Quarantine Diaries #1: What it’s Like Living in New York City During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The coronavirus is a pandemic that has touched and changed the lives of everyone around the world. It really makes you realize what a small world we live in when something of this magnitude can spread from continent to continent so quickly and we all have to find ways to adapt to a new lifestyle, without knowing if life even post-pandemic can ever be the same again.

I’ve been on the move for most of my life, so it’s always interesting thinking of how my life would be had this pandemic happened earlier — what would I have done if this happened while I was living in Toronto? Australia? Germany? the Netherlands? or in California where I was living before moving back to NYC just a few months ago?

Working as a Senior Designer for a large, international media company, our company was great in being quick to let everyone work from home much earlier than when it was officially declared mandatory for non-essential workers to do so. The last time I took the subway to work was on March 9th, which was *just* 5 weeks ago, but has since felt like an eternity.

With New York City being declared one of the Coronavirus hotspots in the world right now, a lot of family and friends having reaching out to me in the past few weeks to check in.

I thought I’d make a “day in the life” style post for anyone who’s curious. What’s changed about my life since the pandemic? What hasn’t changed? Come with me and take a glimpse into my (non-travelling) world!

While my day-to-day can still be pretty different, here’s what a “standard” week day is like for me these days!


Rise and Shine!

I start work every morning between 9-9:30am. I’ll wake up and brush my teeth, change out of my pyjamas and into something that’s comfy but still relatively work appropriate. I usually love picking out an outfit in the mornings for work (in the creative industry, there’s no dress code other than to wear whatever helps you express your personality), but in times of home office, my go-to outfit has been a sweater and shorts (it’s comfy and I definitely pass the Zoom video call test!)

I’ve been pretty lazy with doing my makeup ever since I started working from home, so I tend to go make-up free. All this extra time saved in the morning means I can start the day with a daily morning stretch, which is a series of fairly simple workouts that focuses on the abs, like planking, for about 10 mins, as the water for my tea is boiling. I wait until after work to do a more intensive workout but in the mornings, this definitely does the trick in feeling awake and ready to start the day!

Having a tea in the morning is also a must. I always have one at the office so this is something I can’t live without. Black tea with milk and sugar is always my go to, paired with some fruit or yoghurt as I check my work emails.



Starting the Work Day

I’ll start the work day with checking my emails, Slack channels, and my calendar to see what meetings I have. Living in a studio with Yann, we try to compare our meeting schedules every morning to see when we’re both available to cook lunch, or simply to make sure we aren’t doing any crazy dancing that might get caught on each other’s video screen during an important meeting!

Working in business strategy, Yann definitely has a lot more meetings than me, as they’re often back to back continuously until the end of the work day.

Something that often surprises people outside the creative industry is how there’s always “corporate” elements within our day-to-day work life — while designing and illustrating still makes up a big chunk of my work day, I also have a ton of meetings in-between the “actual” creative work, whether it’s giving presentations, checking in with my boss, joining in design team or creative department meetings, to meetings with my stakeholders to go over new projects or to review client feedback.



11 am Cuomo Time!

If I don’t have a meeting at 11am, I’ll tune in to Governor Cuomo’s daily press briefing where he talks about numbers and the latest updates on the Coronavirus for New York State. Luckily I can easily do my work while listening in, and it’s easily become one of the highlights of my day listening to America’s very own “Pandemic Daddy” giving us all the important deets. Unlike those in the White House (with the exception of Dr Fauci, bless his soul), I love how Cuomo gives us the facts in a rational, calm, empathic way that injects a bit of unexpected humour and some optimism that’s still grounded by reason. For those who haven’t tuned in to his press briefings, his slideshows alone are an absolute gem.

If I do have a meeting, I’ll find the video on YouTube later to watch during lunch.



Trying to Maintain Healthy Habits During Lunch

Since I’m nervous about overeating from being home so much, I’ll try to have a light, healthy lunch whenever I can. Usually it’s something that’s easy to put together since I don’t always have that much free time, and on busy days, I’ll eat while working. I like ordering takeout a few times a week to support local restaurants but since delivery apps are pretty overwhelmed around weekday lunchtime, I’ll plan accordingly — if I get takeout for dinner, I make sure to eat extra healthy for lunch.

(On cheat days, we’ll experiment and make something fun, like fried chicken!)



