I've Been Stuck in Australia Since the Start of Quarantine
Since the beginning of the year, we've all been hearing whispers about coronavirus. Unfortunately, it took a while for all of us to realize just how serious this illness might be.
In late Feb., I set out on a planned trip to Australia. Little did I know that my return flight home would be canceled due to the pandemic. Now, I'm stuck in a foreign country trying to wait out the worst of COVID-19 before I head home.
Keep scrolling to find out exactly what it was like being stuck in Australia when COVID-19 got serious.
Thankfully, my planned journey to Australia wasn't just a vacation. My boyfriend lives in Australia, so I've made the long journey across the pond quite a few times. This year, my original plan was to make the trip three to four times for a few weeks each time. That way, my boyfriend and I could spend some time together until he makes the big move to the U.S.
When I got on the plane in late Feb., I planned to stay until early April. I already had my return flight booked and was ready to spend six weeks with my guy before heading home.
At the start of my trip, coronavirus was already a topic of conversation. We knew that the virus was pretty bad in China, but it hadn't become a big deal in the US. In the airport, a few people seemed to be extra cautious, but other than that it was business as usual. When we landed in Australia, however, the flight attendants did spray the plane with a sanitizer, which was a bit out of the norm.
For the first few weeks of my time in Australia, it was hard to figure out what was really happening with coronavirus. Was it a serious concern or was it just another strain of the flu? Now, it sounds so silly that I didn't recognize the significance of the virus right away, but the information available was scarce and often contradictory.
As the weeks progressed, however, coronavirus became a big deal. The virus made it to the U.S., and I could see on the news that states and cities were starting to shut down to prevent the spread. Talking to friends and family and reading more information about the illness, I realized that this was not something to be messed with.
Still, the virus hadn't made its way to Australia yet. There were a few confirmed cases, but nothing like what was happening back home. Nothing was shutting down in Australia and it was unclear if the country would need to take extreme measures like the U.S. I kept trying to convince myself that all would be well, but it definitely wasn't.
At this point, my anxiety was through the roof. It was confusing to feel like everything was falling apart back home, but things were still entirely normal where I was. Then, Australia started to see its first spike in cases. The country acted quickly, closing the borders and putting lockdown measures in place within a couple of weeks.
Unfortunately, the border closures also meant my flight was canceled. Now, I had no way to get home. I kept calling airlines, trying to figure out when flights would start up again, but no one could give me a definitive answer. I didn't blame them—something like this has never happened before, after all—but I did feel a sense of frustration that I didn't even have an idea of how I could get home.
Thankfully, my situation was fairly comfortable. I know of people who were stuck in foreign countries on vacation where they had to pay for hotels and other accommodation while struggling to find a way home. Since I was with my boyfriend, I had a place to stay that wouldn't be pulled out from under me. I also had his emotional support, which made the process a little easier.
After calling multiple airlines with no success, I realized that getting home wasn't going to be as easy as simply buying a plane ticket. I was stressed about the situation. After all, I had commitments back home that I needed to fulfill. I wasn't planning on staying in the country, and the thought of being stuck indefinitely made me feel panicked.
After numerous phone calls with family and friends, I finally decided that the situation was out of my hands. I was safe, I wasn't wasting money and—most importantly—I can't force airlines to restart their flights. Begrudgingly, I decided that I would stick around and wait things out. Then, towards the end of April, I got some good news—certain airlines would operate limited flights from Australia to the US on specific days. There was a chance I could get home!
What Do I Do?
Of course, the situation wasn't that easy. While airlines were operating flights, they weren't exactly convenient. Many of the flights were based out of Sydney, and I was in Melbourne. The borders between states were also closed for a while, so I'd have to take a train or drive down to Sydney. The journey home would require 30+ hours of travel through multiple airports. When I got home, I'd be living with my immunocompromised grandma, and the thought of picking up coronavirus on my trip and giving it to her terrified me.
Plus, there was the issue of my boyfriend. The Australian borders were closed. If I left, I had no idea when I'd be able to get back into the country. At the same time, as an Australian citizen, he wasn't allowed to leave. We were running the risk that we wouldn't see each other for months, or perhaps even a year.
My heart was so conflicted while trying to make the decision. On one hand, I felt I should go home. I missed my family and I had everything I needed there. In Australia, on the other hand, I was missing crucial parts of my routine like prescription medications and skincare products. Even writing it now, I realize how silly it sounds, and that was the eventual conclusion I came upon.
Beyond missing my family, all my reasons for not staying in Australia were simply inconveniences. I didn't want to put in the extra effort to obtain things in a foreign country when I only planned to stay for a short amount of time. But considering the situation with my boyfriend and the potential dangers of traveling back home, I decided to stay.
Lockdown in Australia
Lockdown in Australia was much the same as the U.S. Non-essential businesses closed and restaurants could only serve takeout. We weren't supposed to interact with anyone who didn't live in the house, which meant we were practically trapped inside alone for more than 50 days.
Thankfully, my partner and I experienced none of the quarantine horror stories from couples. We got along very well, and the only dark spot during quarantine was a desire to spend time with friends and hang out somewhere that wasn't the couch.
After nearly two months of quarantine, Australia started easing restrictions. Restaurants are now open for a limited number of guests, and you can have up to five outside visitors in your home. We made it through the worst of the pandemic, but the world is far from back to normal.
The Situation Today
Today, I'm still in Australia, waiting for the world to find some normalcy once again. Flights still aren't available on a regular basis, and most cost an exorbitant amount of money and 30+ hours of travel just to get back to California. I'm also waiting for some idea of when international travel might open up again, so that I'll at least have an idea of when I'll see my boyfriend if I leave the country.
I managed to see doctors in Australia to refill my prescription medication and keep my life moving forward as usual. I also had to apply for a new visa that's still being approved. Trust me when I say that staying in the country wasn't the easiest decision.
For me, coronavirus meant an unplanned "move" to a new country. While I still don't plan to stay here permanently, I'm preparing myself for a few more months across the ocean from my home. While it's certainly not the worst situation, it's not what I was planning at the start of this year. I'm happy to be safe and healthy, but I'm hoping that my journey home isn't too far away.
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