Why self-isolation is different to my summer holidays

My friends tell me my life self-isolating to break the spread of Covid-19 is exactly the same as my summer holidays. Here’s why they’re so wrong.

On 26 March, the whole of New Zealand went into self-isolation at home. Well, everyone except those with important jobs required to keep us all alive, such as medical professionals, couriers, farmers, Covid-19 researchers, and supermarket checkout operators.

I am not an essential worker, though I have the uncertain delight of being able to work from home.

Delight because being able to earn income allows me to buy books, which makes me happy. Uncertain because having the Prime Minister to tell you not to go to work is the adult version of getting a note from your mum saying you’re excused from gym class. (Or PE, as we call it.)

But I have to go anyway.

In the days leading up to self-isolation, the standard questions and commiserations circulated.

“Are you going to be okay?”

“Did you find any toilet paper at the supermarket?”

“I’m sorry your tramp/wedding/overseas trip of a lifetime got cancelled.”

But most often I got a different one.

“I thought you’d be fine, because this is exactly what you do for your summer holidays.

First, I’m sure I will be fine. Unless I’m terribly unlucky and hubby catches coronavirus at the supermarket or petrol station, brings it home to me, and I happen to be in the 1% who die.

So, I’ll probably be fine.

Second, this is NOT what I do for my summer holidays. Allow me to explain.

Some superficial similarities between self-isolation and summer holidays

Most importantly, neither happens during summer

Self-isolation: It’s currently descending into autumn, so we’re going to be terribly unlucky if we’re in exactly the same situation come next summer.

Summer holidays: I take my summer holidays in the middle of winter. You might argue that means they’re not summer holidays. I disagree.

Both are spent primarily at home

Self-isolation: Our Prime Minister says stay home. I can and I want to win at self-isolation, so I am.

Summer holidays: It’s not that I don’t enjoy travelling or that I never travel. More that if most of my break from work is spent away from home, I need a break from holidays before I can go back to work.

Home is also more conducive to writing.

Both are spent primarily with hubby

Self-isolation: I am staying at home, and hubby lives at home. So we self-isolate in a shared bubble.

Colourful soap bubbles floating in the garden.
Hubby and I share a self-isolation bubble. It’s bigger than these bubbles, but has no more chocolate.

Summer holidays: The same, I suppose. But we wash our hands less.

These are the only similarities, I swear. In all other ways, self-isolation is completely different from my summer holidays.

Difference 1: Length

Summer holidays: My summer holidays are four weeks long, and then I have to go back to work.

Self-isolation: I know what you’re going to say — the government set self-isolation for four weeks as well.

BUT! We don’t know yet what happens at the end of that time.

Will life return to normal? No. Will we go back to work? Maybe. Will self-isolation be extended another four weeks? I wouldn’t rule it out.

Difference 2: Work

Summer holidays: I don’t have to work. Almost ever. Well, usually.

Definitely most of the time.

Self-isolation: Do I need to spell this out for you?

The social distancing is good, but if she falls off the rock emergency services will have to risk themselves to rescue her. The government said it. No tramping.

Difference 3: My interest in the rest of the world

Summer holidays: I try to remember to check my email every two days. If the world ends, someone will probably email me to let me know.

Do I care what politicians are saying? Less than I care about advances in rights for seven-legged spiders.

Do I read the news? Not once in four weeks.

Self-isolation: You should be asking if I do anything other than read the news.

My answer: Not every day.

Difference 4: My progress on my WIP

Summer holidays: This has always been my favourite and most productive time for writing. If I’m not drafting I’m plotting or revising, and I consume books on writing by the truck-load.

Self-isolation: I mean to write, honest, but I have to read the news first. And check Twitter just briefly.

Wait, now more news is out. What if something important happens and I miss it?

I need to check again.

Look, eighteen updates in the past five minutes. Let me take a quick look and then I’ll start writing…

What used to be cause for mild irritation now results in blind panic.

Difference 5: Trips out of the house

Summer holidays: Over the course of my normal summer holidays, I will take numerous trips out of the house. I’ll go to the supermarket at least once a week, and probably to the convenience store several times when we run out of chocolate.

I might even be adventurous and go somewhere that’s not the supermarket. Like the petrol station.

Self-isolation: We’re told not to go out except for essential trips or to exercise if we can’t do it at home.

I can exercise just fine at home, so that excuse is out.

It’s clear that supermarket trips for a load of groceries count as essential. Supermarket runs to pick up chocolate do not.

What’s more, only one person per household is supposed to go to the supermarket during the whole self-isolation period, and hubby is it.

Which leaves me here, alone. With no chocolate.

Difference 6: Dinner

Modern society has spawned many wonderful inventions that we now consider essential, such as cars, email, and delivery Indian food.