During lunch, I’ll also take some time to get caught up on Instagram, check in with some friends and family, and also take this time to do another stretch since my body isn’t used to sitting around for so long.



Keeping My Productivity Levels High in the Afternoon

I tend to move around to a few different spots when I’m working in my apartment. Since Yann usually takes the desk by the window because of how many meetings he has, I’ll constantly shift between working in the kitchen and on the couch. I’ll work in the kitchen whenever I have a video meeting or if I’m working on things that require more strategy – eg. putting together creative briefs, brainstorming ideas, or working on some initial sketches for a series of illustrations. If I’m illustrating using Procreate on my iPad, I’ll move to the couch where I can “relax” a bit.



The creative industry has been impacted greatly by the Coronavirus. Many freelancers are out of a job, and lots of projects that involve production teams, such as photoshoots and filming, have been cancelled. I’m pretty fortunate since our design team has seen an increase in work since we all started working from home, since many of our projects have pivoted from photo based to design or illustration based work.

I work on a variety of different things, ranging from editorial designs and illustrations for different brands that we partner with, as well as different branding projects that come my way.

Here I am working on a series of abstract patterns as part of a large rebrand for my company’s Instagram channel!

Having some movement and a slight “change in scenery” actually goes a long way in staying awake and being as productive as possible! At some point, I’ll fit in another 10 min stretch…because stretching is fun!



Decompressing with an Evening Run

After work, I’ll decompress by going for a run outside. Luckily I live near some awesome running spots. During the weekends when I have more time, I’ll go running in Central Park which is a bit more challenging with all the hills, but during the weekdays, I love going for a 5km run along the Hudson River.

While the streets are pretty empty, there’s always good amount of runners along the Hudson River path. It’s never crowded enough where you can’t comfortably social-distance though, which is great. In general, all the runners have been super respectful of distance so there’s never anything to worry about.

Something I’ve been really digging is all the workout outfits everyone has on! NYC has always been one of the fashion capitals of the world, and everyone (both male and female) are serious in stepping up their activewear game.

Every now and then, the street across from the Hudson River path is also filled with reporters from all the major news outlets, I think because the USNS Comfort hospital ship is docked there, so you might catch a glimpse of me running in the background on your TV!



While wearing a mask is now recommended in NYC (although not mandatory), I don’t wear one when I’m running because it’s hard to breathe in them. Since the streets are pretty empty, I usually avoid wearing a mask when I’m just walking outside, since it’s easy to maintain a 6 feet distance. However, I’ll put on my mask when I’m in a grocery store because some of the aisles can be really tight.



Cheering for the healthcare workers at 7pm!

I usually have dinner around 7pm, which is also when the nightly 7pm cheer takes place for all the healthcare workers who have been tremendously brave throughout all this. I love opening my window and joining in the cheering, which has become such a sense of community that I wonder if we’ll continue doing it after, because I’ll definitely miss it.

Since I live close to the USNS Comfort, the 7pm cheer is always extra loud so that hopefully they can hear us from inside the ship and know how much we appreciate them.

Also weirdly enough in all of this, I’ve also spotted Yann’s doppelgänger who lives a floor below us. That lucky bastard has a balcony, which was how I’ve discovered him one evening as I was cheering and watering my plants.

They look so eerily similar, I really think the day they meet will be a life-changing event. Maybe they’re long lost twins. However, it also feels a bit creepy to try to get his attention as I water my plants in the hopes that he’ll look up. If anyone has any good tips while avoiding coming across as a psychopath, do let me know!



Speaking of plants, I’ve discovered a big love for them fairly recently, and have turned into something of a plant mom. Here’s a few that I got right before the quarantine! Being indoors so much, I find having plants around to be really soothing and also helps in cleansing the air (a win-win!).



Evenings (and Weekends) at Home

NYC is always so happening that it’s weird to be at home after work, rather than being out getting dinner, drinks or going to events with friends, especially as the weather gets nicer. Luckily, I’ve been discovering different hobbies and things to do at home so that evenings don’t feel repetitive or boring.

Rather than going out with friends in the evenings and weekends, I’ll catch up with friends and family through video chats, Instagram, FB messenger or text. I’ve also become slightly addicted to Scrabble Go, which I love playing with others! If you guys play it as well, send me an invite!



Since I’m always working on graphic design and illustration projects during the day at work, I tend to avoid anything too “artistic” in my free time, such as painting or drawing. Instead, I’ve found redecorating my apartment to be a nice outlet to do something different while still being creative.

