Australia is closing, but I’m not going home.
Three weeks ago I was hanging out on the beach in the still relaxed Australia, when back at home they were slowly implementing a lockdown in terms of a curfew-threat. I was surrounded by fellow travelers, some like me, hadn’t given the Covid Situation much thought; others already in quite a panic mode but not ready to commit to booking a flight home. On the one hand, there was a feeling of wanting to be close to my loved ones at home. Especially the fear that something might happen to them. On the other hand, I felt safe here, I could still go out – life was normal. Yes, the news were in the background of the hostel kitchen, muted though, not really catching anyone’s attention. Conversations would more often be drifting to the current situation towards the end of that week until Thursday two weeks ago when more and more people booked emergency flights home. The questions Are you going home? and What will you do instead? were daily topics now every time someone new entered the dorm room. I knew my answer was always: No I am not going home, but what I would do I hadn’t figured out yet. It hadn’t actually made it to the actual awareness center in my brain, that this was legit something I need to think about. A bit more than a week later, 75% of the backpackers I had met flew back home. Many others are stranded, have been led off from their jobs, give up their dream to be here due to financial insecurity (among others) if this is a lockdown that will drag over months. Making a decision sure did not come easy for most. I have financial stability, support from friends and 51 more weeks on my visa here; at home I have no job and an even worse situation – I am safer here and determined to make it work. The friends I had made in Noosa all kind of headed off and went their way so I decided to go back to Brisbane and go from there.
I thought by returning to the same hostel in Brisbane I would meet the people I had left a week before. To my surprise most of the ones that said would be there when I returned, had left. Some flew home, some were waiting to fly home and some flew across the country to be with friends. That’s when it hit me. I realized how quiet the hostel and the city had gotten, almost like a ghost town. I had a chat to the hostel owner about the future of the hostel, I was meant to figure out what to do next.
Should I stay there and work for my accommodation or should I just finalize my idea of buying a car and hit the road to make my way to Melbourne to see some friends?
Buying a car would have been so perfect now. It’s a worthwhile investment, backpackers are flying home and need to sell fast, hence their reduced prices. I looked at a few and was just about ready to make a commitment, when they announced the road closures for certain states. First stage of the Corona lockdown plan was introduced to the Northern Territory and the outback, to keep the Torres Straight Islanders safe. Soon travel bans for cars interstate followed, and by Sunday the 22nd of March, states such as Queensland announced road closures and soon to be implemented airport shutdowns for international arrivals. A few minutes later I receive a call from my High School friend from NZ, whom I was going to visit in Melbourne, urging me to take a flight down to Melbourne as soon as I could, best even for tonight. Sudden anxiety about not being able to make it to Melbourne by car and still somehow in my own bubble of “the virus hasn’t spread here as much as in Europe” I wasn’t sure what to do. But panicked by my friend, I did just that. I booked the next flight for tonight, packed my bags and flew down to Melbourne.
Isolation in Melbourne
Ever since taking that flight, it is like the actual awareness center in my brain has finally completely been switched on. I am not sure, if it is because I am not surrounded by people full of panic and fear, no more backpackers that just want to see how bad the situation actually is or should go home, or because now I also feel how this will affect me in the long run. The plane that brought me down to Melbourne was only half occupied, the middle seat was always left unseated. On arrival to the airport, everything was like always. I picked my bag off the conveyor belt and left. I looked for my friend who picked me up,. Strangely after 2,5 years not seeing each other, we did not hug and he was wearing a mask. He dropped me off at the house where I would be staying for the next weeks until I decided what will happen next. He told me to feel like home and left to go to his own apartment. And there I was, kind of just dropped in a stranger’s house.. And that’s where I have been ever since. I have been in isolation since that same Sunday when they implemented stage 1 lockdown. At first, staying inside, isolated by myself was just a precaution. I had traveled on the plane, so technically yes I should be isolating. It was hard to admit that, and hard to actually do that. Just a couple days ago I was enjoying life, learning how to surf. And now I am alone in someone’s house, I don’t even have proper clothing for the cold Melbourne weather, and all of the a sudden it just became real that we are all preparing for the worst in the Covid19 situation – potentially a lockdown, but when that would be implemented, I don’t know. Of course I still went to the store for my grocery shopping, but now instead of going to a Mall, I shopped online for clothing.
It’s been 1,5 weeks now. Last week stores and cafes in the Neighbourhood of Newport were still open just some precausions things like keeping distance were announced. Since Monday this week, apparently, restaurants, cinemas, gyms & co. are closed, unnecessary activities should be avoided. I have already been staying home, but the question whether I can still go to the beach, see a friend for a walk or go to a Second Hand shop nevertheless faced me here. Because these activities are not really “necessary”, but they do give opportunities to leave the house, which I was majorly craving for.
Isolation clashes with my personality
You read of so many people being led down from their jobs, so many backpackers stranded, who want to go home but cannot afford the tickets. I am so fortunate to have friends all over the world that I can rely on, that take care of me when needed. But only 1,5 days into the isolation, I was already going crazy. Staying home and doing nothing is just not me. Maybe a day or two, but hell, I am a workaholic. I have worked three part time jobs while studying not only because I needed the money but also because I CANNOT SLOW DOWN. I don’t really know how to watch Netflix all day in bed without my conscience going ” you should do something more effective”. Every new day in isolation I hope that it will be a good day, that I don’t feel like I have wasted it. I quit my job at the start of the year to travel the world, from continent to continent, to explore countries in depth and maybe building my career. I decided to chase those Holiday Working Visas, starting with Australia and hoping for Canada after this one. The itch inside me was calling to get away and go explore. And now, I am stuck in a house in self isolation. By myself.
