If there is anything the pandemic taught us (and it has instilled in us a myriad of useful life gems, like the importance of strict hygiene and that even the most angelic of dispositions can get cabin fever at some point), it is that we need to cherish the people we love more, show more appreciation for the good things in our lives, and make the most of our time engaging in activities and pursuits that bring us true fulfilment.
The COVID-19 pandemic altered our lives so significantly, so deeply, that the words “life will never be the same again” have never been more apt. When we began 2020, we had no inkling that we’d be spending most of our year inside our homes, nay, living most of our year indoors. And home became our whole world, our workplace, our refuge of comfort and safety, and our place of captivity all at the same time, when the going got tough.
With most of the world on some form of lockdown for a large part of 2020, we found ourselves thinking fondly on the simplest of activities we missed and perhaps took for granted—going to the movies, catching up with friends over drinks, weekly lunches with the family; even a trip to the grocery became a coveted activity. As our lifestyles changed, our perspectives followed suit.
We spoke to friends and family in different countries to get their thoughts on what they missed the most but have not been able to do because of the pandemic, and in their answers a shared, familiar truth resonates.
We miss…each other
We’ve never craved interaction with our fellow man as much as we have this year. Restrictions set in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 means that we have had to be socially isolated. Not being able to see friends and family in person has undoubtedly been one of the biggest emotional difficulties we have all hurdled, sending many into states of loneliness, anxiety and even depression.
Aaron, a 25-year-old from England, says he misses “being able to sit in my grandma’s house with a cup of tea”. He’s not the only one missing his grandmother; Andrew, 26 and also from the United Kingdom, shared that he “didn’t like not being able to see nana very much because of lockdown”, and Anonymous, 37, and from the United States, cited hugging their 90-year-old grandmother as one of the things they missed doing the most in 2020.
While we’re on the subject of hugging, humanity is experiencing a serious deficit in physical contact. It’s been a while since we clasped hands, linked arms or kissed each other on the cheek in greeting—even the classic high-five and the more modern fist-bump were relegated into obscurity by the pandemic. Rosanna, who’s 35 and lives in Spain, admitted that she has missed “hugging people and giving the double beso” (the Spanish way of saying hi is with a kiss on both cheeks).
Even with masks on, it’s going to be a while before it’s safe to go near another person’s face. And while we’re more grateful than ever before for technology that allows us to spend time with and see people virtually, nothing satisfies the cockles of our hearts like good old in-person interaction and physical affection.
For now, we do our socialising from a distance, but it’s not the same.
“I miss seeing actual people, sitting down for dinner, drinks and conversation, rather than talking over a computer,” shared 44-year-old Nicole from the Philippines.
We miss seeing actual people, too.
Even those who weren’t that keen on socialising pre-pandemic are missing get-togethers with friends; 54-year-old Tisha from the Philippines admitted that while she “wasn’t big” on meeting up with close friends, “going for months without seeing them in person is a bit too much”.
Ella, 44 and also from the Philippines, agreed that though she isn’t much into gathering, she’d love to see people again, “especially those I like”.
We feel you there.
There is a shared wanderlust gripping the globe. If you’re feeling cooped up and restless, we’re right there with you. Despite multiple attempts to make our homes more cosy than ever—we’ve decluttered, rearranged, redecorated and welcomed new plant family members into our home—there’s still the inescapable fact (pun intended!) that being home so much is akin to being on house arrest, thanks to stringent pandemic restrictions we’ve had to comply with.
COVID-19 saw to it that our travel plans for 2020 and the foreseeable future were dashed into innumerable, irreparable pieces. Nicole noted that she and her husband were all set for a trip to Australia in April 2020 to watch Dave Matthews perform, “but we had to cancel our trip because of the lockdown”.
For most, the extent of their 2020 travel story has been home-bound—from the couch to the fridge and back, from the office desk to the living room—or around the block and maybe further, for the more motivated. We’ve gotten to the point that a trip to the nearby pharmacy feels like an elicit field trip; it’s pretty dire.
For those who had to travel during the pandemic, such as to get to their home countries when the world fell into chaos, it was not a pleasant experience. My partner and I moved from England to Canada at the end of May—a move that had been more than one year in the making—and to say that the process was anxiety-inducing is a laughable understatement.
