A little over a year ago I was working out of a beach shack in Goa and hastily decided to dash back to Australia to ride out the emerging pandemic. Sure, I’m a bit of a risk taker, but it just wasn’t practical to risk staying there on the visa I had. I had to leave and come back within a couple of months, but who would take me, and would India let me back in? Some thought I was too hasty and should stay.
I booked with Malaysian Airlines and was happy to have a few extra days to spend with my friends in Chennai before I left. A couple of days later the Malaysian Government said they would not accept people into their country (even transit) from India in response to the Indian Government saying the same about them. Huh.
I hurriedly booked a Singapore Airlines flight leaving a few days earlier and for a few hundred dollars more, but still had a couple of nights in Chennai. It was touch and go whether Singapore would do something similar, but I felt confident and a bit more relaxed.
The next afternoon a friend from Australia messaged and asked about the coronavirus situation in Goa. I did a search and saw 15 minutes earlier India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced all international airlines would be locked down in a few days. Two days before my Singapore Airlines flight was booked. F*CK!
I went to their website but it was crashed. I called the Singapore Airlines’ Chennai office and they hadn’t heard the announcement yet. They said I should sit tight and wait for further information. I told them I didn’t care what they charged, but to just change my flight to that day regardless of whether they thought the announcement was legitimate or not. They did it and didn’t charge me.
That was three solid days of booking and changing flights and accommodation, but I made it onto that last flight out. It was an unexpected deviation to one of my hometowns for an unknown amount of time. I say ‘one of’ my hometowns because it wasn’t my first, and it isn’t my last, but it is enduring because my parents are in Brisbane and I spent the majority of my schooling and tertiary education here even if not much of my working life.
That decision paid off as I made it back before mandatory hotel quarantine was instated, unlike many Australian’s who didn’t act as fast or were unlucky, had to bankrupt themselves to get on a flight, or are still stranded trying to get back in (some of whom are taking it up with the United Nations (UN) even!).
The last year was weird
The last year was weird. It is weird to be back for so long in such a beautiful, well-functioning, mostly COVID19 free place while most of the world suffers lockdowns and skyrocketing case numbers. It is weird to be grounded and not able to even visit other states in Australia.
When I first came back I thought I might buy a car and drive around visiting my people across the country. Nope. To have the level of containment and freedom we do in most places in Australia, we sacrificed movement between states. Yes, NOW we can still book flights or drive somewhere, but at a moment’s notice, a case could break out, and you can get stranded, put into mandatory isolation, or have to cancel your plans all together.
Just last week Brisbane went into a snap three day lockdown because of some cases which broke out of a hospital. I got cocky a couple of weeks ago and booked a flight to Sydney for my friend’s 50/51st she postponed from last year, for a couple of weeks’ time. Snap lockdown travel plan cancellation terror! But aside from a few days of restrictions here and there at unpredictable intervals, we live quite unrestricted if we want to live our daily lives around our fixed abodes.
It feels weird because a lot of the places I usually spend time or live around the world, and where many of you reading this are from, are VASTLY more restricted and at risk than we are here in Brisbane. Before this year I prolifically posted pictures of my travels and experiences on Facebook, but literally the last new photographic post of what I got up to was at the airport at Chennai as I came back all that time ago (and is the cover photo for this post).
I really have had a great year reconnecting with old friends, somehow making new posses around the place, doing a bit of sailing, and a lot of stupid dress ups with my silly friends. Photo and posting bait galore! I didn’t post any of that because it felt wrong to share and celebrate my incredible luck of the draw here when so many others are suffering in isolation or worse.
COVID19 denial is weird
I wanted to understand what it was like for people who really got sick with the virus and was lucky to find then 78 year old Mick Knight who, along with his wife Sue spoke to me about how he narrowly escaped death’s door . Regardless of what anyone thinks about how it came about, the impact on those who go down hard with it is brutal. If you have any doubt, revisit Mick’s story because I had goosebumps when I interviewed them, and again when I wrote it.
Two of my family members overseas tested positive for the virus, but were mercifully asymptomatic.
I am not a fan of wearing masks. I don’t enjoy it. I can’t go to yoga class when it is mandatory as I can’t breathe with a mask when I exercise. Yes, it is most likely psychological, but it is bloody unpleasant so I don’t do it. But I wear masks to the shops and as otherwise directed, because science tells me it helps keep our community safe, and the science makes sense. We are lucky here it is not a constant requirement, but only when we have such outbreaks.
COVID19 is here, it is real, and it is having a real impact on the communities it is ravaging all over the world. Denying that is weird. Researching is good, but check your sources. There are vested interests in making you sick.
Isolation is weird
I got back when I could self-isolate at home rather than in special quarantine hotels as is now mandatory across Australia. I was lucky my parents made space for me in their home so suddenly. We were all very careful at that stage as they are at a vulnerable age.
I was lucky my brother let me stay in his empty corporate-let apartment for six weeks when the city was locked down and corporates weren’t travelling. It was strange to walk the normally bustling streets of Brisbane City at different times of the day and night like it was a ghost town.
I liked online parties! They were a staple early on, but I don’t do those much anymore. When in quarantine and lockdown, it was nice to have a drink and a chat with my people all over the place. The work I do now is mostly on my own and mobile, so that didn’t impact me so much. I was already used to spending a lot of time by myself and focusing.
I know for people with kids and mental health issues isolation has added another layer. My friend Deana who lives in “Trump Country” Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in the United States of the movie Groundhog Day fame was kind enough to share her experiences, coping strategies, and difficulties.
It is weird, I am weird, and I am grateful
I am not a goal setter or planner for my life. I know you are supposed to do it. I know HOW to do it. I just don’t do it. Since I was a kid, whenever anyone asked me about my future all I saw was a black hole.
As a result, I am open to life’s deviations. I didn’t plan to be a vagabond, but I am grateful for the crazy experiences and lovely people this lifestyle affords me. I didn’t plan to stay with my parents at this age and for this long, but I am grateful I am entertaining enough they haven’t kicked me out yet. I didn’t plan to be in Brisbane, but I am immensely grateful for the relative safety and freedom I have here, and for my Brissie crew, new and old, I get to play with.
I told one of my friends in the United Kingdom recently I was going to a dress up karaoke party where we were even allowed to dance (since lockdown we now have to be seated again – poor us) and if she could have, she would have ripped her arm through my computer screen and throttled me in a jealous rage. I know how lucky we are here.
I haven’t seen everyone yet, and I don’t see some as much as I would like, but I still have time. Australia is not letting us out or back in for a few months yet, and our vaccine rollout is woeful, but standard of living is second to none so swings and roundabouts, right?
There was/is a lot about this year that is frustrating. There was/is a lot that is inconvenient. There was/is a lot that is hard.
Ready for the new normal?
I am grateful for this bizarre deviation, and also ready for it to be over and usher in whatever our new normal is. Let’s get vaccinated. Let’s wear masks when it is not safe. Let’s listen to what the scientists tell us about climate change, ecology, and the reason this is happening. Let’s be good global citizens. Let’s get travelling again and seeing what this beautiful planet has to show us. Let’s stay connected with our loved ones. Let’s make new loved ones.
And while we transition, let’s be grateful for the lovely things we have in our lives, and be kind to ourselves. We’ve got this.
Until next time!