If you had told me two weeks ago I’d soon be packing up my Aussie lifestyle, beach-side home, friends, and personal and professional obligations, to depart the country with less than 24 hours notice, I wouldn’t have bought it. Having lived in Australia for over a year, I felt safe, supported and settled. I didn’t plan on returning to Canada until the end of the 2020. And even then, I considered the possibility of extending my stay; I loved the life I’d built for myself and felt very much at home.
As COVID-19 was slowly spreading throughout the world, I kept track. I knew it would have massive impacts on my colleagues in the travel industry and I ached for them and for all the people who had planned trips to China… then Italy… then Spain. But for the first few weeks, aside from being a bit more cautious in public spaces, COVID-19 didn’t make a huge impact on my personal life. Then, as everyone knows – things seemed to get very intense, very quickly.
Canada’s Prime Minister advised Canadians abroad to return. Within days, my insurance provider contacted me to let me know that they would cover costs for an evacuation flight to my home country. Suddenly, fees from Sydney to Toronto were soaring above $10,000. Some airlines were grounding Australian operations altogether. Finally, my concerned family chimed in. I took a deep breath, and on the advice of my insurance provider, booked a flight for the following day.
The stress of wrapping up my entire life on such short notice was one of the most intense and surreal experiences I could have pictured for my departure from Australia.
The stress of wrapping up my entire life on such short notice was one of the most intense and surreal experiences I could have pictured for my departure from Australia. I packed what I could, broke the news to my friends and roommates, coordinated storage and dealt with the administrative and financial impact of breaking my lease. Then, I said a hurried, distracted goodbye to my happy community of friends, not knowing whether I’d ever see some of them again.
At the time of writing, I’ve been in quarantine in Toronto for a week and just as absorbed in the news updates as everyone else seems to be. Though disappointed about the outcome of my experience, I’m focusing on being appreciative for the health and safety of my loved ones and sleeping off my jet lag.
I left Sydney distraught, unsure of whether I’d made the right choice. Now, as many of my expat friends have found themselves struggling to find safe routes home and been left stranded for an undetermined amount of time, I’m finally feeling confident about my decision.
This pandemic is tragic. But it also reminds us of our humanity. Stay safe and stay positive, wherever in the world you have decided to see it through!