Covid and my travels by Tamsin Salfrais

I am so pleased to introduce the first of my guest blog posts written by the lovely Tamsin who runs the lovely instagram account and blog- www.twentiesintransit.com who had her travelling adventures interrupted by a small thing called COVID. If it had happened when I was travelling I know I would of been devastated and utterly torn with the decision to come home or try and stay put so its really interesting to read all about the many reasons that affected her decision. 
*WARNING* This post includes talk of beaches and pictures of sunny climes and it WILL make you want to run away to Australia but you can't because COVID! Soon though my friends... soon! 
How Covid affected my travels: moving abroad
By Tamsin Salfrais
I’d wanted to experience living abroad for years. However, there was always a reason that it wasn’t the right time: I had a great job, or I had a great flat, or I just wasn’t ready to wave goodbye to the bright lights of the Big Smoke, London.

However, the stars - or was it the aforementioned city’s bright lights? - aligned mid last year, with my landlord selling my flat, needing a new challenge at work and being so over dating in London (though, of course, I met someone special just two weeks after I bought my visa). 2020 marked a new decade and a new adventure.

Enter stage left: COVID 19. It’s safe to say a worldwide pandemic was not in my – or anyone’s  plans. Now I don’t wish to trivialise the absolute devastation the pandemic has had on many families’ and individuals’ lives; my comments in this article are not intended to diminish that. I have my health, my family are safe, and I am very grateful. However, the pandemic did have a profound effect on my travels, ultimately totally turning my plans upside down.

New country, new friends?
Thankfully, I made it to Sydney, Australia, a month before the pandemic and worldwide lockdowns really took hold. I’d lived in London most of my life, not moving further than an hour or two from my family and friends; here, I was 10,500 miles and an 11-hour time difference away from anything familiar. Thankfully, I was in a country that spoke my mother tongue, so I started from the beginning, meeting friends of friends and strangers through solo female traveller groups. I started to build a support network. Well. Until lockdown came into effect. Forging a support network and life in this new country came to a complete standstill before it had really even begun.

What proceeded was six weeks of super strict measures to curb the virus’ spread. I am eternally grateful that a friend I had made on a Morocco G Adventures tour back in 2018 welcomed me into her family home with unprecedented hospitality (I now consider her and her parents family). On my return to Sydney, things had changed. While I had great housemates and we spent time together in front of the tele, watching them go about their day-to-day lives, meet their friends and go on dates really highlighted to me that I didn’t have a life outside the house. While I went out a lot, I mostly did stuff on my own; COVID had massively impacted people’s propensity to meet up with new people (responsibly so) and the ex-pat community had all but dried up as a lot of people chose to return to their home countries. Loneliness was a big part of my time in Sydney, and this was definitely down to repercussions of COVID.

Work
Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, advised all temporary migrants to return to their home countries during the pandemic. Personally, I felt it a tad irresponsible – like Australia, some of these countries’ borders were completely shut – but we weren’t eligible for any help or benefits from the government. A big reason I decided to stay was due to the fact I had a job when it all kicked off, something I’d have been unlikely to return to in the UK. While now, I absolutely love working from home, it felt like another avenue to meet people and forge new friendships was blocked.

The virus has meant many have lost their jobs, and in July, I became one of them. Not only were less jobs a problem, but as time went on, the time limit on my visa became even more of an issue. Roles that may have previously taken me for a shorter contract (or perhaps even eventually sponsored me) were now just looking for Aussies and permanent residents they could hire long term and weren’t as costly. Ultimately, I returned back to the UK because of this.

Travel
Of course, the travel fallout was felt worldwide, however, there were more significant repercussions for those living abroad than for the regular holiday goer. In response to the Coronavirus, Australia closed its borders to international travellers - and they remain closed still(at the time of writing). I knew the moment I chose to leave, it would render the one-time use of my visa finished, which is why I chose to stick it out as long as I did.

As well as its international borders, Australia closed its state borders. While I had big plans of visiting Uluru, The Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays, Perth and even Melbourne this year, I was unable to visit any of these places. Greyhound buses, which are a great way to the see the country without a car, have been suspended out of Sydney (excluding Canberra). However, this meant I explored New South Wales way more thoroughly that I would have done if I’d have been able to visit the more well-known hotspots, and for that I am really grateful.
However, there was one significant repercussion of closed borders that I didn’t foresee having as large an impact as it did: no visitors from back home. Most people that move abroad can enjoy visits from loved ones, cheekily bunking over for a cheap holiday (I’ve been guilty of it!) Not only do you get to share this exciting new part of your life with someone who knows you well, but it can also ease any homesickness. When I left the UK, I had plans (and they had plane tickets) to see at least three friends over the next year. My mum and boyfriend also intended to visit; we thought we’d at least see each other once during my time away and maintained a long-distance relationship with that as a consideration. Alas, I still haven’t seen most of these friends despite my return to the UK (though I have seen my mum and boyfriend)!

Moving back home
After eight months, seven of which ran during the coronavirus pandemic, I decided to cut my losses and return to the UK. Unfortunately, paying rent with no income, while simultaneously being unable to leave the state, meant it made most sense to come back to London. It’s ended up being the right decision, as I have now secured a job.

For others in a similar boat to me, be sure to give yourself time to adjust. My experience with the Coronavirus thus far has been guided by the Australian government, and they have approached the situation very differently to the UK government. I am struggling to get my head around some of the rules and guidelines here, and I feel less at ease in London than I did in Sydney because of this.

While COVID 19 affected my travels in many ways I hadn’t planned, there were experiences I am so grateful for that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I actually got to live like an Australian, rather than a Brit abroad. I celebrated things, like Anzac Day, with a family, took up new pastimes like running, and learned a lot about myself. My time with my friend and her family enabled me to find a new love of being in the outdoors and also find a place where I felt I could go ‘home’ when I wanted to escape the Sydney that wasn’t 24 hours away.

Find out more about Tamsin’s life in Australia during the Coronavirus pandemic on her blog, Twenties In Transit- www.twentiesintransit.com or keep up with Tamsin on instagram- https://www.instagram.com/twentiesintransit/

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