What do you do if one of your favorite activities (socializing) is turned into a period of keep your distance and stay at home? What do you do when the one thing you are actually not good at (relax), becomes all you can do?
Having too much time on my hand but not being able to move outside the house as I wish is honestly torture for me. I guess it is time, to learn how to actually relax and find a balance, a feeling of comfort and ease. On day 2, I already decided that I desperately I needed a job to keep me sane. On day 4, I decided that I needed a routine (which I actually didn’t even implement until Day 8). I looked over my bucket list of things I wanted to be able to do one day and picked a few things to work on for now:
- I do a workout that kills me every morning to keep fit
- I do a yoga session and stretching every day that I am terrible at, so that I will find the flexibilty to finally be able to bend over and touch the floor with my hands
- I am now learning Australian Sign Language (Auslan; sign language in general has always been something I wanted to be able to perform)
Additionally I go for a walk every morning around the block, do at least 5 Sudokus and read a chapter of my book. I signed up for a course on the Science of Wellbeing (how ironic) to learn about what truly creates happiness. And I am just counting down until Sunday the 5th of April 2020 when I will get to join my Host family for my new job aus Aupair in their house in the mountains north of Melbourne. Staying isolated, was a condition from the family, one that I was happy to agree to if that meant afterwards I will be in a safe environment, have a job and have something to occupy me with in the future until this crisis blows completely over. By then I will have only completed two weeks of isolation, but boy, it feels like eternity.
Job hunting although everyone else is being dismissed
Before all of this happened, I was hoping that I would be able to further enhance my career towards tourism consultancy in Australia. Now that that is off the table for probably at least until the end of the year, I had to adjust and learn to accept that I will find something else. I know that I am adjustable, changeable even to what is needed – I can make it work. I have lots of different experiences up my sleeve, but none of that really was going to help me get a full time job during the Covid19 Crisis. So I looked into Aupairing ( being a live-in nanny). That way I would have a roof over my head, board covered as well as some weekly pocket money. It sounded like a smart idea, also considering that I did have 2 offers before even arriving to Australia, but they didn’t work out when plans changed so dramatically fast. I was optimistic at first, updated my CV and joined a couple Facebook groups to find a position. There was so much going on there. So many backpackers were posting that they either search for a new family because they are stranded and cannot fly home, families are looking for new nannies because their aupair urgently left etc. It was almost like the toilet paper war in the stores. A family would post an opening for a position and within 10 mins there were 25! comments..By then, my highly motivated self got pretty upset realising that my chances might be a lot lower than what I thought. But, I posted my own little text about me and messaged a few families, I seemed to be saying the right things because I got 3 interviews and I finally found my self a very lovely family!
Acceptance and gratitude made life a lot easier
It took me whole damn week of literally ups and downs to find my own way of dealing with the current situation, which was acceptance and finding a way to move forward. I have felt like people were avoiding me, scared that I might have the virus; I have felt alone and lonely; I have been super grateful for the extra time on my hand to get things done I wanted to do – but didn’t actually do them – so I got frustrated. My frustration levels are through the roof. I had no routine, not many social contacts in the city anyway, so I rely on my friends at home. I have had a full week of not being able to decide what I am feeling like or what my emotions are, although I already have a plan for the future. I learnt to admit, that this is just what the situation is, and I am grateful that I have a support system here and at home, that no matter what, I would make it through. I sat down and logically pointed out to myself, that the decision I have made to come here for a year, was already crystal clear from the beginning, so why would this now make me go back? I am safe here, I have found a way to deal with it – the best possible outcome there could have been for me – and I will sit this out, with a family looking out for me and me looking out for them; hopefully this will all be over soon.
Call for kindness
I just want everyone to learnt to accept the situation how it is, and make the best out of it. I have come across it all. Scared backpackers; scared families looking for the right fit; scared people on the street; people just living normal life; backpackers in hostels just enjoying life; friends out for dinner and drinks; and the complete opposite, careless people, potentially putting everyone else in danger. Now is not the time for hatred and wrongful accusations, for bullying or spitefulness. No-one asked for this, no-one could have known that this is what it would develop to; WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. In my online search for jobs I have read some nasty stuff. I even received a message myself:
Why don’t you and all the other backpacker and people who do not belong to this country, fuck off and go home as you are being told to do? There is not enough space and work for you, and this is Australians home first. Why do you even need to try and steel other peoples jobs, there is enough Australian nannys in Melbourne who need to make a living. You sorts should all leave the country now before we are stuck with you and you are living off our taxes and benefits..
Now, this was a pretty gruesome thing to read in times like these. No-one wants that directed at them, especially If I think about the ones that might receive a bullying message like this when all they actually are trying to do is leave the country to go home..Make the right decision about how to deal with this. Act out of kindness. Be grateful if you are lucky enough to be surrounded by your support system, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, we don’t know what the inside looks like. Me and you can all get into panic mode, empty the supermarkets, get angry at others and let anger out on everyone else. But it doesn’t change the facts, it doesn’t change our current situation. Times are tough and in many cases will become tougher and be with us for a while.,This is a call for mental awareness, making sure we are not just staying safe from the virus, but taking care of our health system, mentally and physically. We need to become aware of the feelings and topics that are coming up. And just feel them. And accept them. For me it’s been a roller-coaster that I still have not gotten off yet. Sometimes I purposely ask myself What can I learn here? With so much time on my hands it has also set off a whole set of emotions and thoughts I probably have not been aware of. The Corona pandemic just brought them up again. In a good way it has given me time to deal with that and find ways to once again see what has been hidden for a bit, for traits I want to make sure to bring to light again and ones I want to develop.
Let’s just all be kind to each other, Franzi 🙂