The year 2020 will likely be remembered by Melburnians as the one that turned the world’s most livable city into one of the quietest.
Just the low hum and clatter of trams throughout the day, the crunch of running shoes on gravel, and then after 8 PM absolutely nothing at all.
And for thousands, they’ll be spending the weeks inside alone.
More than 2.3 million Australians live alone, many of them in Melbourne. And unlike those with families, this lockdown has been a sentence to entertain themselves for the next five weeks.
Travis Coleman, 41, works in the university sector and lives in a small flat in West Brunswick.
“The longest line in my apartment is seven lunges long,” he told The New Daily.
He’s lived alone for most of the last ten years, so is almost an expert on it. He breezed through the first lockdown but admits this time is different.
“This one is harder, much harder. I think everyone I know including myself had a mini-breakdown at the start,” he said.
Living on your own has its own challenges and he’s not immune to them, but he’s settling into lockdown now and feels quite ‘zen’ about spending the next five weeks in his small apartment.
His key tip for thriving in isolation alone is paradoxical: Ditch the tips.
“I was thinking about how I will get through it, I just live how I do in the moment,” he said.
“I read somewhere, someone was giving tips about having a routine and all of that, my personal tip is forget about all of that. Be gentle and kind.
“If you want to eat ice cream for dinner because you feel a bit gross, do it. If you want to wear tracksuit pants to work, do it. For me, it was breaking the routines.
“But I think going outside and getting exercise is the most important thing for me.
“It’ll finish when it finishes. I can do it until December if I need, but hopefully not.”
Down the road in Brunswick lives Henry, who identifies as non-binary and have been living by themselves for the last two and a half years.
“I try to be quite disciplined with myself,” Henry said.
“I’ll try and do nice things for my future self. I’ll do the dishes in the evening and before bed, I like to make myself a little hot water bottle. Those things keep me a bit on top of things.”
State lockdowns have hit Australians hard, with one in two saying they feel more lonely because of the social distancing measures.
If you live by yourself, research shows you’re more susceptible to it.
But living with non-family members in a share house can also increase the feeling of loneliness. Henry said there are lonely moments, but they make sure they’re doing good things for themselves and staying connected to friends.
“Sometimes I catch myself feeling quite sorry for myself,” they said.
“The other day I was just drinking some sparkling wine and just like wishing that my friend was here and we could dance because we usually dance in the living room and that was lonely.”
They wake up and do yoga and keep busy with their PhD.
They make bread, listen to audiobooks, run baths. And try not to think about things they can’t control.
“I still feel like I’m connected to loads of people … I’ve tried puzzles, and I’m doing MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival online) tonight with some friends.”
And when all else fails?
“Wines really good, yeah – wine really helps.”