By now, most of you would be aware of what’s going on the world.
I mean, how could we avoid hearing or reading about it? When your news feed is flooded with nothing but bad news about how many people have died, how many confirmed cases there are and what places are closing
Or perhaps you’ve heard of or are even experiencing a country in lock down.
If you haven’t kept up with the news, you’ve probably faced the struggle to find toilet paper, hand sanitizer or even pasta. Perhaps you’ve been stood down or let go from work…
Basically, the world is (kinda) falling apart right now…
Personally, I’ve seen and experienced my fair share of everything that’s come with this virus…(thank god my loved ones are safe and healthy)…but the biggest thing that’s affected me, has been not being able to find work.
I guess that’s what’s changed my ‘destiny’ and led me to where I am today.
Since I have so much spare time at the moment, I thought I’d take the time to share my corona-journey with you ~ from the moment the effects of the virus hit me until the day I get out of quarantine (no I don’t have the virus but I am self-isolating at the moment).
I know I haven’t been present on my blog for a long time but reading this blog might help give a picture of why I’ve been hiding away from the online world (I will eventually get to writing my other stories but for now, I think I might as well write about my experience while it’s all fresh and new)
The calm before the storm
Where do I begin?
I spent a whole year of my life traveling around the world and finally decided to call it quits and come home…
I used up all my money so it only made sense to go back home (Perth) where I could make some money while being supported by my family (thanks mum and dad!). Well, at least until I had enough money to go back to Melbourne and start my life again anyway.
On the day of my triumphant return, I surprised my best friend for her birthday, surprised another friend and began to settle back into Australian life ~ something which was so distant from me for a year.
It wasn’t easy…but I eventually found my way ~ I got a job, spent lots of quality time with my beautiful friends and family, and even had time to explore my own backyard.
I only intended to stay about 2 months, but those 2 months somehow turned into 6 months! (Oh how time flies).
As hard as it was to leave from the comfort of my easy life back home, I achieved my financial goal and felt that it was time for me to go.
And just like that, I booked my flight to Melbourne…but of course, as a bit of a spontaneous traveler, I wasn’t going to go home without going somewhere else before truly settling in and starting a life (yep, I stopped over in Sydney and also decided to have a little holiday in New Zealand on the way back because…why not!?)
After my little getaway
I won’t bore you with the details of my trip because I want to get straight into the point of this blog 😉. All I’ll say is that I splurged, spent a lot of time with myself with nature, and had a fantastic time…
Once my trip was over…it was time to face another reality ~ going back to Melbourne and starting from zero all over again.
When I landed, I felt a strange mix of emotions ~ it felt so surreal seeing the city I called home for 5 years…but at the same time, fear and anxiety started taking over.
Being in Melbourne just for a brief moment the day I landed confirmed that I wasn’t ready for city life yet. Being there made me feel like running away as quickly and as far as possible. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to start a life in the city at all. I was so grateful that I was staying with a friend in Ballarat (which is a small town that’s 1.5 hours away from Melbourne city by train).
Life in Ballarat
The biggest priorities for me were:
- Deciding where I wanted to live
- Finding accommodation
- Finding a job
I desperately wanted to find a house to have my own space…even before finding a job.
Somehow in the process of looking for work, I spontaneously decided to check out Geelong (another regional city about 1.5 hours away from Melbourne city by train).
As soon as I stepped off the train, I fell in love with the city and felt in my heart and my gut, that it was where I wanted to settle.
I even managed to organise 3 house viewings that day on my way there.
It just so happened that I ended up booking an Airbnb with the most amazing hosts as well. When I got there, I instantly connected with my host ‘Leo’. He knew that I was exploring the option of settling in Geelong and was determined to get me in touch with his contacts and his wife, ‘Lily’ to help me find work (she was a manager for a governmental organisation). After I left, he gave her my number and made sure that she’d call me.
I couldn’t believe how kind-hearted and giving these people were.
Things were looking good – I made a nice connection and all the house viewings were great too. The only negative was that it didn’t seem like any restaurant, café or bar was hiring anyone…
But I still had hope.
The next day, Lily called me, giving me a wealth of information and offering to assist me in applying for a job with her organisation.
Omg…Things couldn’t look any better!
I went home to Ballarat and started working on my very difficult applications.
Because I’ve always enjoyed working outside of home…it was the plan to go to the library everyday and work on my applications there.
The first day two days were fine, I could go to the library with no problems…but on the 3rd day, the library had a big sign saying:
“We are closed due to Covid-19”
Wow…shit was getting real.
I had no choice but to work from home. In a sense, I was self-isolating without realising.
After working non-stop for 5 days, I finally submitted my applications.
