Journey Quarantines: Enduring the Mundane, One Day at a Time

May Samali knew she had reached her limit when she saw a tentacle emerge from her hotel dinner in Sydney, Australia.

“I called downstairs and said, ‘I’m vegan now, thanks!'” She said. “It was just so much fish. I got to the point where I thought about myself gagging. “

Ms. Samali swore off the seemingly unlimited seafood while she was in the middle of a required quarantine at the Sofitel Hotel in Sydney this December and early January. She returned to Australia as an executive coach after her US work visa expired. In addition to having an excess of fish, Ms. Samali was locked in her room all day and was not allowed to go outside for two weeks.

Air travelers around the world are in similar situations and suffer mandatory state quarantines in hotels when traveling to countries where coronavirus containment is very serious.

Your quarantine is not the convenient experience of short-term quarantines or “resort bubbles” found in some destinations such as Kauai and the British Virgin Islands, where you can move relatively freely around a sprawling resort area while you are on a negative coronavirus. Test wait.

This is the more extreme, yet typical, experience of quarantine life. These mandatory quarantines include being restricted to your room 24 hours a day for up to two weeks (assuming you test negative, ie). And with a few exceptions, you pay the bill – quarantine in New South Wales, Australia, for example, costs around $ 2,300 or A $ 3,000 for a two-week quarantine for an adult and up to A $ 5,000 for a family of four for two weeks in quarantine (in January the UK announced mandatory 10-day quarantine from risk areas with similar costs of around $ 2,500 for an adult).

Travelers now traveling to countries with mandatory hotel quarantines, which include New Zealand, mainland China and Tunisia, must generally have compelling reasons – to visit sick family members, take “essential” business trips, or move permanently.

Most accept the inconvenience and inevitable claustrophobia of quarantine as the price of travel. But while establishing a routine similar to normal life can be comforting, travelers crave human connection, fresh air, and other food (the staff at Sofitel was happy to take Ms. Samali’s request; she still has no fish).

The travel quarantine seems manageable or even familiar to those who have lived in local sheltered locations and work from home. Pete Lee, a San Francisco-based filmmaker, wasn’t worried about the quarantine when he flew to Taiwan to work and visited family.

“I was a little cocky when I first heard of the request,” said Mr. Lee on his eighth day at the Roaders Hotel in Taipei, Taiwan. “I was in my apartment in San Francisco 22 hours out of the 24! But it’s a surprisingly intense experience. Those two hours make a huge difference. “

Much of the quarantine life is determined by your hotel. And depending on where you are going, you may be able to choose your quarantine hotel or you may be assigned when you arrive. Mr. Lee in Taiwan was able to select and book his quarantine hotel from a list compiled by the Taiwanese government, which included information about the location, cost, room size and the presence (or absence) of windows. He also paid the bill.

Similarly, Ouiem Chettaoui, a public order specialist who splits her time between Washington, DC and Tunisia, was able to pick a hotel for her week-long quarantine when she returned to Tunis with her husband in September. She based her selection, the Medina Belisaire & Thalasso, on the price and the proximity to the Mediterranean (“We couldn’t see it, but we could hear it … at least we said we could!” She said).

Brett Barna, an investment manager who had moved to Shanghai with his fiancée in November, was able to choose a neighborhood but not the hotel itself. To improve her chances, Mr. Barna chose the upscale Huangpu neighborhood, which will hopefully be home to hotels would be higher quality.

“There were four possible hotels in the district, three of which were nice enough. And then there was the budget option, the Home Inn, ”he said. To their dismay, Mr Barna and his fiancée paid for quarantine on this option, which had peeling wallpaper and bleach stains on the floor thanks to aggressive cleaning protocols.

In Australia and New Zealand there is no choice – upon landing, your entire flight will be taken to a quarantine hotel with capacity. In most cases, travelers don’t know where they are going until the bus stops at the hotel itself.

Joy Jones, a San Francisco-based trainer and educator, traveled to New Zealand in January with her husband, a New Zealand citizen, and two young daughters. She learned before leaving that they would not say where in the country they would be quarantined.

“That was probably the hardest part,” she said. “I could put together a bag of activities for my older daughter and plan to do laundry in the sink. But if we didn’t have an answer to where we were – after more than 21 hours of flying with masks – would we have to get another flight? A three hour bus ride? “They didn’t. Ms. Jones and her family were taken to Stamford Plaza in Auckland, just 25 minutes from the airport.

