When the world went into lockdown, it felt as though our lives literally got put on hold. But, as time went on, more and more of us discovered lockdown – although still unbelievably tough – could help to bring out some good.
Below are nine Flashpackers and their stories of lockdown struggle, then positivity and, ultimately, their achievements. Use their stories as inspiration and proof that, with the right attitude, grit and willingness to pivot on your heels, you can pull something good out of an entirely awful situation.
We’re not saying it’s easy.
However, if for nothing else, we hope this article shows that we can prevail and that there is always a silver lining. You just have to go find it.
So, here they are, nine Flashpackers on their greatest lockdown achievements, from simply listening to what they really want to building an entire workshop by hand. It really doesn’t matter what you achievement is – if it makes you feel good, go get it.
Clare's achievement: Learning that living alone isn’t actually that bad
“I live alone and work from home (have done for two years) so usually would spend evenings out and weekends with friends. But lockdown meant I had to get used to my own company pretty quickly without much choice.
I found it really tough for the first four weeks. I craved human contact and socialising. I had a breakdown on the driveway of my best mate in April, on her birthday, because I was finding it SO hard.
To keep myself busy I tried a load of new things. A sign language course, running, decorating; I was very much in the mindset that if I wasn’t achieving anything with my spare time then I was failing. It was a light bulb moment.
That was when I realised that doing nothing and giving myself a little R&R was also an achievement. And learning to spend time on my own was okay. The running really helped mentally and I’ve continued to keep this up. Over lockdown I started the couch to 5k and completed it and am now pushing myself to hit more goals with my running.”
David's achievement: Building a workshop by hand
“Back in late march when lockdown kicked in, I found myself furloughed. I live alone (thankfully I have a nice house with a good garden) and straight away thought I really needed to get some structure, just to keep my mental health together. Not knowing how long I’d be furloughed for, I was really worried about falling unchecked into Netflix, PlayStation and daytime drinking.
So, after learning to bake cakes, do some online courses and starting yoga, I wanted something practical and outside (remember how sunny early summer was?).
Firstly, one project that jumped out was replacing the rotten dilapidated shed where I kept junk and an old lawnmower. Originally, I was just going to buy a kit from a garden centre, but a wander down the YouTube rabbit warren had me watching a channel by ’21st Century Cave Man’. Watching him made me think, “I might be able to do something similar.” So, after lots of costing up, finding out about grades of timber, construction methods and borrowing tools, I thought I’d give it a bash and got stuck in.
I was also acutely away of how un-self-sufficient I was and always wanted to be a bit more Ron Swanson (from Parks and Recreation), so the idea of a little workshop seemed like a bit of a dream (and let’s be honest – it’s a bit of a den/treehouse, and who doesn’t still harbour dreams of having one of those?!)
The hardest part was laying out those first few planks and starting.”
After that, you soon realise mistakes happen, they can usually be fixed and that you should ALWAYS measure twice and cut once.
And it went really well. I made mistakes but you take a second look and figure out another way. And its definitely taught me something about myself – I’ve got a little note book of ideas to try and build, with plenty of new carpentry YouTube channels to help, and an itch to create stuff – thats probably been there a long time – is finally getting scratched.
Most of all, and I know it’s only a big shed at the end of the day, it’s something I built – and that makes me very happy.
Sarah's achievement: Completing a PADI
“I live in Egypt and would normally return to the UK for the summer but, and we all know, plans changed – so I stayed here for two months instead.
With the restrictions around travel, the usual tourist hotspots around the Red Sea have really struggled. I wanted to support them but, also, the sea life has recovered so much since lockdown that it’s reportedly been one of the best years to dive. If I was ever going to complete my PADI, this year had to be the one. And where better to socially distance than the bottom of the ocean?
It was one of the best things I’ve done because now I’ll be able to dive anywhere in the world, when the world of travel returns to normal. The providers were so desperate for trade that all their prices were down too, it was win win all round. I find the sea terrifying, knowing you can’t safely get to the surface if you panic, so it was challenging mentally but definitely worth getting past those fears.
I’m due to go again this week and really hoping for dolphins and octopus!”
Mollika's achievement: Learning to be grateful for the little things
“When lockdown started, I had to move back in with my family and that was difficult indeed. But I have a little nephew who always keeps me moving and happy – I realised that, if we didn’t have lockdown, I would never be able to spend this much time with him to see him grow. Also, my parents are essential workers and I felt I could be helpful and supportive by just being there. I have a great job and live in a beautiful country, and this experience has made me grateful for little things.”
Amy's achievement: Helping our farm get through COVID
“My family’s farm is primarily a pick-your-own fruit farm open from August-end of October. When COVID first hit, the agriculture sector throughout the country was pretty shaky, especially those of us who operate in the direct to consumer market. I spent lots of time in zoom meetings with our Cooperative Extension just learning about PPP and EIDL loans as well as hearing what other farms were doing in the early season of CSA’s and greenhouses. It was all so overwhelming. I finally got to a point where I realised I had to just sit down and write up a sort of “action plan.”
