A Kerry emigrant in Australia who may not see her family until 2024, says she would give up her new Covid-19 freedoms there "in a heartbeat" to be able to sit in her parent's kitchen listening to local gossip.
The president of the Irish Australian Support Association of Queensland (IASAQ) Nicola Holly has not seen her family since 2019 and the latest news that the delayed vaccination campaign may put back international travel until 2024 has left her deflated.
Nicola (33) has been in Australia for 10 years and is currently working as the galleries manager of a local university in Brisbane.
"No-one in my family lived abroad. No-one in my family lives abroad, except me," she said.
"This is a common story for the Irish community around the world. A more common story is departing on a one-year holiday visa to Australia, accidentally setting up a life and remaining here 10 years later.
"I have always grown up around family. It’s peculiar now to think that I don’t know when I’ll see them again.
"All my mother's family live in Tralee. My father's family live half an hour away in Ballybunion. The furthest immediate family member I have lives in Dublin.
"Living on the other side of the world in Australia is made easier by one thing: returning to Ireland regularly.
"I used to be fortunate enough to come home once a year, absorb Ireland into my veins, breathe Ireland deep into my lungs, and then I would be good to go for another year abroad," she said.
"News here that international travel may not resume until 2024 and the delayed vaccine rollout left me and many other Irish people shook to the core.
"How is it even possible to be away from your family and friends for that long? When exactly will we be on a plane home? The rational part of your brain is trying to convince you to remain hopeful but the emotional side years for the Emerald Isle
"I've found it hard to convey what it is like living in a country that is perceived to be the desire of the world, yet still longing for home.
You do not want to be seen as ungrateful, but homesickness tends to overshadow everything else.
"You do not want to be seen as ungrateful, but homesickness tends to overshadow everything else.
"How can you miss home when you have a home here in Australia? That's the joy of being an immigrant - the distance between your two homes can split your heart.
"While the world watches as us here in Australia enjoy the freedoms we've been afforded, I can tell you now that I would give up being in a nightclub in a heartbeat in order to be sitting in my parents' kitchen listening to some idle gossip about the neighbours' son up the road."
Restrictions in Queensland have eased since April 15th and facemasks are only mandatory in certain settings. Dancing is allowed, inside and outside drinking and eating is permitted, and there is no limit on numbers gathering in outdoor public spaces.
"It can be difficult to delight in things fully when part of you is missing. There is a special grief for those who have not been able to have that last hug, last goodbye or those whose relationships were unable to withstand the separation.
"I realise now that the most precious resource I had with my family and friends back home was time. Not only being in the same time zone but the laughs, the hugs and simply being in the same room.
"Currently there is no end to this uncertainty, but I've realised that talking about it helps immensely. Everyone is feeling the same and you're allowed to be conflicted about enjoying the freedoms of Australia while deeply missing home. It's only human.
"Whenever I post anything about missing home or suffering homesickness on the IASAQ social media accounts, our engagement is huge, especially from women. That's not to say that men aren't feeling it too, but I think women have closer bonds to family in Ireland.
"The spectacular, soul stealing island of Ireland is waiting for us all to come home when the time is right."