I had a blog written out ready to post explaining how we were being affected by the virus out here, what our fears are and what our possible next steps are. Within the two days it took for me to get round to posting it some of those concerns are already happening.
For a while coronavirus has been something going on in other parts of the world. We have followed the situation and felt concern for people all over the world suffering but have felt very much in a bubble ourselves. Other than the toilet paper and pasta shortages hitting us and some health and safety signs appearing around the hostel, life continued on pretty much as normal.
Then it seemed like overnight everything changed. I had people coming in to the Peterpans office asking about cancelling trips as they were being advised to return home ASAP, a friend at the hostel who planned on staying out the next few months changed his flights to leave first in two weeks time and then in two days time. I was hearing about people’s tours being cancelled, others were coming in to book things only to cancel them the next day in order to fly home.
Yet UK has still not issued the same warnings yet and so we felt stuck with what to do. On the one hand it felt like we would be panicking to leave suddenly straight away but on the other hand being prepared for the possibility of having to leave very last minute seemed a sensible idea. Our biggest issue is being here on the WHV means that, unlike most travellers, we have commitments here and a life here that we can’t just drop. We have a car, have just started renting a room, a collection of camping gear and surf boards we have accumulated over our time here all of which would need to be sorted before going home.
One of our biggest concerns was losing our jobs. Both being on casual contracts meant our hours could disappear overnight and although we would be able to keep going on savings for a little while this set back would certainly put our travel plans to continue on to New Zealand and do a WHV there unlikely. And two days after trying to sum this up in the original version of this blog, I got a call from my manager to say my hours have been cut for the next 2-3 weeks. Work may pick back up again but for now they are only keeping one manager in each store to keep things running but couldn’t afford to be running at full capacity. Many colleagues were already looking for alternative work just in case. Within half an hour of learning this news I received a text from my second job cleaning to say that in order for Joey to keep his hours (I was cleaning his bosses house while he worked as a housekeeper for their luxury guesthouse next door) she would have to let me go.
Our plans went from: lets stick it out here until we lose our jobs then sell our stuff and travel where we can and head home to completely questioning this. After a long talk we decided to put our New Zealand plans on hold and come home around late May. At this point we were still hopeful that we might be able to do some travelling while here to make the most of our time.
Today we woke up to news about airlines reducing flights or cancelling their international flights. It was enough to make us re-think yet again. Although Australia and Byron Bay is currently safer than the UK, we certainly don’t want to get trapped over here, so although we aren’t rushing and trying not to panic, our plans to leave are definitely moving forward. We spent the day listing every item that we want to sell and currently our plan is to come home as soon as our things have sold, most importantly that the car has sold.
However, everything could still change. New information is coming through everyday and if the UK start recommending we return home our plans may speed up even more.
For now, luckily, Joey still has work and in fact is covering for colleagues who have returned home so we don’t yet have to rely on savings to live out here. Luckily we have just moved into a house and are away from the hostel and mix of people. We feel fairly stable in our situation here for now at least. Yet the situation is stressful and I found myself feeling extremely anxious today. All we can do is keep making plans and sticking to them until the situation changes again.
This trip has been a mixture of incredible highs but also some intense lows. We are so so sad that right when everything seemed to be coming together and we were enjoying living in Byron Bay so much, had plans for future traveling and working, that things have taken a turn for the worse again. But this trip isn’t the same anymore and this pandemic is bigger than this one trip, it changes everything. A part of us is happy to be going home, despite the circumstances, because we do look forward to seeing family and friends (after the necessary period of isolation of course) and being home for big life events that are upcoming in the next few months. This is the silver lining.
It seems no one can predict how things will go from day to day so we continue to monitor the situation and put our plans in place for now. I will post more updates as I can but sad to say for now, it will be making the most of our time left in Byron Bay before we say goodbye to Australia.