We’re into our second week of isolation in Northern Italy. Although we had itchy feet and couldn’t wait to embark on our travels, we’re sanguine about being stuck.
If you find yourself in the same situation, which I think, given time, most of Europe will, here are some ideas to make the most of some precious, if enforced, down time.
1. Help Someone Remotely
The sick, elderly and vulnerable are the most likely to become isolated during quarantine. Since visiting may put them at risk of infection, why not:
- Phone – Call an elderly relative regularly for a quick chat and to make sure that they are OK and have everything they need.
- Telephone Friendship – The Silver Line is a UK charity which offers a regular, weekly telephone call to over 55s. Why not volunteer to be a Silver Line Friend?
- Supplies – Drop some groceries on the doorstep or offer to do an online shop and have it delivered.
- Send a Postcard – sending a postcard is easy and cheap. For the recipient, it is nice to know that someone has thought of you and have something other than a bill land on your doormat!
- For less than the price of a cup of coffee, applications like Touchnote allow you to send postcards straight from your computer or phone without leaving the house. You can even use your own photographs.
- Postcards of Kindness is a UK Facebook Group which enables people to send postcards to Care Homes to cheer up residents. There are similar initiatives in other countries. If you don’t know what to write, the Files section has some ideas! Now, more than ever, your efforts will be appreciated.
Since apps like Skype and Facetime make communication easier than ever for those of us able to go online, there is no need for you to feel isolated.
I rather enjoyed the account of a chap isolated in Wuhan, China, who organised an online singing party to celebrate his birthday. The only limit is your own imagination!
2. Learn a New Skill With Online Training
With time on your hands, it is a perfect opportunity to learn something new, like a language for your next trip. There are many free or inexpensive training sites out there. Here are a few of my favourites. Other than Udemy, all of these offer FREE learning!
- Duolingo – learn languages, including Klingon (isn’t that just too tempting?!) FOR FREE! I LOVE Duolingo, it is like a computer game and you can commit to spend as little as 5 minutes a day on your training. C’mon. You can find 5 minutes, even when you’re not on lockdown! I learned German to a conversational standard from scratch and used Duolingo to tickle up my Italian. I am about to learn a whole new alphabet and start Russian. Wish me luck!
- Udemy – another of my favourites. Udemy is the world’s largest online teaching and learning marketplace with 150,000 courses available on demand. Although there is a cost, most can be purchased for around £9.99 during regular sales. Mark bought a course on how to use his Garmin Satnav; I have a course for Social Media Marketing and how to improve my WordPress blog website (watch this space!) but there are courses on everying from photography to pet care. Every course comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, so if you try it and don’t like it, you can cancel, no questions asked. (I can vouch for this because I bought a course on how to install the Divi theme on to my blog, which is not compatible with Divi!)
- Coursera – generally, the courses are free, although payment may be required for a certificate or graded assignment. Around 1400 of Coursera’s courses are completely free.
- The Open University Open Learn – offers 1000 free courses to boost confidence or give access to higher education.
3. Have a Clear Out & Declutter
C’mon this is the perfect time! We had no choice but to downsize radically for our travelling lifestyle, although I can report that an unexpected up side to this is that we feel much lighter and happier for having fewer possessions and a life free of junk. You might need to wait until isolation ends to get items physically out of the house to charity shops etc, but you can use this time to prepare for that day. For inspiration, check out these blogs and ideas;
- Getting Rid of STUFF! – ‘pieces of string too short for further use’ – if this is you, help is here to make getting rid of STUFF manageable & environmentally friendly.
- My Tips on eBay Selling – make cash from your trash!
- How to Cram Your Life into a Box on Wheels! – “If you possess something but you can’t give it away, then you don’t possess it. It possesses you.”
- Scan all your photos and documents
4. Do Some Planning
Most people don’t spend even half as much time planning their personal lives as they do planning their work lives. This is usully because work takes up so much time and energy. Now is an ideal opportunity to have a think about what you really want out of life and how you might achieve it. It was doing exactly this that enabled us to achieve FIRE – Financial Independence Retire Early. Full details are in the How We Did It section of my blog.