It felt good to do something challenging again ~ I truly felt like I was in a promising situation; I had strong support for my job application and found great places in Geelong with equally awesome housemates…but for some reason, I still felt like I needed to check out some more places in Geelong. It only made sense to stay at Leo and Lily’s place again.
I made my way back down there, checked out at least 10 more places (all of which were equally amazing) and had a really nice dinner with Leo and Lily.
This time, I came as their guest and not a paying customer.
During dinner, they made a proposition.
Lily: “Why don’t you stay with us until you find a place?”
Wow ~ These guys were basically going to adopt me, give me a room, feed me and help me to get a place and job. They even offered to drive me to all my house viewings.
I couldn’t believe my luck!
But after my joy passed, a big, underlying worry ran through the back of my mind.
What if I couldn’t find any work at all?
And then Lily said that I had to wait at least a month to hear anything about the job.
I ended up making a deal with myself that if I couldn’t find a job in a week or two, I’d fly back home to be with my family.
But then, I kept reading more and more news of places shutting down…and then my mum called.
Mum: “Why don’t you just come home until this blows over? You can stay here without paying bills or rent while it’s so hard to find a job at the moment.”
Me: “Yes I’ll have a serious think about it today.”
I had 2 more viewings to do but really couldn’t be bothered anymore…
I was exhausted with all my efforts and felt like my mum was right. I couldn’t help feeling like I should go home, especially after she called. But then again…I’d already invested so much time, energy and money into getting a job and finding a place in the past two weeks. I felt like I was this close to finding my dream home with dream housemates and to getting a good job which paid well.
It was decided…
I was going home…
But when should I go?
It was Saturday and I still had lots of groceries I wanted to finish eating before flying back ~ I thought 5 days would be enough to finish everything so I settled for flying home on Thursday.
Sunday 22 March 2020: When the shit-show began and everything (almost) fell to pieces
Just as I was about to book a flight for Thursday, I received a message from my dad.
Dad: “Mei, have you seen the news, they are closing the borders for domestic flights.”
This was just what I needed.
I couldn’t help but panic.
I frantically searched online to see if what my dad said was true and found that only two states in Australia closed their domestic borders…but then found an article which indicated that Western Australia would probably follow suit shortly after.
Well, I guess I’ll go home on Tuesday instead then.
I quickly booked a flight home. It was bound to arrive in Perth at 4.30pm which would give me enough time to pack in the morning and get to the airport.
And then…just as luck would have it ~ I read an article which said:
“Perth will close their borders for all domestic flights from this Tuesday at 1.30pm”
That’s when the real stress and panic kicked in. I could barely breath.
Was I going to be able to get home at all?
All I could think of was exchanging my flight for an earlier one.
I tried calling Tiger Airway’s customer service but they’d shut their offices.
What was I to do?
I did what any person who was desperate to get home would do ~ I cancelled the flight and searched for a new one that would get in before the borders closed.
Tiger’s flights were completely sold out.
I decided to try my luck with another airline and thankfully, I found one at 11pm.
I could finally relax…
I was going home!
I must admit, I was paranoid that the airline would cancel my flight because it seemed to be the popular trend of all the airlines.
I accepted that it might have been my destiny to be stuck in Melbourne ~ luckily I was staying with such a beautiful supportive friend who would let me stay with him if I got stuck.
23 March 2020: The day of the flight
Packing took much longer than expected but I got there in the end. My friend agreed to drive me to the airport (it was a long, 1.5 hour drive).
The drive was really enjoyable because we had so much time to have deep discussions about life and all that jazz, but the closer we got to the airport, the more my heart sank.
Anxiety started taking over again. My gut felt twisted.
I don’t think I’d ever been this scared to catch a flight before.
But then, I noticed how empty the airport was.
I was so relieved.
I checked in and made my way to the gate.
As I got closer, more and more people began appearing. The waiting area near the gate looked full and like there were enough people to fill a whole plane.
Are they even going to bother applying social distancing rules on this flight?
What bothered me the most was that most people didn’t seem to be practising social distancing at all.
Even when we were boarding, everybody stood so close to each another. It made me feel so uncomfortable.
The plane was also no exception ~ it was 100% full with a few people coughing here and there. I could hear a child and her mum coughing in the seats behind me. There was nothing that could get rid of my worries…but there was also nothing I could do about the situation.
Even the hostesses announced that they would be stood down after that flight and that they were on that flight because they wanted to help.
It was a nice reminder that everyone was in the same boat. Everyone just wanted to go home.
And after 3.5 long hours, we finally made it home.
Now I am stuck at my friend’s apartment in isolation for the next 14 days. Thankfully, she has well stocked me up with books, food and puzzles to keep me occupied. Although it will be interesting to see how the 14 days will unfold.
I hope you enjoyed reading my story.
Stay tuned for my daily coronavirus-diary updates.