When asked, most of the people we spoke to said that traveling was high on the list of most-missed activities taken away by COVID-19.
Thirty-seven-year-old Pedro from New Zealand put it succinctly, and travel bugs everywhere can all soundly concur—“The thing I miss the most is undoubtedly international travel”.
Miguel, 43 and from the US, relayed that he and his family long to once again be able to travel freely to and from the family’s vacation home in Mexico.
For 78-year-old Dickie, who resides in the Philippines, missing out on traveling isn’t just about holidays and fun times. Thanks to pandemic-related flight restrictions, he hasn’t been able to travel domestically to visit clients for whom he provides advisory services, so his income stream has been negatively affected.
Bianca, a 33-year-old living in Italy, also misses being able to travel freely. Thanks to travel restrictions, she was not able to fly home [to the Philippines] from Italy to continue her studies in the US as there was a travel ban for foreign nationals without an EU passport. “So I figured out what I could do in Italy instead,” she said, echoing the frustrations of many who found themselves stranded because of the pandemic.
We miss…entertainment activities
Who doesn’t miss parties? As fun as it is to binge on your favourite shows on Netflix and chow down on home-delivered goodies, that’s no replacement for going out into the real world for a night on the town, to see a movie in the theatres, or catch a play.
“I miss watching movies in the cinema and going to live gigs, concerts and theatre performances,” shared Amanda, who is 40 years old and from the Philippines.
Also from the Philippines, 34-year-old Veronica remarked that she misses going out for meals and other fun activities with her 13-year-old son. She also wouldn’t mind seeing a movie in the cinemas again, a point I think we can all agree on.
Many of our interviewees said that they missed partying with friends and going out for live entertainment events.
While there are a plethora of virtual activities to keep us amused indoors, the novelty of online entertainment quickly wore out of for some, and the pandemic has made us crave real-life experiences like never before.
Will we ever return to being able to freely party in a crowd, dance in music festivals, watch live music shows, and socialise with friends at clubs, pubs, bars and other places of fun? Who knows.
From watching films to eating out, and attending live concerts and art shows to watching plays and musicals, we all miss having the freedom to satiate our cultural appetites.
We miss…sports and fitness activities
For fitness and extreme sports enthusiast Andrew, keeping fit is an integral part of his life. Since the pandemic began, he has not been able to go rock climbing or go to the gym to train, and he’s looking forward to the time when that will be safe again. In the meantime, he has focused more on his running.
“I really miss going to the gym and going rock climbing. However, the silver lining in the cloud of the pandemic was that I managed to go out running more, even in the winter,” Andrew said.
Rosanna, on the other hand, misses going to yoga classes in person and feeling the energies of others practicing around her. Thankfully, there are live yoga sessions as well as a multitude of videos online that one can follow when doing yoga at home, so you don’t have to practice “alone” if you don’t want to. But it still isn’t the same.
Chum, 39 and from the Philippines, affirmed that he misses sports activities, and Bianca added that she especially misses surfing, among other nature-based sports.
We miss…the simple things
A common refrain in the answers we received from people is that it’s the “simple things” they miss the most; the prosaic and seemingly mundane things that are easy to take for granted, such as going out for a walk (especially when lockdown was at its strictest) or a drive with ease and freedom.
“[I miss] the basic things we used to do so regularly that we never realised how much we enjoyed doing, [such as] going to the cinema, going out to eat or just a simple drive away in the car,” reflected 24-year-old Daniel from Scotland.
Many shared that the simple act of getting out of “home clothes” and getting dressed was something that they missed doing. Since it’s the holidays, they plan to shake it up and get dressed anyway, even if celebrations are confined to their homes.
We have missed being able to do things “freely” and without fear that we might catch the virus as we go about our daily lives.
Laura, a 29-year-old from Italy, shared that she misses “being able to do absolutely anything without being anxious [about] whether I’m doing something acceptable”. It’s a feeling we’ve all grown accustomed to in 2020, one we’re more than ready to say goodbye to.
As we round the last corner of the year, we can all agree on one more shared truth—we won’t miss 2020.