I stated our hurdles, what we could do to mitigate them and what materials/staffing we would need to achieve those goals. From there it was much easier to plan for the fall harvest season. On top of that, I looked around and recognised that businesses who were able to pivot their business model to include a curbside option were making ends meet and in some cases, dramatically increasing revenue.
So I created an online store and curbside stall. The offerings will increase as our season goes on and we start to make cider, raspberries ripen etc. We opened on August 5th and business has increased almost 2x over the same period last year! All of the measures from my action plan have been put into practice and customers have enjoyed being outside in a beautiful spot while feeling safe – *sigh of relief*.
Lockdown has taught me to really focus on thinking of the positive. It sounds so cliche but it is so true. I also rent my house out on Air BnB (it is on the backside of the farm) and rather than shutting down completely, I have remained open, hosting people safely because I believe we all need to recognise our humanity and how our mental health and quality of life is dependent upon one another. So, thinking positively, actively voicing the positive to others and sharing what you have in abundance are the things I have learned or have been enforced for me during lockdown.
Overall, I’ve learned that constant creative thinking and engagement is what makes businesses successful! I was able to turn my stir craziness born of a lack of travel (I was meant to go to Scotland this spring) into something productive for our business.”
Nina's achievement: Having a photo published in a magazine
“As a street photographer, taking candid photos of people is something I really missed during lockdown. Even as an introvert, I was longing for events and celebrations so I could start taking photographs of people again. Still life and landscape wasn’t really doing it for me but I missed the creativity photography gave me, so I started an online search for ‘photography at home’ ideas.
I came across a weekly photography challenge by the one and only, Martin Parr, which was brilliant. I enjoyed taking part but I also got enjoyment from looking at the other entries and observing how we all interpreted the themes in our own individualistic way. I discovered taking photos of still life can actually be fun! Although I didn’t win any of the challenges, I really liked one of the photos I created. It was a bit of fun and represented lockdown in a way that we will all remember in years to come – it involved loo roll. So I sent it off to a photography magazine and to my surprise they published it.
Even though I didn’t win any of the photo challenges, it was definitely the taking part bit that I enjoyed. But the big lesson to come out of this for me is that, although not everyone will like your art, there will always be someone who does!”
Lima's achievement: Realising that letting some people go is a good thing
“I didn’t really choose to do this during the lockdown, it was more of a process. As I spent more time with myself, without distractions, I began to really feel myself and had lots of realisations about what I want and who I am. It felt just natural that some people didn’t “fit” anymore.
Especially when it came to COVID-19 – we had very different opinions and that just made it even clearer to me that these are not the people I want to spent my future or present with.
Was it hard? I don’t know. I mean it’s never easy to say goodbye to people you once loved, but I had to take care of myself. And I knew that I’d find other people with the same mindset as me in the future. I’ll meet them on the way.
My advice would be to surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself, but also question and challenge you. People who you can learn from, with and about. And deal with the things that make you happy. And read a lot! Reading makes you so incredibly reflective! You can only turn away successfully if you turn to yourself. And you have to want it first of all, of course.”
Rachael's achievement: Completing a CELTA qualification
“I decided to complete the CELTA teaching English qualification through International House in Sydney during lockdown. It was a part-time course over 10 weeks and, because of social distancing, we ended up doing it online – but it worked!
I wanted to do this course so that, when I can travel again, I can teach English and support myself travelling. It was great, I really enjoyed it and the students and other trainees were fantastic. Doing it online was actually better than I had imagined.
Not quite as good as the Flashpack tour I should’ve done to Morocco in June, however!”
Marie's achievement: Getting in shape and earning several certificates
“It’s actually a long story, but I’ll try to make it short. My last year was really horrible. I‘m suffering from several diseases and, because of that, I lost two jobs and was mentally and financially in a really bad situation. 2020 started and, to be honest, lockdown was the best thing that could happen to me.
First of all, I got rid of all the toxic relationships I had. And I automatically started leading a healthy life because I suddenly had the time for it. I don’t know – my whole mindset turned out to be positive and I started to listen to what I wanted.
I was never fat, but I haven’t felt very comfortable over the last few years. But, since March, I’ve easily lost 16 pounds – just because I wasn’t stressed and super depressed. It gave me such a good feeling, that everything else felt more fun and I became so motivated. Due to the pandemic, I wasn’t able to find a new job, so I applied for several educational courses instead, to help my future career. And now I have some certificates.
I totally understand those who are suffering with lockdown and this whole situation – but for me it’s just been amazing. Sure, I miss my friends and my family even more. But now I know who my friends are and I can appreciate them so much more. Plus, I have time to take care of myself and I get closer and closer to knowing what I want in life.