2020 has been the year we were forced to celebrate birthdays in the park and catch up with loved ones over cups of tea in the garden in freezing temperatures.
While we’ve all probably been guilty of moaning or complaining, many people whose family live abroad haven’t been able to see them at all – relying completely on video calls and social media.
So when it came to Christmas, comedian and broadcaster Rebecca Adams decided she wanted to head home to Australia to see her dad.
However, the country’s strict lockdown rules meant she has to isolate in a hotel for 14 days before she’s allowed to go outside – so she’s spending two weeks locked up in a tiny room, not even allowed to go outside for exercise or fresh air.
Speaking to The Mirror, she’s explained the highs and lows of isolating away from home – and how Zoom calls and Dolly Parton got her through.
Rebecca, 28, moved to the UK two years ago and lives in North London, where she spent all of lockdown.
When she came over she struck a deal with her dad that he would come and visit her every other year – but his 2020 trip was cancelled.
She found the pandemic even harder as she lost her job as a publicist which took a toll on her mental health.
She explains: “I needed my family and friends more than ever. I just needed to hug someone who I loved and the fact that I couldn’t and the only way I could’ve spoke to them was over the phone.
“I know it was also hard on my family, especially my father, who knew I was very depressed and anxious but he couldn’t do anything about it.
“What made it easier was keeping busy in my other publicist and radio work that I was doing and knowing that I do have people who care about me as the pandemic has made everything very lonely for someone like myself who does suffer from mental health issues.”
But as the end of the year drew closer, she decided to look into going back to Australia.
“When I lost my job, I was very lucky that my current job in radio in London were encouraging me to be with my family over Christmas, especially during this difficult year.
“I am very work orientated and I am still doing a few projects whilst I am over here in Australia, but mental health is important so it was a mixture of wanting to be with my family as well as knowing that I can still do work during my short time here.
“The thought of not knowing when I’d be able to see my family again was just too scary for me, especially after losing my mother at a young age.
“If something were to happen to them whilst I was in London, especially when I could not be able to see them would be gut wrenching.”
However the Australian rules are extremely strict when it comes to entering the country, which initially put Rebecca off.
She explains: “They are very, very, very strict here. Which after witnessing how the UK government is handling everything, it makes me realize how strict it does need to be to stop this terrible virus. In every state in Australia you need to quarantine in a hotel room (which you have to pay for) for 14 days before seeing your family or friends if you arrive from overseas.
“You are not allowed out of the room, even for exercise or fresh air. There is a window in the room but it can’t be opened and meals are delivered at a selected time and they knock on your room door when to quickly collect it.
“Outside every level of the hotel room are two policemen who stare at you if you go out to get something which was pretty scary at the beginning but you sort of get used to it.
“During your time in the hotel, you need to get tested for COVID 19 twice – on the 3rd and 11th day – and then if your test is negative, you’re free to leave.
“On your flight to Australia, you need to wipe down the area that you are in and then get your temperature checked before and after you get on the plane.
“To be honest though, I am very happy they are making sure you are safe during the journey and when you arrive to stop the virus from spreading.
“Can someone send the memo to Boris Johnson please?”
After arriving at the airport, passengers are split into two groups, with those with medical conditions taken to a different hotel.
Rebecca was taken to that hospital due to her mental health, and she praises how seriously her condition was taken.
After two hours of admin, they were put on coaches and taken to their hotel.
“You are not allowed to stand up the bus driver told me, which again I felt was strange and you are being watched over like a hawk by 15 police officers who are standing right outside your bus.”
When they got to the hotel, the guests weren’t allowed to touch any of the surfaces until they were taken to their rooms – which would be their home for the next 2 weeks.
Rebecca found isolating in the hotel extremely hard, and says the whole experience was just very strange.
“It’s very bizarre to say the least.
“I make sure I do something every hour, for example work on the project I am currently doing, write, read, work out, meditate, call my family etc.
“I make sure I exercise and meditate every day. I also have invented and played a game called ‘what car is going to turn right’ where I would look at the busy West Gate Bridge and guess which cars would be turning off to the next lane. I wish I was joking…
“I have also enjoyed doing a puzzle I brought with me (despite how bad I am at it) as well as draw every night whilst watching New Girl to keep me entertained.
“The hardest by far has not been able to leave the room for fresh air.
“Part of my mental health plan is to go for a walk every day as it helps with my mental health a lot, so being locked in a room for 14 days was definitely a struggle.
“It was also the anniversary of my mother’s death whilst I was in here so that was pretty difficult not being able to go somewhere to pay my respects or get comfort from someone.”
Rebecca’s meals are delivered directly to her room and the plates collected by staff so she never has to leave the room.
“The meals haven’t been Gordan Ramsay style gourmet but they have been decent. I don’t normally have big meals so it has been fine but I don’t think someone with a big appetite would be able to cope.
“However, the staff has been very accommodating to my diet needs when I needed them to be.
“As mentioned above, meals are delivered at a selected time and they knock on your room door to let you know to quickly collect it.
“The meals are in a paper bag. I do however wish they did bring out more healthy options as I can feel my thighs getting a bit wider!”
Rebecca will be allowed to leave the hotel and be reunited with her dad in January – but she’s still not sure if it will be worth isolating.
She said: “Maybe ask me this in another month… I honestly have no idea if I would do this again.
“Don’t get me wrong, I am very lucky and thankful to be able to see my family but I am not sure if it has helped my mental health in any way.
“However, I think I am definitely in a better place here, then being locked up at home in London so that definitely makes me happy.
“I am sure once I see my family and give them a big hug I will be more at ease.
“What got me through it? The nurses, Netflix, Dolly Parton, my comedy and my friends and family who FaceTimed me to make me laugh.
“Also, knowing that this is only temporary and by doing this we are helping controlling a virus.”
Follow Rebecca’s journey on her Instagram page.