Even if you’re not ready to step off the work treadmill yet, if you have had a holiday cancelled due to Covid-19, why not plan something doubly exciting for next year with the money that you have saved on this year’s trip?
- Do a budget and see how much money you could save
- Plan your dream trip using the savings you will make
- For some ideas and inspiration, see 10 Tips for Planning The Perfect Trip
5. Write A Book
They say everyone has a book in them. Did you know that you can self-publish a book on Amazon for… £0.00 and have it printed for a couple of pounds?
Most people never get started. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) was set up for this reason. You can sign up anytime to benefit from resources, but every November, the challenge is to write a novel in a month. The quality is less important than simply starting – and getting it done. Quality issues can be always be addressed once it’s written!
You don’t have to aspire to be the next William Shakespeare, but getting something into print is great fun and it could make a lovely, unique present, even if it is just a little memoir for the kids. Check out my blog A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing a Book & Selling it on Amazon to get started.
If that is too much, how about creating a photo book with someone like Colourland?
6. Read an eBook
Obviously, I have a couple of my own to recommend; described as ‘Armchair Travel Delight’, they are perhaps eminently suitable to sate your travel cravings while in lockdown. Click here for a universal link to my author page and links to my books.
However, as a doggie travel blog, I am going to make recommendations from what has been hot on my Kindle over the last couple of weeks. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can still read ebooks on your computer by downloading the Kindle app from Amazon, so there is no need to go out to the bookshop. As a Kindle owner, you get to ‘borrow’ one book per month free from the Kindle lending library, with no due dates.
Also, for elderly relatives who are housebound; we bought Mark’s 96-year-old mother a Kindle on the basis that she could enlarge the text to make it easy to read. It was a risk that we took on the basis that, if she didn’t get on with it, we could use the Kindle. Remarkably, it went down a storm!
Here are my latest recommendations. What have you been reading? Tell me in the Comments! I am always up for recommendations. (And if you have been reading my books, I will LOVE YOU FOREVER!)
- My Life as a Dog by LA Davenport – a wonderful, warm and revealing exploraton of one man’s relationship with his dachschund. It is a very gentle tale, but beautifully written and utterly compelling.
- TENTS, TRAILERS, PEGS AND PLONKERS by Gregory Guy-Rope – a spectacularly acerbic look at campers and ‘The Friendly Club’ from the point of view of a beleagured Campsite Warden. If you have ever thought of becoming a warden, it is a must read. And as a camper, I agree. We should probably all behave a little better…
- The Sunny Side of the Alps: From Scotland to Slovenia on a Shoestring by Roy Clarke – another couple who followed their dreams; with their collie, Bryn, in tow. I loved that what scared them most was not moving to a strange country, but the thought of being stuck for the next 20 years doing something that they didn’t enjoy.
- Fat Dogs and French Estates by Beth Haslam. I have just started this and have found it difficult to put down. It combines everything I love; beautiful, descriptive writing, humour, starting a new life and dogs.
7. Pamper Yourself
Take advantage of having some ‘me’ time. Have a lovely, relaxing bath. I wish I could… (Caravans and ski apartments do not afford me that luxury, although I did spot one of these on Amazon…!)
8. Make Something or Cook A New Recipe
Why not re-purpose some old items – like making plastic-free, re-usable veggie bags out of old T Shirts? Some of them are bizarre, but what can you come up with using your imagination?!
There is no doubt that good nutrition will give your immune system a boost, so why not try cooking something delicious and healthy from scratch? If you have never tried cooking vegetarian or vegan food, you could experiment with that. I love my food and even when I was working full time, I had a repertoire of fast and fabulous meals which I could have on the table in less than half an hour. Here are a couple of my favourites for you to try – no offence intended if you are vegetarian or vegan, I am an omnivore. Also, the recipes contain cheese and other allergens, so make sure that they are suitable if you have special dietry requirement. All these recepies work well in a caravan!
