A 28 Day Saga Towards Normalcy: My Journey from the US to Tasmania

Last weekend, my Sunday funday went like this:

  • A solid morning gym session.
  • A hike around a lake near our apartment. We saw two pademelons (a small marsupial) and a kangaroo. None of them were interested in being my friend.
  • A crisp IPA at a trendy laid back beer garden where just about every single person was wearing Blundstones (a traditional work boot that has become outrageously popular.)
  • A 5 course tasting menu at Templo, a local restaurant with dim lighting and warm ambiance. The food deserves a shrug, but the company was 10/10.

The normalcy felt jarring.

Since March, my daily existence has been controlled by Covid-19. From working at a test site to living in the epicenter of New York, it was impossible to shut out the pandemic. I sought solace in long runs, binging TV shows, and taking an online class, but while I managed to turn the volume down, there was always an annoying background buzz of anxiety and fatigue.

The solution was to go to the other side of the world to join the man I love.

Here in Tasmania, Covid-19 isn’t dictating life. Indoor dining has resumed as usual, the sports fields are packed, gyms are open, kids are in school, and workers are in the office. No one does that awkward sidewalk dance of veering as far right as possible, you can shake hands, and the best part is that no one wears masks. Why bother? This is a 45,000 square mile island-state that is a safe oasis away from the firestorm of Covid-19 ravaging most of the world.

Normalcy feels like paradise, but getting here wasn’t easy.

Part One: The Travel Exemption

The journey began with the tedious process of getting a travel exemption. It involved spending nearly 50 hours digging through emails, credit card statements, and messages to prove my relationship with an Australian citizen was legitimate. It’d be nice if love didn’t have boarders, but alas, that’s not the case.

Part Two: Getting to Australia

Australia has strict entry limits. Leading up to my travel day, I heard multiple horror stories about getting bumped from a flight last minute while being rescheduled to one a month later.  Disaster is a common theme of Covid, so I was expecting the worst.

I was unbelievably lucky to have made it to Sydney on the first try. Check out the journey HERE.

Part Three: Hotel Quarantine in Sydney

Next came two weeks locked in a hotel in Sydney. No one was allowed in or out of my room, and I didn’t even have a key. I thought I would have a total Jack Nicholson “Here’s JOHNNY!!!” moment by day 14, but I managed to make the most of my free time without completely losing my mind.

During quarantine, I had two covid tests as well as daily check ins via a phone call to be sure I didn’t have any symptoms (and probably to be sure I hadn’t cracked up). On day 13, the nurses and military came by to give me my ticket to freedom: release papers and a nifty wristband. I was practically bouncing off the walls as I heard them coming down the hall, knocking on each door. I awkwardly watched through the peephole, and swung the door open after his knuckles just barely grazed the wood. “Whoa! Someone’s excited to get home!” Excited was an understatement.

My release time was 7pm on Friday, and my flight was at 11am on Saturday, meaning I had to either lug all my suitcases to a new hotel for the night or extend my stay in room 918 by 13 hours. Even though I wanted to folic around Sydney, I opted for one more night in my humble abode. If I had the release paper on day 13, why couldn’t I just leave then? Beats me…

If you’re interested in my quarantine experience, click HERE for more!

Part Four: Getting Permission to Fly into Tasmania

The lock downs in Australia vary state by state, and in order to be allowed into Tasmania I had to apply for my “Good to Go” pass. Getting the pass was an anxiety-filled journey in of itself. I couldn’t get the pass until I had my release papers, which I learned after two failed attempts. This meant that if processing times were slow, I’d be screwed.

What can go wrong will go wrong, and the 2020 Katie is far from optimistic. It gave me something new to worry about while laying in my hotel bed.

Luckily, it got approved just a few hours after I submitted my paperwork proving I had completed my Sydney prison time (aka quarantine).

Part Five: Flying to Tasmania

That first breath of fresh air as I stepped out of the Amora Jamison was nothing short of euphoric as the sun kissed my cheeks and the wind gave me a hug. I’m sure I looked like a crazy woman, just standing in the sun with my eyes closed and chin tilted up, a silly grin filling up my whole face.

Being confined to a single hotel room without being able to open a window is the ultimate wake up call to appreciating the little things. I never would have thought I’d crave the feeling of the wind or the sound of birds or even the experience of making eye contact with another human.

I smiled my entire 30 minute cab ride to the airport, taking in the visual stimulation of a thriving world.

The Sydney airport was practically empty and I was the only one at my gate. To be fair, I was two hours early. I ordered an americano (which I have found out is not a thing in Australia… you order a long black instead) and walked laps back and forth, thrilled by the ability to make it more than 12 steps in one direction. The seats at my gate started to fill up, and I was particularly fascinated with a middle-aged man with a long gray beard, wild hair, and dirty backpack that paired nicely with a camo ensemble. He screamed “Australian,” and I imagined him running around the bush and living in tents.