The problem during lock-down? Delivery services for cooked meals are not allowed to operate. Even the KFC drive-through is closed.


Summer holiday dinners: Pizza! Indian! Burgers!

Self-isolation dinners: Things we can cook.

We’re also going to be down to drinking wine, which you can still buy from the supermarket, as soon as our good spirits run out. Which will be very soon.

Oh, the hardship!

So you see, it might seem like I have plenty of practice at self-isolation. In fact, I’m as much a novice as anyone else.

How is your life in self-isolation the same as or different to your normal life?

If you need me, I’ll be here.

Stay safe.

Get more from me from the safety of your own home.

Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

14 thoughts on “Why self-isolation is different to my summer holidays”

  1. Self isolation, the sort that this pandemic requires is like absolutely NOTHING anyone has ever experienced … and gits (polite substitute for what I really want to call ’em) who think this is a holiday really, really need to look up from their self-absorption and take a good look at the rest of the world.

    1. I agree – it’s nothing like a holiday even for those who are fortunate enough to be doing exactly what they’d usually do during a holiday. No matter how cushy things are for me, I know terrible things are happening and so many people are suffering. And when we come out of self-isolation the world won’t be the same.

      But if some people can enjoy this like a holiday, I say that’s good for them as long as they stay home and don’t infect the rest of us.

  2. I feel for those with kids who are stuck at home, unable to go out to Zoos, parks, etc, like they’d normally do when the kids aren’t at school. Some of my friends are losing their marbles. Thankfully it’s just me, the cat, and my partner, although we’re in stricter isolation for two weeks now as he was sent home from work with a fever. We’re both tired and feverish, not really that sick, but as the government is only testing NHS workers we have to assume the worst and not leave the house at all!

    1. Yes, being stuck at home with kids has to add a whole new level to it. I really feel for parents right now.

      Sorry to hear you’re sick. I hope it stays mild and you feel like yourself again soon.

      And give your cat a pat from me!

  3. It’s the uncertainty that is the most different. I’ve never worried about toilet paper or whether there’s a job to go back to on a summer vacation.

    1. The uncertainty is certainly a big one. Our shop never ran out of toilet paper, but I worry about the parts of society we don’t usually think about. When you shut down almost an entire economy, what’s going to break without us noticing?

  4. Your “here” is gorgeous! I live in the middle of suburbia, so there’s that. And I have been working from home for 3 weeks. It’s awful. I feel like I am never “off the clock”. The kids are out of school. That’s hard, too.

    And, um, why would you need to go anywhere for holiday when you are exactly where I would want to go for holiday?!?

    Btw, where is all the toilet paper?!? Seriously, it’s been almost a month. Why do we STILL not have toilet paper on the shelves?

    One other thing to add is I think we are all a little contrarian. Tell me I can’t leave the house, and suddenly, that is exactly what I want to do. I don’t know why.

    Though, I can say, we are handling it pretty well. Okay, 3 members of my family are. The three introverts. My daughter who is an extrovert is suffering. She flopped on me last night and said, “You need company.”

    Um, yeah.

    1. I confess that’s not actually a picture of my house – hubby would kill me if I showed actual pictures from our life online – but the vibe is right. Peaceful, rural(ish), with trees and birdsong outside and even a stream.

      I don’t understand the toilet paper thing either. New Zealand didn’t seem quite as bad about it as the US, but we still had supermarkets gets down to a few packs of the expensive stuff. But why?!

      You hit the nail on the head with the point about being contrarian. Generally I don’t want to go out, I just want to

        be able

      to go out.

  5. Like you, I’m determined to win at self-isolation. And I feel twinges of guilt at how good I have it, essentially being paid to stay home with a husband who is also home and with whom I get along splendidly, a dog who thinks the new arrangement is a vast improvement, and lovely nearby walks I can take without exposing anyone to my personal biome or vice versa. But this is most definitely not a holiday, not in any season. Stay well, my friend.

    1. I’m glad to hear you have it good. When I start to feel guilty about hanging out at home with hubby and His Royal Fluffiness, I remember what our PM told the nation. “You have a job. Your job is to save lives.” We’re doing that.

  6. My life hasn’t changed much. I eat out a little less, I think, but I’m still at work and avoiding people as much as possible, per usual. I am, however, minus a computer at the moment, so all my files are homeless right now, which has been super fun. So I’m stressed and can’t get anything done. Plus, it’s not safe to use social media or talk to my mom unless I want to be more stressed. So things are definitely not a holiday right now, even for introverts.

    1. Ugh, that sounds awful. No computer and the whole world wants to talk about stressful stuff. I hope things get better for you (and everyone else) quickly.

  7. I’m a hermit, but this feels really different. I just can’t stop thinking about all the people who are suffering and stressed. There’s no way that things will go back to “normal.” We’re going to face a different world. Stay safe and be well.

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