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How to survive a 3-week hotel quarantine

Imagine staying in a 225 square foot room for three weeks. That’s roughly the size of a garage. If you step out the door, you’ll be fined $3,000. You’ll also be arrested for six months. What can you do? Nothing.

In Hong Kong (where I am from), the COVID rules are very strict. If you fly into the Hong Kong International Airport, you can’t just hop off the plane and head into the city. You’ll make your way through a tedious six-hour testing system before getting on a bus to your quarantine hotel, where you’ll stay for a designated period of time.

Unfortunately, this mandatory hotel quarantine was the reality I faced in May 2021. It was a dark time (literally, since I was Zooming into school from 11pm-8am every day, which worked wonders for my circadian rhythm). Back in 2021, the quarantine was three weeks! Currently it is seven days, but even that is subject to change. Anything COVID-related in Hong Kong is highly unpredictable, very random and incredibly impractical.

With that being said, I’ve put together a list of things that got me through 21 days in a hotel room. If you’re an international traveler and find yourself in a similar predicament (especially as the summer holidays approach), I highly recommend you do the following.

  1. Find a celebrity crush

I’m not going to lie and tell you that I learned a new language, finished a thousand piece puzzle or watched Khan Academy. Instead, the bulk of my lovely time at the Ovolo Hotel was spent binging hundreds of K-Pop videos. I’ve loved K-Pop since I was five years old, but hadn’t really kept up with it for two years or so. Its dramatic resurgence in my life could not have come at a more perfect time. The videos were endless. I would play ten different live performances of one song and then go back, find the focused shots of my favorite members and watch them all over again. Then I would move on to the dance practices, the behind-the-scenes videos and the Q&As. Bonus tip: try to stream Youtube on a large screen, like a TV, so as not to destroy your vision.

  1. Interact with said celebrity crush

The climax of my quarantine was at 11pm on the night of May. 12, when I clicked into the livestream of one of my beloved boy group members. In a jet-lag induced haze, I wrote “hi from Hong Kong!!” in the chat. When I heard him read my comment aloud, I let out a bloodcurdling scream and scared my mother half to death. Having a precious bonding moment with my celebrity crush definitely made my quarantine 100 times better and will probably do the same for you too.

  1. Establish a daily routine

With weeks of nothingness stretched out before you, it can be easy to fall into what I’d describe as a fever dream. For example, during her quarantine, my friend G would sleep until 3pm, watch Netflix until 1a.m. and fall back asleep. While that is certainly a viable option, I would recommend creating a schedule for waking up, eating, working out, et cetera in order to maintain some sanity. Personally, I was lucky – or unlucky, depending on the way you look at it – that I was busy with online school. Even if I didn’t feel like waking up at 11 p.m., my 11:30 p.m. biology class held me accountable. 

  1. Set up some off-screen time

Yes, I know this contradicts tips #1 and #2. I must admit that I spent a lot of time on my phone and my laptop – FaceTiming friends, Zooming teachers, watching YouTube, binging Netflix…the list goes on. Understandably, when one is in quarantine, there is not much else to do. However, I’d advise taking some time every day to close that laptop and rest your eyes. Maybe look out the window. Your pounding headache will thank you for it, and your eyes will, too.

  1. Have fun!

I’m probably making this three week quarantine sound like a drag (and it was). But, to put it more optimistically, three weeks in a hotel room also gave me three weeks for self-care. I completed all the JustDance songs. I organized my Desktop. I taught myself a multitude of new eyeshadow looks. I put on my nicest dress for absolutely no reason and posed for a quarantine photoshoot. My point is that you should make your quarantine your own (with snacks, skincare and a list of your favorite TV shows). If you try to forget that you’re trapped in a hotel room, you may even find yourself enjoying it.

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