The Covid Diary: Hilde, 36 years old, Australia

“Go with the flow, with an open heart- With that in mind I got on a plane to Sydney on March 13th. No plan, no bucket list, just looking where life will take me.” 

In my first week in Sydney I didn’t notice anything about the Coronavirus. While the Netherlands went in complete lockdown, I was walking through the botanical gardens, the famous beaches and went to see the Opera House. A friend from Sydney asks me to go on a roadtrip with her, a trip to the outback where she grew up. Cool! Off the beaten track. 

After a 12 hour road trip, she drops me off at my airbnb in the evening, no idea yet about the chaos that is coming. I go to sleep and wake up the next morning with the news: Australia will go on lockdown within the next 48 hours. All who have been overseas in the last two weeks must self isolate. Then it hits me “how am i going to do that? I am literally in the middle of nowhere!” 

Peter & Kaiko (the people where I’m staying) help me search the local marketplace. Within 2,5 hours I find an advertisement for a campervan, I call the owner and decide I have to trust him. I make a down payment of 550 dollars. To pick up the camper I have to make a drive of ‘just 4 hours’. The problem is, I can’t drive I have to use public transport, in total it took me 15 hours plus an overnight stay to get the camper. For the first time I get an eerie feeling, I get yelled at at the bank: ‘you shouldn’t be in here! You should isolate yourself’. That’s right, I do need to isolate myself, but to do that I need a camper and to buy that camper I need money. I feel so guilty, but what else can I do? 

To my relief, the owner of the camper is super sweet. He invites me to his house for dinner and trusts the online payment I make. 

It’s 8:00 pm, dark, and I’ve got my portable house. At KMart I buy a pillow, a blanket, a few plates, cutlery, a kettle, a yoga mat and some decorations. Finally, at least I can sleep. Still got to find a place where I can put my camper, I start driving and pass a parking lot next to the beach. There are toilets here, mission accomplished! 

For a split second I start crying, all of this is causing so much anxiety. Am I still allowed to do groceries? Can I even go to a camping? 

The sunrise is slowly awaking me. It is beautiful here! This is giving me faith that I’m doing the right thing. Time to go to the supermarket and registration office. At the office I have another setback: ‘you are not allowed in here, you must isolate’. I’m tearing up, “I’m trying!” The lady from the office calms her voice: ‘It’s ok sweetie. Just take your van somewhere safe and isolate for 2 weeks. You can do registration later.’ 

In that moment I decide to drive. If the borders do close, I’d rather be in Queensland where the weather stays warm and nice. Six Hundred miles later, I’m driving past the border without any struggles. I come across a campsite only opened for people like me: no permanent place to live and no option to go home. 

Finally peace, finally safety. 

I enjoy where I am staying. Doing yoga, going for beach walks, meditating, reading, looking at the sunrise, the moon above the ocean every night, listening to music and video calling with homefront, the Netherlands. My van is awesome, the pink heart garland is peacefully greeting me every morning. If you get stuck somewhere in the world, this is the perfect place. I’m slowly getting used to the idea that this will be my home for at least 4 months. In the meantime, everything in Australia has gone into total lockdown. If I leave the campsite, the owner has to report me to the police. I get a message from the Emirates, they were supposed to fly me back at July 11th, the flight has been cancelled. Friday Night I get a message from BBB: you can join repatriation upcoming Thursday, the flight will depart from Sydney. Shit! Very little time and a lot of arranging to do. But with the help of all the lovely people here I get it together. In a day and a half I have: storage for my van until it is sold, packed and cleaned everything and found transport from here to Sydney. Ready to go. I get into bed for the last night in my camper when one more email arrives: ‘BBB- the flight has been cancelled.’ 

For the first time I’m down, really down. What a total mindf*ck. 

The next day I find my car key (which I lost for 5 days) and start laughing in disbelief. The universe always seems to help me exactly at the right time. I start to accept (again) that I may be stuck here for months, on my own, with my van. At least I will have enough time for reflection. Until all of a sudden I get another message from BBB: ‘the flight may still be on for Sunday’ And that’s all we know so far. 

And so here I am in my camper on Wednesday evening. While writing this, I don’t know if I’ll have to pack up tomorrow and start my trip to Sydney to catch a flight, or whether I’ll be living here for weeks (or months). Fortunately, I find guidance with the Stoics:

“Change what you cannot accept, accept what you cannot change.”

So I keep doing what I started my journey with: go with the flow with an open heart 🧡

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