Notes from Hong Kong Hotel Quarantine: The Halfway Mark

One week down and one week to go in the magic land of endless food deliveries

Adele Barlow
4 min readDec 7, 2020


Photo by Alison Pang on Unsplash

“It sounds like your idea of heaven,” my boyfriend joked. “You get Thai food delivered to your door whenever you want, no cooking or cleaning up and the trash gets taken out for you every night.” (I am slightly obsessive about trash duty in our London apartment ever since we had a mice issue.)

“Yeah, it’s not so bad,” I’ve been saying. Because it isn’t. In fact, this whole live-in-a-hotel-for-awhile has inspired me. Maybe this is how to carve space for creative inspiration? I have a friend who checks into a hotel whenever she needs hyper-focus for a creative project. Maya Angelou used to do the same.

And now, I get it.

The creative project I’ve been pouring myself into has been Modern Woman.

The best writing projects change you as a person, and this one really did get me looking at my career differently. It introduced me to research that I’d vaguely heard about but hadn’t read. Anyway — there’s more about it here.

Day 4, I was on a bit of a high because I’ve just joined REALWORK, an online coworking space for women who are freelancers and business owners. I was reading and talking about some really inspiring things.

Day 5, there was a bit of a low. Maybe because it was a Saturday, and work wasn’t there as a distraction. I watched Last Christmas, which was the definition of average. I went to look up its production budget. (Unbelievably, excluding marketing costs, it took 25 million dollars to create.)

Day 6, I read Seth Godin’s new book The Practice, which I highly recommend for anyone doing creative work. Some of my favourite quotes:

“True learning (as opposed to education) is a voluntary experience that requires tension and discomfort (the persistent feeling of incompetence as we get better at a skill).”

“The practice, then, is to not only cause temporary discomfort for those whom you lead, serve, and teach, but to embrace your own discomfort as you venture into territories unknown.”

“Discomfort is the feeling we all get just before change happens.”

I also listened to him speaking on Emma Gannon’s excellent podcast Ctrl Alt Delete so it felt like a double whammy of the master himself.

Day 7, and I’m feeling optimistic about my last week left in here. I might miss the silence when I’m out. I’ve stumbled upon a mental clarity that I haven’t felt all year.

Until now, I didn’t realise how much of my brain had been focused on The Virus. Worrying about whether I’d been careful enough, how to interact with people in safe way; that balance between reading the news to keep informed but not doom-scrolling so much that you experience chronic low-grade depression. Getting angry, without anywhere to put it.

I like how here in Hong Kong, my brain feels way more free to wander.

I also like having Thai food on tap.

The only thing I’ve been struggling with is sleep. I keep starting my day at 3am. I guess if you just sit around like a slug all day, your body doesn’t get enough movement to then become tired. Plus zero fresh air doesn’t help.

I tried doing some steps around the hotel room. But then got dizzy from all the turning around.

Anyway — one week down, one week left of this beautifully silent but spookily artificial world, broken up only by the highlights of each day.

My brother and his partner stopped by downstairs to say hi so I could wave at them from my window. They sent cupcakes and cookies. My friend sent a food package. My boyfriend and I figured out how to watch TV at the same time across continents. Mum brought a few things fro home, and it’s amazing what a blanket and a lamp can do.

These things have made it feel more like a ‘retreat’ as opposed to a ‘sentence’. As much as I’m (surprisingly) enjoying it, I can’t wait to feel the sun on my face when I get out! To hike, and sweat, and to sleep peacefully again.

Things I loved reading: