s been so necessary to keep sane during this trying time for all of us.
Now’s the time to upskill and pivot
Speaking of support, keeping sane, and challenging yourself – I decided to enroll in Digital Basecamp – The Travel Bootcamp’s first-ever virtual event for social media and travel lovers.
Travel has been a part of my life ever since I was a little kid. Nowadays social media is taking over our lives. It made sense that I use my free time in lockdown to be a part of this.
It was time and money well spent. Although it was a very early start being in London, it was such an inspirational morning.
Listening to Georgia talk about brand and content, Liz’s pearls of wisdom about blogging and travel writing, Lauren with her insightful knowledge of Instagram and photography and Kait about how to make your life richer was epic.
This one event pushed me to finally start writing which led to Liz featuring me on her blog!! What a feeling that was to see my words published! Liz has been so encouraging of my writing that it makes me want to do it more often. It has allowed me to pen down my thoughts about things that are important to me, it’s helping me deal with being in lockdown! Thanks Liz!
London in the sun and without the crowds
I’ve had more picnics in the last three months than I have in the last two years!
London has some amazing parks. The perk of living in Central London is that I have about five beautiful parks all within a 30-minute bike ride from my home. It has been so great being able to hop on a bike and head to Hyde Park to soak up the sun.
We’ve been to the same park so many times that we even have our very own sycamore tree that we always sit under and watch the leaves dance in the wind. In many ways, time for us has slowed down.
Sunsets at Primrose Hill, lunches at Regent’s Park or Hyde Park, and now a picnic with my friends at St James Park are a weekly occurrence. These picnics are something I hope to continue doing even as the lockdowns begin to lift.
Writing this has got me thinking about what I’ve missed and not missed during the lockdown in London. I’ve realized that I really haven’t missed the crazy crowds at all.
It’s so surreal to see one of the most popular cities in the world without all the people.
Whether it’s the crowds of people shopping on Oxford St, or trying to navigate my way through the crowds at Piccadilly Circus or on the tube on a Friday night. In fact, seeing Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus completely empty on a Saturday morning bike ride was rather unusual but quite nice!
I’ve also not missed wearing makeup and dragging on proper work clothes! Now it seems crazy that I used to spend a good half an hour every morning straightening my hair, putting on makeup and getting dressed for work. While I’ve tried very hard to keep a routine going while in lockdown in London, I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to spend my days in bum pants and t-shirts with my hair in a bun and a fresh face.
And that feeling of not having to wear a bra…well, enough said!
Travel, I miss you. Wait for me.
The one thing I have missed more than anything is traveling.
The whole reason behind my moving to London two years ago was to be able to travel around Europe. Being based in London, you have so many places at your fingertips. I had eight mini holidays booked between March and June of this year, and all eight of them were canceled.
They were holidays to places that were high on my bucket list, like Spain, Switzerland, Slovenia, Athens, Paris. These were all places that I had worked hard to save up for visiting. It’s so devastating when something you dream about gets canceled, no matter the circumstances.
It’s a time of nostalgia and kind optimism
The other thing I’ve missed a lot is being able to have a pint at the local pub; sticky glasses overflowing with beer, sticky floors, the excitement with trying out a new ale, the charm of each pub, friendly faces – they’ve all been sorely missed.
Simple pleasures that we all took for granted are perhaps what I miss the most.
I look forward to the day when I can walk down to my local and have a pint of my favorite ale again.
Surprisingly, I have also missed going to work – the whole process of it. The slight rush every morning trying to leave on time even though you set your alarm for two hours before you needed to leave! The 45-minute train ride that gave me my me-time with a book or music. The cafe near work where the friendly staff knew my exact coffee order, the 10min walk from the café to my office that allowed me to enjoy the delicious coffee which kept me warm on cold winter mornings.
My colleagues and all the laughs we shared and beers we drank. I miss the vibe of being in an office environment catching up on everyone’s evenings, working together towards goals, and celebrating when we smashed them!
The past three months of lockdown in London have been a steep learning curve for me and for the world. I’ve learned to be more open. Now I don’t take life for granted. To go with the flow a little bit more is new to me. I’ve learned that a ten-minute walk in fresh air is so much more valuable than I used to give it credit for.
I’ve gained a new perspective of what really matters. Yes, COVID canceled all eight of my dream holidays. But I know so many people who lost their jobs, and hundreds of thousands of people are dying.
Most importantly of all, I’ve learned to be more grateful. I’m so grateful for being in this warm, comfortable home, grateful for my amazing family, a very supportive (and patient) boyfriend, a great group of friends, a wonderful group of colleagues and grateful for the little things in life. It really is the simple things in life that matter!
Are you enduring lockdown in London or a similar city? How has lockdown been for you where you are? What have you missed doing during this locked? Spill!