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Australia is different – Part I: COVID19

When we first decided to go on this adventure, it all seemed straightforward: put work commitments on pause, get on a flight, buy a car and a caravan, and off we go on our lap of Australia.

Departure was set for December 2020. We know how that worked out.

“Do not choose to be wrong for the sake of being different.” - Proverb.

COVID19 hit the planet, Australia shut its borders, and we were left stranded with our project. For many months, we were thinking that borders would reopen.

Many countries have learnt to adapt to the pandemic, albeit in various ways. These always included international travel options, be it for economic or social reasons. Thinking of the realities of today’s world, families spread across countries or continents, and businesses dependent on global mobility, it only made sense that things would change.

Let’s face it! Australia is different. Maybe this is why we are attracted to that place on Earth. Australia did not disappoint, and served us “different” on a platter. Our plans fell apart in 2020. How many times have we had that discussion with friends or colleagues: “So, when are you leaving?” – “Well, we are not sure, the plan still holds for now, but we have no flights, no visa for Boris, the kids’ Aussie passports are not there yet, borders are shut, etc”.

Lockdowns and… downs

Whilst the situation was difficult to digest on our micro level at home, we cannot compare it to what people were experiencing in Australia. Especially in Victoria, where Melissa’s parents and friends live, strict lockdowns came one after the other, with very short (if at all) pre-warning, and complete uncertainty as to what tomorrow holds.

We are only beginning to understand the damage that fear, isolation and estrangement has done (and will still do). The next pandemic is crawling under our feet, made up of mental health difficulties and global insecurity about the future.

Our trip was also the promise of family and friends gathering. Special times for the kids to get to know their cousins better. Opportunities to share quality time with the Grandparents. Video chats can only help so much.

Be blessed, be flexible

Whilst traveling last year would have been ideal for professional and school reasons, we had to keep our project alive. Counting our blessings each day that passed, with our eyes locked in on the invisible horizon. We decided that work could adapt in our absence, and that school was still in the early stages, before the crucial 8th year selection in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Leaving in December 2021 would also be the last reasonable window of opportunity.

Having to adapt is also a blessing in disguise. We cannot say that it allowed us to prepare ourselves better (actually we probably planned a bit less, conscious of the uncertainty), but it consolidated our determination as a family to follow through with the project. If COVID19 has done one thing, it has given the opportunity to develop resilience and strengthened bonds across borders.

We boarded on December 13th, not without difficulties (another "Australia is different" story...). We landed in Australia on December 14th, to enter (softer) quarantine protocols.

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