COVID19 experiences from an Australian dream trip!

At the start of the Coronavirus outbreak in late 2019, everyone here laughed. There were many memes and parties hosted featuring Corona beer, and only later did it really hit home. I had planned a trip to Australia the year before to go with a friend, but with complications she ended up heading down in November and I booked my flight for late February, and we were to meet up down there. A friend of mine had just asked me to go out with him on February 10th, and even though he knew that I was going to be away for 2 and ½ months, we agreed to try long distance. I had joked to him that maybe I wouldn’t make it home because of the virus.

I was so happy with him, even though it was a two week long relationship; I had never felt like that before. I had boyfriends before, but not like this. Even at 19 years old, I could see past a couple of months with him, and I was able to connect with him on a level that I wasn’t sure if I could ever do, just simply because of whom I was. He was someone my whole family liked, and all my friends. Someone I was proud of, felt lucky to be with, and would do anything for. There were obviously some issues, but I thought that we would work through everything when I got back and get a solid relationship going.

Well I almost didn’t make it back from Australia. My dream trip that I had been planning, was changed right from the get go, and didn’t seem to stop changing. My plans of traveling with my friend when I arrived got delay a month, which was okay because I got to meet some really interesting people. Then the fear of the coronavirus started to hit. I was only a 1/3 of my way through my trip, and the Canadian government was requesting that all of its citizens come home. I had been visiting different family members along the coast between Sydney and Brisbane, and decided to book a flight home from Brisbane for March 29th. Then flights started to get cancelled and my chances of coming home grew smaller. I would try to call my boyfriend or my family to talk to them, but it usually only ended with me being more terrified that I wouldn’t be coming home. There was also the fear that if I left a family household I was staying at, I wasn’t going to be allowed to come back because I might have corona, and so if my flight was cancelled I wouldn’t have anywhere to go. Then my mom got an email saying that all Air Canada flights from Brisbane to Vancouver (a city close to my home) were cancelled. She then was able to switch my flight to March 27th out of Sydney. I then went to stay my last two nights at family friends place before I flew. They drove me to the Sydney International Airport so that I could be there at 7:45am for my 11:15am flight.  I stood in line waiting to check in, when a border officer asked to see my passport. I am a duel citizen of Australia and Canada, because I was born in Canada, and my dad got me my Australian citizenship. I gave the border officer my Canadian passport, because I was going home. He then asked if I had a visa to get into Australia. I replied that I was a duel citizen and that I didn’t need one. Then came the answer that just gave me one big jolt. You can’t leave. Because I was technically Australian, they weren’t going to let me leave. They had brought in a law the night before saying that no Australian was allowed to leave the country, unless they filled out a form and they had a reason for leaving that was on the form.

After trying to contact many people, I finally got in the check in line and got past the border officer. Then at the counter they sent me over to a desk where three flight agents were on the phone with border forces and there were so many people crying trying to get home. After 45mins they told me I could go home! I ran dropped my bag grabbed my ticket and went to wait in security. It was 10:30 as I stood in the security check line up, and my flight took off at 11:15. As I went through security I was pulled aside again because I was a duel citizen and I was told I couldn’t leave. He finally let me go, and I sprinted for my gate. I only had 10minutes before my flight was going to take off, and I just made it. I had decided to stay up the night before so I would sleep on the plane and change to my home time, but because of everything I went through that day I stayed awake the whole time. By the time I finally feel asleep I had been awake for 38 hours.

Now it’s May 26th, and I sit at home writing this. I am safe and healthy, and I am living now with my family. The past couple of months have defiantly been very difficult for me. When I got home my communication wasn’t good when I tried to talk to my two closest friends and my boyfriend. My view on corona was a lot more intense, and our different opinions on social distancing changed something. We started to drift apart, and it was my fault. Something had changed. When I finally got to see my boyfriend, almost three weeks ago now, he said he couldn’t date me anymore. Then I went to go see my two closest friends, and because of my lack of communication of my feelings, our friendship had taken a turn. It was not the same, and I would have to work at it to get back part of it. Things are very different for me, I feel like I lost some of my best friends, and I know it was my fault.

At home we still go out hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities, but in places where we don’t see other people. My mom groceries shops once every two weeks, and we don’t really go out that much. We live on a small farm, so we stay very busy at home, for my mom nothing has really changed she says.  My dad, who commuted to Vancouver to work and live 4 days a week, now works at home. Although working from home is a lot harder for him and stressful, he is happy he gets to spend more time with us. My sister, who was attending high school, now she has school online, and her dance classes are also online. She still goes to work at a pizza shop, but they all have safety standards in place. Visiting friends has been a difficult thing to deal with. My family is a little more strict than most families, so we stay 6ft apart from others and try to do activities that don’t involve being close with others. My sister and I go kayaking, hiking, and biking with friends, we are very lucky to live in an area where there are many trails that are still available to the public, and where there are hardly any other people on the trails. For the past 8 weeks there have been restrictions to stay 6ft apart from anyone you don’t live with, and to limit seeing others, and only essential services should be open, but these restrictions aren’t enforced, so even though many did stay 6ft away from friends, there were also some who didn’t. Now we are allowed to be in contact with 6 other people, who are also only to be in contact with us. Small businesses are also opening up with social distancing and safety measures in place. All universities starting in September are now going to be online.

The coronavirus has changed a lot for me, my family has grown closer, and I feel extremally lucky to have the life I have. I don’t think that things will ever be the same for me, before I left for Australia, but I think things will eventually get better. “Look for the small, good, things in life” my friend told me when I went and cried 6ft away from him, as I told him about how it felt like everything feel apart. I look for the small things every day now, and I am finally starting to see some hope. Thank you for reading my story, and I hope that you look for the small, good, things in life.

Sarah (19) Student from British Colombia in Canada

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