However, Pim Techamuanvivit and her New Zealand husband weren’t that lucky. After arriving in Auckland from San Francisco, they were immediately instructed to board another flight to Christchurch and the Novotel Christchurch Airport Hotel. “At that point we really, really wanted to go to the hotel!” said Ms. Techamuanvivit, the head chef at Nari and Kin Khao restaurants in San Francisco and the head chef at Nahm in Bangkok.

The relief on arrival – finally – may be the first reaction, but it doesn’t take long for reality to kick in. The hotel room is everything you will see for a not insignificant amount of time.

Adrian Wallace, a technology project manager who was quarantined at the Sydney Hilton in August after visiting his sick father in the UK, said: “That door-slam moment … reminds us of the opening scene of ‘The Shawshank Redemption ‘! ” Wallace said, referring to the 1994 prison film with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.

The challenge is to manage the boredom. Working remotely helped some travelers take their time, including Tait Sye, senior director at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, who traveled from Washington DC to Taipei, Taiwan in November. Mr Sye tried to maintain most of his quarantine at the Hanns House Hotel from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on the east coast

Mr. Wallace ran a half marathon around his hotel room in Sydney (he couldn’t turn on the air conditioning in the room and got very sweaty). Mr Barna and his fiancée in Shanghai had date nights at Zoom as official policy required them to be quarantined in separate rooms. A big highlight of their days came when a hotel employee in full Hazmat-style PPE knocked on the door and pointed an infrared thermometer at their heads. They weren’t allowed outside.

In New Zealand, travelers who tested negative for the virus are allowed to perform supervised constitutions after checking in with guards at multiple checkpoints on hotel grounds (masks and distancing are still required, and rules can change quickly if there is a risk of an outbreak the country). The ability to get some fresh air and walk was vital for Ms. Jones and an important part of the routine she created for her family. Other aspects included morning yoga, distance learning, afternoon nap, playtime and art projects (her husband worked away from the bathroom).

“We decorated a paper horse that we hung in our window – a different part of it every day – that was a favorite pastime. We have dance parties. And we saw a movie every night. We did everything to have fun with it, ”said Ms. Jones.

Meals become very important in quarantine life to mark the passage of time and as regular events to break up the monotony of the day. However, the quality of the food varies greatly, as Mr. Sye found out in Taipei, where meals were ordered in nearby restaurants.

He shared the highs of a Michelin-starred meal of Kam’s Roast Goose and the thoughtfulness of a Thanksgiving dinner decorated with a paper turkey to the bottom of an absolutely terrible pizza (at least it was accompanied by a beer).

Ordering groceries and groceries was a lifesaver for Ms. Techamuanvivit, who documented her quarantine in Christchurch on Twitter. “I’m the boss. I guess I’m a snob!” She said. “As a restaurateur, I don’t have much love for UberEats. Ordering from Indian food stalls, however, proved important.” (Others who had delivery options available , also called them groundbreaking).

Ms. Techamuanvivit spiced up hotel meals with leftover Indian cucumber and found the Greek tzatziki sauce ordered at the grocery store worked well as a salad dressing. She and her husband also indulged in nice bottles of wine from the hotel restaurant’s wine list (In Australia and New Zealand, quarantined guests were limited to delivering six beers or one bottle of wine per person per day to fend off possible disputes, while Shanghai was alcohol not allowed.

There are Facebook groups devoted to hotel quarantine, by region and even by hotel, where members share tips on boiling eggs with kettles in the room and “boiling” with an iron. You were also a source of fellowship; Learning about the Sydney Hilton Facebook group on the bus from the airport, Mr. Wallace participated in a daily Zoom call with members of the group (the meals of the day were a constant topic of conversation).

Mr. Lee moderated conversations about filmmaking at Clubhouse, an invitation-only social media app, and spent time in quarantine at Tinder. He bonded with a woman who was nearing the end of her detention at another hotel in town.

Ms. Jones documented her family’s quarantine experience on her private Instagram account, showing forts made of blankets, paper airplane competitions, and “bowling” with water bottles and a crumpled ball of paper. She was touched that friends and family, in both New Zealand and the United States, sent their family meals, treats, and toys for their daughters in response to their contributions.

“It was a really cool way to feel love and connection from such an isolated space,” she said.

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