travel

'I lived at sea for 80 days. Here are eight things I learned about living in isolation.'

Just over a year ago I was preparing to live in self-isolation for almost three months. I and nine other people bought supplies, loads of toilet paper (back when this wasn’t so hard to come by, may I add… ), packed card games and downloaded every movie we could think of. Then, we left Hawaii on a 67ft sailing boat and spent 80 days at sea without touching land.

We sailed from Hawaii to San Francisco on an expedition titled The Vortex Swim, supporting a long-distance swimmer and collected samples and data from the middle of the highest concentration of plastic pollution in our oceans, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. As someone who had only ever spent one day at sea, this was a huge adjustment for me.

Here’s how you’ll act in self-isolation, according to your star sign. Post continues below. 

Video via Mamamia

Watching land slowly sink away from us on the first night I had no idea what to expect from the coming months, but was ready for the adventure. Getting used to living on a 67ft vessel healed over and smashing into waves was like nothing I have ever had to do, but learnt to love it like my new way of life.

We found ways to pass the time, there was a constant smell of fresh bread from our talented skipper, fresh fish, inventive meals in the kitchen, workouts, drawing, endless movies to watch and even a podcast started around the kitchen table.

Fast forward a year and I’ve found myself in a similar situation. The expedition taught me many things, like the need to rid our lives of plastic and find more sustainable ways of living, how to sail, work as a team and a love for the ocean.

Never did I think the experience was preparing me for a pandemic that would see me locked inside my house for the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, I and my three other housemates have been in self-isolation for a little over a week now and I’ve made constant references to how similar this feels to living at sea. Gone are the wonderful animal encounters with whales and dolphins and endless beautiful horizons of blue that made the long days worth it, replaced with a concrete backyard and sounds of sirens screaming past our window every so often.

ADVERTISEMENT

Here are some vital lessons I learned living at sea that are helping me through self-isolation.

Baking and making anything from scratch.

Taking a leaf out of our skippers’ book, I’ve got into baking anything I can rather than buying it. From fresh bread in the morning to buns for our burgers, if I can bake it rather than buy it, I do. It’s something I’ve never had the time to do and thought it would be too difficult but turns out, it’s really easy!

Not only is it delicious, but it also fills our house with warmth and comfort as the smell of baking bread wafts through it. This doesn’t just apply to baked goods; I’ve been trying to make as much as possible from scratch simply because it stretches out the cooking process and gives me something to do.

Eating as a family/group.

swim-two
Image: Josh Munoz.

The only time the 10 of us would actually be together on the boat was for dinner time. 10 dirty, tired bodies would cram around our tiny kitchen table to eat whatever meal would be prepared that day and talk about how we were going. It was something we looked forward to as a team, connecting, laughing and telling stories.

I and my housemates live quite different lives in the normal world and had never had a meal together as a house. This all changed when we started self-isolating and now cook, eat and clean together. I know it’s drastically changed my mood and brought us together during this difficult time.

Board games and card games really are more enjoyable than watching movies.

When I was on the boat, I filled my first few days with my Netflix movies and shows, even relished in the time I had to binge-watch every Friends episode for the fifth time (much to my boyfriend's protests.)

But soon got over TV and wanted something more stimulating, switching to games.

ADVERTISEMENT

So now in the house, instead of a nightly movie, we play a few rounds of cards and started a running competition to see who will be crowned the ‘isolation cards winner’.

Self-care is so important.

One difference between life at sea and life in isolation on land is my personal hygiene. On the boat, our baths consisted of swims in the ocean and a quick shower under a water bottle of fresh water. Although I would do anything to have a swim in the ocean right now, having running hot water is definitely a bonus.

Onboard I would still complete my five-step morning and night routine, including toning and serums over our kitchen sink. I found self-care so important, even if my hair was full of salt and my clothes were crusty from only being washed in saltwater, having a clean face drastically cheered me up. Same goes with my self-isolation, regular face masks and looking after myself is the highlight of my day.

Routine is essential.

swim-one
Image: Adam Hill.

We developed a routine on the boat that became our new way of life. We had different tasks pinned up that we would swap between to mix up our days; we were always busy doing something.

It was important to stick to these schedules, it broke up the time and we never found ourselves getting bored. My boyfriend who I live with and was also on the boat with me has laid out an extensive and detailed routine for the both of us.

Check in with others.

As you can imagine living at sea for 80 days with the same nine people and no escape can get hard, boring and mundane. We were lucky to be with an amazing group of caring people who looked out for each other when times got tough.

If someone was looking a little down or not themselves, others were quick to pull them aside and check in. You can feel isolated even when you’re stuck on a boat with nine other people, so remember to check in with your housemates, loved ones in other places and people who live alone.

ADVERTISEMENT

Exercise is great when you do it but don’t put pressure on yourself.

Photo-credit_-Josh-Munoz-for-The-Vortex-Swim-1-1
Image: Josh Munoz.

Just like the lead up to our departure to sea, I’ve seen people say this is their moment to get fit and healthy. I can tell you, that did not happen during my time at sea (probably thanks to so much bread). When we left I had all these dreams. I would exercise daily and return home toned and healthy. That didn't happen.

I don’t even have the difficulty of being on a moving vessel to blame this time, but if I learnt anything about exercise it’s it can be really good for your mental health in these times but also create a lot of anxiety. I learnt not to put pressure on myself or punish myself if I missed a workout, and just feel good about the times I did it.

Journaling every day.

Something I wish I had started from day one like others on board, but halfway through our trip I started recording my thoughts, feelings and experiences from everyday. Even if it was a boring day when nothing happened, looking back in reflection it is still a crazy and amazing day compared to a regular day on land.

I know I'll thank myself in years to come when I re-read these entries and remember things I had completely forgotten. Although this time isn’t something fun we want to live over and over again, hopefully, it is a once in a lifetime experience we can reflect on. It’s also important to write about feelings when you often don’t feel like you can share them out loud.

You can read more from Hannah on her website, Lost Aussies, and follow her on Instagram here.

Feature image: Supplied.

00:00 / ???