- Spaghetti with Prawns and Rocket by Jamie Oliver. The sauce takes less time than the spaghetti to cook! This dish has a lovely, summery flavour, due to the addition of lemon. It is almost a cupboard meal if you have frozen prawns – king prawns work best. I sometimes omit the wine and use ordinary tomato purée if I don’t have sun dried.
- Pasta Risotto with Peas and Pancetta by Nigella Lawson. HUGELY less fiddly than a rice risotto – you don’t need to stand over it and stir for hours on end. If you don’t have garlic oil, just put some garlic in with the oil in the pan. This is not low fat, but it is delicious!
- Tagliatelle with Pumkin – I usually make this with butternut squash, and use pancetta if I don’t have Parma ham. If you’re entertaining, you can cook the sauce up until the point that you add the cream, then reheat it. I have even eaten this without adding the cream and it is still tasty. And think of all that vitamin A!
- Beef in Beer by Delia Smith. I don’t usually bother with the croutons, but that is a good way of using up stale bread. This is a shove-it-in-and-leave dish that cooks itself once you have prepared the ingredients. I serve it with creamy, mashed potatoes and fresh steamed veggies.
- Roast Chicken Vermentino – from the River Café Easy Italian. Another shove-it-in-and-leave dish which is utterly delicious. If you can’t get Vermentino, any dry, citrussy wine works. Serve with fresh, steamed veggies.
- Valdostan Cabbage Soup by Antonio Carluccio – my new favourite dish, local to where we are quarantined in the Aosta Valley. If you can’t get Fontina cheese, Gouda, mild Provolone or Gruyère would work. You need a fork to eat this soup!
Or make a cake? Who doesn’t feel better after cake?!
9. Take An Online Exercise Class
Keeping fit will help to boost your immune system and releases endorphins, the body’s natural ‘feel good’ chemicals, so it is also good for your mental wellbeing. If you can’t maintain social distancing outdoors, why not try an online class in the comfort of your own home?
- Fitness Studio Exercises from the NHS – Free aerobics, strength and resistance, pilates and yoga videos and more.
- The 50 Best Free Online Workout Resources – Free training resources.
- 13 Best Fitness Apps & Online Training Programmes – from the Independent, UK.
- 10 Best Onlline Exercise Classes That Will Save You Money – from Cosmopolitan.com
Please be sensible and do take medical advice before starting a new fitness regime.
10. Do Nothing!
Life in the west has become all about ‘doing’ every minute of the day, rather than just simply ‘being’. ‘Being’ is the principle behind mindfulness, the practice of living in the moment, rather than worrying about what happened in the past or what might come to pass in the future.
I found mindfulness a very helpful tool in coping with depression, a condition from which Mark and I suffered when we were both made redundant at the same time. It is a practice that I have carried on that helps me stay calm and focussed in my sports and in my daily life. Try mindfulness for free with Headspace, which is the site that was recommended by my doctor.
However, you don’t necessarily need to practice mindfulness – that becomes ‘doing’ again! Why not just sit and admire the view, or a sunset, stroke a puppy, have a lie down… or any other restful activity that takes your fancy.
My Own To Do List
It’s tough being retired and isolated – I certainly won’t be bored! Although I am deprived of skiing, along with my daily tasks of doggie walking, general love and cuddles, here are some of the things that I intend to do;
- Prepare for my LGV (Long Goods Vehcile) training and theory test
- Write blogs! I have my own blog to keep going and have been commissioned to write a number of guest posts
- Learn Russian
- Learn how to use various pieces of software that I have downloaded
- Complete my pending UDEMY courses on; Social Media Marketing/Wordpress/Amazon Ads/Proofreading and Editing/Creative Writing
- Transcribe my old travel journals into Word. This is the last project of our downsize; all our photos are scanned and held electronically.
- Start writing my next book & get to grips with various other writing projects that I have in mind
- Address my Kindle TBR (To Be Read) list
- Plan travel itineraries
- Have a bit of a chill!