Now that I have so much time on my hands, I figured it would be a good idea to retreat and backtrack to my arrival and my first few weeks in Australia. First of all, Australia wasn’t actually meant to be my destination at this point. After my trip to Russia, I had a flight booked to Bangkok where I was meant to meet a friend and start our three week travels through Thailand/ Cambodia together and continue on my own.Due to the Covid circumstances, a decision was made not to fly to Bangkok four days before departure. At that point, the situation hadn’t deteriorated as much, so travelling was not actually off the table yet for me, so I researched and looked for other options and realized that money wise it would be smarter to just let the ticket to Bangkok go to waste and bought a new flight straight to Brisbane for a week after. Luckily my friend and I hadn’t made any further bookings whatsoever, I didn’t even have a contingency flight from Asia somewhere, because I was going to go with the flow wherever it would take me and go from there. I knew I would eventually go to Australia after Asia, so I had already applied and was granted a Working Holiday Visa. I chose to fly to Brisbane, because on my last trip to Australia six years ago, I didn’t quite enjoy Melbourne or Sydney but had great memories of the city of Brisbane so I figured starting somewhere where I feel comfortable was the best option.
Arrival in Australia and a potential $400 fine for exceeding duty free custom allowance
Despite what many may think, flying from Frankfurt to Brisbane via Doha and Sydney on the 8th of March 2020, was just as any other flight. The only unusual thing was that I was asked upon check-in in Frankfurt, if I had been in Italy in the last 2 weeks. That was it, the flight, the stop over,m the transit in Sydney and then reaching Brisbane was like any other flight. There were no precautional measures because of Corona. However, not everything went just as smooth. On arrival in Sydney, on my sheet for custom borders I had declared that “yes, I have more than a packet of cigarettes, I have a whole box” (my Dad always tells me to get cheap stuff at Duty-Frees that are super expensive in my arrival country (e.g. cigarettes in Australia) so that when I need it, I can make some friends and trade with them more easily)…I had not checked the custom requirements and thought surely if they sell them to be at the airport in Doha and scanning my boarding pass at purchase time, I would be allowed to enter the country with the purchased goods.. WRONG. I was lectured by the custom officer that one was only allowed a whole closed packed and a started one. He told me that he was sorry but I would have to pay a $400 fine for exceeding the allowance. I was shocked. Luckily, the officer soon realized that I honestly and whole heartedly believed that I was doing a legal thing, so I got away without paying a fine by throwing the packets out..HOW LUCKY am I. Finally I arrived in Brisbane at 10.12PM only to realize that no public transport is available, although advertised differently when I checked everything and how to get to my hostel before leaving Germany. What an expensive arrival to Australia, I ended up paying roughly $40 for an Uber to the hostel. I checked in and finally got a good nights rest.
Because I didn’t actually plan to be in Australia for probably another 2-3 months I was a little overwhelmed by all the other travelers in the hostel, who knew exactly what they were doing, plans to head here and there, almost all of them had an itinerary for their time in Australia – a bucket list more-so. I had no idea what I am doing or where I am going first/next (still don’t). I had only booked two nights and ended up extending one by one for a week. I arranged my bank account with Westpac, organized a sim card with Vodafone and ordered my Tax File Number online. I stayed at the Summerhouse Backpacker, quite central and definitely a great choice! I jumped right into the travelers life by joining the pub crawl the very first real night in Brisbane, probably not so smart when dealing with Jetlag. During the days I explored the city with fellow travelers, enjoyed the company of like minded people and just going day by day. Brisbane has so much to offer, a week is actually just the right time to get settled in and organized.
After the week in Brisbane, I was urging to got o the beach to get the holiday feeling of sun and heat that I had been craving ever since my trip from only a few weeks ago where I was traveling across Russia with the Trans Siberian Railway in winter. So making a move towards the coast, the ocean and the beach sounded like a good idea – I took a bus to Noosa. On my trip six years ago I had already explored the village of Noosa and quite enjoyed it there. The timing was great because my newly made friend, Josi, was also staying at the Flashpackers Hostel in Noosa, so together we enjoyed a really great week of laughter, fun, beach and sun. Noosa has lots to offer, with big hikes and walks, landscape of beaches and flora and fauna, definitely a place to relax and just enjoy! I took the courage to go swim in the ocean despite my fear of the open waters and I even got on a surfboard! met a bunch of great people, including Cathryn, the lovely Australian who a couple of weeks later welcomed me to her home in Melbourne ad kindly let me stay with her in her appartment!
Unfortunately, due to the Covid situation, things didn’t stay quite as paradisal..Everyone kind of moved on to find somewhere to stay for the coming period and I went back to Brisbane to sort things out from there…and I finally flew down to Melbourne to stay with an old High School friend and avoid hostel life for a while. Australias border closed off for international arrivals around the 21st of March, we have been in a lockdown period since, the country’s ministers are claiming to try to “flatten the curve” by limiting the numbers in public spaces.