Having moved back to NYC in November, I started decorating the apartment, but kept getting sidetracked with other events and things to do. Now that I spend the majority of my days at home, it’s given me a lot more time to find fun creative ways to transform bookcases, or take on some DIY projects to make my apartment into something more magical.

For some reason, I have a huge collection of books that I barely read. I love picking up interesting books from The Strand bookstore or on my travels. From work, I also get a ton of interesting yet to be released books and all these have been building up in my bookcases. So I guess now’s the time to read them!



I’ve stocked up on puzzles (Odyssey Fine Puzzles is where I got them at, which is a really cute online shop where the owner even sent us a personal handwritten letter with our purchase!), which is something I haven’t done in years. I’ve decided to tackle that New York puzzle first, and I have to regrettably say, I think I was really optimistic when I chose these and severely overestimated my puzzling abilities. I’ve been working on that one puzzle for over two weeks and I’m nowhere close to finishing it — argh! (the puzzles themselves are great quality though. A+).



Some other notable stay at home activities I’ve been doing include brushing up on my guitar skills, doing frequent tarot readings (it’s something I’ve gotten into in recent months!) and working on my blog (yay!).

And of course there’s always the good old Netflix and chill. I used to love watching horror movies, true crime documentaries and sports games (particularly soccer and hockey), but with sports being non-existent these days, and the news being a constant stream of depressing news, I prefer watching comedies and other things that feels less…morbid. Tiger King and Love is Blind are a must for some mindless fun.

I’ve also been rewatching a lot of my old favourite travel movies like Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Keinohrhasen, and L’auberge Espanol. It’s fun remembering what inspired me to move to Europe (and wonder if I’ll ever settle down somewhere). Travel videos on YouTube are also great for being excited to go on my first trip after this quarantine has lifted. While the travel industry is really hurting right now, I think after this pandemic, we’re all going to appreciate our future travels so much more.

I have a few upcoming travel plans, including a trip to Mexico City at the end of May and a trip to Europe for the Eurocup in the summer. While the Eurocup has since been postponed to next summer, and my Mexico Trip is looking less and less likely, I definitely know I’ll be planning a trip somewhere as soon as it’s safe to travel again!



I discovered this cute Australian company called Sunnylife that makes some awesome travel scented candles, ranging from Bondi Beach (which also happens to be one of my most favourite places in the world), to Byron Bay, Bora Bora, Alalfi and more. Nothing can substitute actually being in an exotic distant land, but it definitely brings back some lovely memories of travelling. I love lighting one in the evenings!

And that’s it.

That’s basically a “typical” weekday for me these days. While I’ve toyed with the idea of leaving and staying my parents in Toronto, I’m actually really happy to be in NYC. I’ve never been someone who can deal with living in the suburbs, and that hasn’t changed — I always need something simulating and different, and even during a pandemic, I love all the seemingly simple things in New York City that I encounter on a day to day basis.

People always stereotype New Yorkers as being cold but I’ve never experienced that. Sure there’s some assholes you might encounter here or there, but assholes are everywhere. The people in San Fran, as I’ve discovered, are an extremely cold and unfriendly bunch, but New Yorkers are far from that, and I feel like this pandemic as brought all of us closer than ever.

While we all ride this tide together, one thing we do know is that this isn’t forever. Things will get better, and while it’s tough, not everything has been entirely doom and gloom as some positive things have come from this pandemic — the earth has been healing, there’s less pollution in the air, wars have ceased, and I think we’ll all come out of this appreciating life more than ever.


What have you guys been doing to keep busy during this pandemic? What have you guys been doing that are similar or different from my day-to-day life? Let me know in the comments below!

You can follow the rest of my quarantine adventures on Instagram at @michelleineurope



  1. Leana
    April 13, 2020 / 7:18 am

    Amazing! Love hearing about how you’ve been doing and what life is like for you:) miss you too – who knows now when our paths will cross again, but hopefully not too long!

    Also, good luck with meeting Yann’s doppelganger. You should bake something that smells delicious and hold it under his balcony until he emerges, then offer it, friendly neighbour style :p not creepy, even for NY, right?

    • Michelle
      April 14, 2020 / 12:32 am

      Hey Leana! Aww I miss you too! How’s everything with you in London? Haha that’s true, no one can resist a good pie/cake! And that could be another hobby I take up.

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