In late March, I had just begun working from home when I pressed publish on my last blog post, which detailed my fears and uncertainty of living abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now July 9th - my six month anniversary of being in Australia - and also my one month anniversary of being back in the office. However, it isn't the same office where I nonchalantly left my notebook, crisps, biscuits and porridge in my desk drawer, and thought I would come back to in a few weeks. To say a lot has changed in the last two months would be an understatement. Yes, six bewildering, exciting, and worrisome months I have been in Australia. And two months, which have held so much weight in how life can throw me a curveball, break me down, only to piece me back up and put me humbly back on my path.
Rewind to March. I set up my work station in my room and clung onto the short time I had spent interacting and getting to know my colleagues in person [one month], thanks to a slew of messages, emails, and work Zoom calls. I actually got into a good routine, using my lunch break to go running, making use of the abundant hiking trails nearby and generally eating healthy. It was a solid month of being alone. Still, I thought I could do with some time to myself after the hectic start to the year, i.e. hostel-to-hostel travelling and the dramas of finding a place to live [A chill still runs down my back when I think about the grim first place I was living in when settling into Sydney life. It was sort of my fault, but that's a story for another day.]
One morning, early in the second month of stay at home orders, I kept to my usual routine. Woke up, grabbed a coffee, flicked on my laptop to get to work when I saw an email from my company's CEO who wanted to have a Zoom 'update' meeting. The sudden surge of panic that was threatening to swamp me was justified ten minutes later. COVID-19 had affected the advertising of the two print magazines I was working for, and as a result, publishing of those titles would be suspended for at least two months - unpaid. Yikes. For the next four weeks, I stayed positive. I was actually taken aback by my ability to keep my head above the surface. Something that would have left me distressed from the get-go didn't appear to traumatise me to the extent I thought it would during those early days.
But then, my finances started dwindling. My landlady, who had been kind, understanding and lenient the first few weeks, began chasing me for rent money. Other [much more qualified] journalists were out of jobs, so I was competing against them when I searched for freelance gigs. As someone living abroad, whose main goal was to find a dreamy work/travel balance, that vision was thrown entirely out of the window as I felt I couldn't really plan ahead at that time. On top of that, the likelihood of being brought back to work following the end of the two months timeframe they had given us seemed less and less likely as no real update of the situation was given to us. It was not fun, and I seriously contemplated returning home to London - where I knew the situation was way worse, but it meant I could save tonnes of money living at home, and venture back out when the world healed. Australia, New Zealand, and all these other places I wanted to go would always be here.
My mind was all over the place. I needed to compartmentalise my thoughts to figure out what exactly I needed to do. I sat down and made a list of things I wanted for myself, both short-term and long-term. I guess you could call it, Law Of Attraction. And you know what, it worked! Suddenly, the next day my work manager offered me a few weeks worth of work at another magazine which wasn't affected by the global pandemic. Gladly, and eagerly, I accepted.
Looking out for me, during the same call, my manager also told me she didn't think I would be back working in my initial job position before my 6-month contract came to an end, and I should keep my eyes peeled for other full-time gigs. I took the advice and a few hours later, reached out to an editor who worked at the Sydney office of the company I was with back home in London. Truthfully, I didn't think it would take me anywhere. But within the next 48 hours, following a nervous slate of phone calls, I had accepted a new job offer, signed the contract and resigned from my previous position. Woah! I spent the weekend catching my breath before the new week rolled around, and I was the 'new girl' once again.
It wasn't how I had planned for things to go. But I now have a stable job, a steady income, and I'm back in a [very nice, super relaxed] office, so things are back on track. What's happening now, you may ask? Well, while it doesn't compare to the UK at all, the Australian chill of winter has made me want to hibernate than jump heads on into the realms of post-COVID lockdown celebrations. However, I have been using my time wisely: Planning future trips, meeting up with friends, and getting back on the dating scene. Seriously, trust the world to unleash a lethal virus prohibiting me from touching anyone when I was more than ready to date. [I did sneakily manage a few social-distance, park-walk dates during the early corona times, but they were very much lacklustre].
So the dreamy aesthetic of my six months Down Under has been marred with chaos, instability and uncertainty - BUT, for me, there are no hard feelings. It's always taken me by surprise when people tell me how bad they feel for me because my living abroad experience has been 'ruined' because I don't feel that for myself personally. It's all been a learning process for me. People have had it a million times worse than me; I'm aware. But given my circumstances, and how I thought I would've handled things, I'm proud of how I've managed to make it down to the other end.
When I walk home from work now, I pass the first hostel I lugged my embarrassingly large suitcase in to. Further along, I pass Central Station, where I sat on top of my suitcase an hour delayed, before boarding an overnight bus to Byron Bay. That first month of travelling the east coast of Australia seems like a lifetime ago. But the last few months has slowly made me realise what I want going forward - The types of trips I want to go on, who I want in my space and company, what I want for my future. While I am aware that the pandemic is nowhere near over, I am so grateful that I still have the go-ahead to travel in Australia [minus Melbourne!] and make the most out of the second half of my time Down Under.