HAVING rang in 2020 on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Sydney, this is definitely not where I expected to be less than three months later. I'm writing this sitting on a practically empty Aer Lingus flight from London Heathrow to Cork Airport having been one of the lucky ones whose flights actually weren't cancelled and is getting home before the world goes into complete lockdown.
When so many of my friends had gone to Australia for a year in my early 20s I had stayed at home and to be honest I hadn't given it too much thought until last year when the age limit for the Australian working holiday visa eligibility went up to 35. I decided that it was now or never and booked to fly on New Year's Eve and start a new chapter of my life on an adventure to a new country.
I was travelling with one of my friends and another would travel over to join us a few weeks later. The plan was to fly into Sydney, spend a few days there, then head for Melbourne as I had a friend who was living there long term and I had heard great things about the city. It was a great start to the year, although Australia was dealing with horrific bushfires and in the midst of a crisis of their own at the time. Sydney was beautiful and we did all the usual tourist things in the city and then headed for Melbourne. We had booked to stay at a hostel in St. Kilda for a week which is definitely where you'll find most of the Irish that head for Melbourne. Luckily during that time we found a great apartment in Southbank just 15 minutes walk to the city centre and two minutes walk from the Yarra river. The location was amazing and the public transport made it easy to get anywhere we wanted to go.
I was lucky enough to find a job three weeks into my trip and started working for a Melbourne based plus sized clothing company on their concession in David Jones which is the Australian equivalent of Brown Thomas. Everything was going so well until a virus broke out in China and the rest is history.
Last Tuesday we had to sit down and discuss our future plans and the impending situation that coronavirus had thrown at us. It was a paddy's day to remember ending in one of the hardest decisions I've had to make to date. We weighed up the pros and cons, and the reality of the situation and although none of us wanted to leave we all came to the agreement that Australia was going to end up in lockdown sooner or later so going home seemed to be for the best. Our jobs were casual because of being on working holiday visas so we knew we didn't have any job security. I had already been sent home early from a shift and had another shift cancelled completely so it was only a matter of time before I would have no work at all. Living in a country where you're not a permanent resident so have zero entitlements and rent to pay was not a very appealing option.
We were watching the news and the situation in Ireland constantly and knew it was only a matter of time before borders began closing so we booked our flights to come home for the following Monday. We gave ourselves a few days to wrap our heads around the situation and tie up any loose ends which may not have been the wisest as airlines began cancelling flights left, right and centre. Luckily for us, we had booked with Qatar, and our flights went as planned and we're getting back home safe and sound but so many Irish have been left stranded after so many airlines grounded their planes. I can only imagine how they are feeling now and I hope arrangements can be made to get them back home as the prospect of getting stuck there with no support was what made us all decide to leave.
I have my fingers crossed for the future, hopefully I'll get to return to Australia and give it a second shot but for now I'm very glad to be back on the Emerald Isle and back to my family.