The Journey

So here we are. Three years after I last blogged regularly and about seven years since I first started writing them. I had grand plans to write again this year, but I’d fallen out of habit and just couldn’t focus hard enough to get the thoughts out of my head. I found too many distractions. I was on sabbatical, happily travelling the world for no reason other than to tick enough places off my list that I could throw away the travel brochures in my storage unit. Europe first, then Africa; for almost a year I was taking the first major, independent holiday of my life. I had this list of things I planned to do as I travelled; setting up a business, read many of the books in my e-book collection, write. Instead, I happily got caught up in watching tv series’ season by season, and, by the time I was sitting on an overland truck crossing Africa, I’d gotten addicted to a mindless game app. I didn’t mind too much, I mean, what else to do on a truck for six hours each day? When I tried to write, I got motion sickness. I couldn’t focus on ideas for the business, I couldn’t even get through podcasts. My mind was firmly set in enjoying Africa doing nothing in particular.

In the background was this ever-changing world. Coronavirus was spreading, first China and parts of Asia. Then Italy. Passing Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, we got maybe five minutes a day of wifi if we were lucky. So, while we knew it was out there and spreading, we existed in this cosy, isolated, news-free haven of our truck and while some worried about what they read, I felt untouchable. We were fine. COVID-19 had not hit Africa, other than a case or two; we were safer than if we were at home, oddly enough.

Then one afternoon in Namibia, everything changed.

Suddenly, the border to South Africa would be closing in a couple of days for two thirds of our group – the Americans, Germans and English would not be allowed to cross it. By the time we planned to reach it a week later, we could safely assume that the rest of us would not be able to cross either. My world started to crumble. The trip I had dreamed of for 20 years started to implode. By morning, our tour was cancelled and it was decided we would drive straight to the capital, Windhoek, so people could make plans to get home. We did not know how long we had until Namibia also closed its borders, but after 56 hours, we would not be able to transit through South Africa to leave the continent. It was the smallest thing, but my roommate and I had been so looking forward to seeing some of the biggest sand dunes in the world, and going quad biking that day in Swakopmund. That was maybe the straw that broke that proverbial camel’s back.

Everyone else had family to return home to, a home to isolate in. That crazy week in March, borders shut like wildfire around the world, countries went into lockdown, and people flew home to isolate. My tour buddies had family at home filling their fridges with food to get them through their quarantines, and they busily set about changing their flights home or buying new ones because their transit airports had closed.

Me? I was in shock. I always see the forest not the trees, and the bigger picture for me was not remotely what I had planned for my year. I cried for two days until I searched my medical pack for medicine that might calm me into an unfeeling stupor. I knew that for everyone else, their holiday was done early and it was simply time to go home. For me, after spending 18 months on hiatus travelling, my plan had been to take on temporary nanny jobs internationally until September, to top up my savings. To use any gap times to finish my travel blog adventure and to work on business plans, so that eventually I could come home with savings to set up a new home in Melbourne, proceed with working from home and move into launch. No more long term travels. Be a grown up.

But now? I was grounded. No big savings behind me. No home to go to, just a hotel. Groceries to buy before I settled into quarantine. For the first time ever, I was envious of people who were settled, because they had full fridges and warm beds to go home to, and I didn’t. I’d need to find a job, a place to live. I’d need to recover my car from family in Adelaide, somehow. I’d need to sort out my travel insurance claims… the list of tasks was exhausting, and I was completely in over my head, breaking down. The overwhelm was unreal.

As I sat in my hotel in Windhoek that day, numb and broken, the verses of Peter Allen’s I Still Call Australia Home, danced over and over about my mind in a numbing shock. His fantasy song was becoming real. It felt somewhat apocalyptic; a time I never thought I’d see.

All the sons and daughters
Spinning around the world
Away from their family and friends
But as the world gets older and colder
Its good to know where your journey ends

Someday we’ll all be together once more
When all of the ships come back to the shore…

It’s a few weeks later and I’m sat in my new apartment, writing again. I’ve processed things a bit and find little ways to cope. My storage unit sits up the road, waiting for me to decide what to do about it, at long last. Empty it completely or leave what I don’t need there? I only have this apartment lease until November, so there is logic in keeping stuff there. I look around here, at what I managed to grab that first moved-in day before I fell ill and went off to get tested for COVID-19. I could almost fool myself into thinking I don’t have much. Clothes and groceries and linens so far. Camping kitchenware to get me by. If I only had this, I’d be clutter free. But it’s a façade because the clutter is stuck in storage until the elevator is available in two weeks for me to have a moving truck help me really move in. Until then, due to my mystery illness, I’m in quarantine – again.

In a way, It’s for the best. I knew I wanted to move home and settle down this year and begin being a grown up. I knew I had decisions to make about how to shape that life. It’s all just come a little sooner, that’s all. My grand plans have shifted a bit, but new goals have emerged and I’m excited to make them a reality. Writing remains a big one though, so let’s begin.


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