Having grown up and spent essentially our whole lives in Canberra, my girlfriend Lauren and I moved to Edinburgh to experience life in a new city and above all to travel across Europe.
We arrived at the beginning of February and because of the coronavirus pandemic we're due to arrive back in Australia on Tuesday.
After several fraught days and many discussions with friends and family we made the difficult decision to abandon the year we had worked so hard to prepare for and fund.
We gave up jobs, sold a car and spent countless hours preparing for what was going to be a lengthy time away from our families and our home but carving our own path on an adventure. The stress of preparing was only eclipsed by the stress of trying to negotiate out of rental agreements and contracts only entered into a couple of weeks before.
As we watched countries across Europe shut their borders and enter lockdown, it became clear travelling as we'd planned was off the table. Instead of waiting for a reprieve that may take many months and wasting more time and money we decided we'd prefer to see this scary new reality through with the support of our loved ones.
It became a matter of constantly weighing up worst case scenarios and deciding which was the least objectionable. Doing things for silly notions such as enjoyment went out the window some time ago.
I'm shattered. I'm angry - random profanity-laced outburst startling some nearby Scots level of angry.
I'm also not alone it seems, as the Aussies in Edinburgh Facebook page was soon flooded with posts from anxious Australians seeking advice about whether to return. The prime minister's warning to Australians across the globe to 'get home soon' solidified things and now we're left with a stressful wait to see if our flights will indeed take off. Securing somewhere to isolate for the 14 days also proved a difficult challenge as people don't want two potential virus carriers in their homes or accommodation and staying with family could potentially put them at risk.
But with the current predicament the global community finds itself in, no one was going to be left unaffected. It is totally unprecedented in the modern world. And certainly people are in a much worse position than us.
Working in the media I have picked up the very bad habit of endlessly scrolling through social media reading innumerable amounts of news articles and, even worse, the comments sections that go with them. Did you know we're either all going to die, as in the entire world's population, or this is a ridiculous overreaction to a little old cold? Online there is no middle ground.
However, social media, and even news media, is not real life. This was never more obvious to me than on one sunny afternoon - in Scotland of all places!
After a couple of days inside poring over what seemed like every coronavirus related article written, I decided to take a walk along the Promenade at Portobello Beach, a place we were very lucky to secure a flat for all of about two weeks. Incidentally, compared to what we have back home these really shouldn't be called beaches. Children building sandcastles wearing down jackets and beanies was rather comical to a pair of Australians.
But the most striking thing was that the beach was packed with families, people walking dogs, food vendors, all together enjoying a rare day in the sun. It certainly didn't seem there was a global pandemic going on.
I suspect had I been walking to the Trevi Fountain, along La Rambla or the Champs-Élysées it would have been a different story, but nevertheless it was an interesting paradox to witness firsthand.
I haven't seen hand sanitiser or liquid soap in about a month. It's a gamble whether pasta or rice will be on the shelves. The panic buying phenomenon seemed to catch on later here than in Australia, but now, like home, toilet paper is a rare commodity. Stories of the Australian toilet paper shortage hit the media here and not long after it disappeared here too. Congratulations Australia, you caused a global movement. Probably not one to be proud of.
Some Scottish distilleries, renowned across the globe, have stopped production and have begun using their alcohol to produce hand sanitiser - genius.
I'm still a member of Canberra and Queanbeyan noticeboards on Facebook and joined some Edinburgh based ones too. Somewhat interestingly similar posts shaming panic buyers and others offering to purchase groceries for the elderly and infirm soon dominated here and at home.
It hurts to see a dream we had disappear before it ever truly had a chance to eventuate. More than a year of planning went into this trip and many thousands of dollars have now been lost, without any way of recompense. During difficult times throughout 2019, months of bushfires and smoke, we naturally dreamed of the year ahead, the new countries, new foods, and exciting memories we were sure to create. Disappointment doesn't really cover it.
The thing is, it's really easy to be disappointed and angry, I find myself feeling rubbish most of the day. I think what I'd like to achieve, as with anything, is a little greater perspective. Lauren and I are incredibly privileged. We're young and healthy, all the statistics overwhelmingly suggest if we contracted COVID-19 we'd make a full recovery. Once this madness is over we will be able to travel again. We have plenty of family to support us post-isolation.
As with anything the coronavirus and the associated fallout will disproportionately affect the elderly, the sick and disabled and the poor. Many older and unwell Australians are in for a terrifying few months at least. More Australians live at or below the poverty line than ever before, many more will likely join them before all is said and done.
I am biased of course, but the thought of going through the next few months anywhere other than Australia terrified me, every time I am away it is reaffirmed in my mind that there is no better country. I hope the community spirit I associate with home holds strong through this time, especially for those most in need.
So please, everyone, lay off the toilet paper.
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