The short flight was smooth, but I was anxious for the final leg of the journey; I still had to get out of the airport and to my apartment. While I had the paperwork saying I could self-quarantine, there was still an inkling of fear of having to be shuttled off to another hotel. Being confined in a small space for another 2 weeks would have shattered my wounded psyche. Not to mention, it was certainly not in the budget (Yes I DID have to pay for my Sydney quarantine. It came out to around $2,200 USD… I know you wanted to know…)

Upon arrival, my heart was practically pounding out of my chest and my palms were disgustingly sweaty. I had a temperature check and filled out a health declaration followed by presenting my Good 2 Go pass to the police. I let out a huge exhale as they began giving me instructions on how to self-quarantine.  I walked passed the quarantine hotel shuttle buses and right into Jeremy’s arms.

We are no strangers to long distance, but the uncertainty made this stint the hardest. We had no idea if we would be reunited in 4 months or 8. A circle on a calendar can do wonders for your mental wellbeing, and without that, each day leading up to the travel exemption felt long, monotonous, and flat out depressing. Challenging times are when you need the people you love by your side the most, and those four months of navigating Covid alone were far from easy.

Part Six: Self Quarantine

Ah yes, the journey isn’t over quite yet…

I had to complete another two weeks of self-quarantine at our South Hobart apartment. You may  be rolling your eyes thinking that another two weeks of quarantine sounds like over kill when I just came from quarantine… and I agree. Alas, I don’t make the rules.

After 14 days in a hotel, being in an apartment with an outside patio space and kitchen was fancy living. I passed time while Jeremy was at work with workouts, cooking, and my online job. I ordered cookies, which was a thrill, and Jeremy brought back pizza on a couple occasions.

The police did come by to ensure I wasn’t breaking quarantine on day 7 and day 13.

They called from the driveway, I poked my head out and waved to prove I was home, then they asked me a series of questions. Did I had any symptoms? Was there was someone else living in the apartment (to which I responded, “yes, but we are following proper sanitization protocol”)? Did I leave the apartment at any time?

The big drama was that I did leave the apartment.

In classic 2020 fashion, more chaos and drama came my way in the form of an infected ingrown hair in my armpit. I couldn’t ignore the giant, painful red lump, and conceded to seeing a doctor. However, no doctors were taking new patients. I did a telehealth appointment with some nice woman named Nancy who was in South Dakota, but go figure an American doctor can’t prescribe antibiotics to someone in Australia. Jeremy  took  me to a pharmacist who recommended I do a telehealth appointment with an Australian doctor (smart lady). Luckily, I was able to get an antibiotic, and don’t worry, my armpit is doing just fine.

The most shocking part about it is that the whole experience cost me less than $40 AUD! Health care in the US has conditioned me to expected AT LEAST $200 every time I step into a doctor’s office.

While the two weeks was bearable, I can’t say it was fun.  

I live an active lifestyle, and I love going on long walks, exploring new neighborhoods, trying new restaurants, and being out and about. Having my daily step count drop from 15K a day to 3K, tops, for 4 weeks straight wasn’t good for my physical or mental health.

I tend to overthink things. Seemingly innocent thought bubbles spiral out of control, and before I know it, wondering where a bird is flying to has become a thought exploration into the space-time continuum as I grapple to wrap my head around the concept of infinity.

Overthinking myself into panicked anxiety isn’t anything new, but this past month has shown me that I need to physically leave my space to ground my brain. It’s like I am leaving the confusion and negativity behind while heading to a higher vantage point to reassess it with clearer view.

Giving up four weeks of my life was completely worth the freedom waiting for me on the other side.

I have always prided myself in handling tough situations with rational thinking and a clear head. Covid-19 knocked me down from that high horse, and I handled it exceptionally poorly if I do say so myself.  I was constantly on edge, I couldn’t sleep, and I was sad and depressed with more tears in a six-month period than my entire life. There was a constant buzz of anxiety, and I became conditioned to  anticipate the worst-case scenario because usually that’s exactly what happened. My motto was, “just keep on rolling downhill….”

I lost my zest for life, and lost pieces of myself along the way.

Now I’m putting it all back together.

I’m with the person I love to begin an exciting new chapter of life. I’ve always had the goal of living in another country, and here I am!

The next big adventure has begun, and I can’t wait to see what it has in store.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. whew. well, there you go Katie! At least you’ve made it through all THAT. which is quite a lot. still in stage FOUR restrictions here in Melbourne but our numbers are now way down and hopefully next week we’ll have a bit of easing of restrictions. The plan is to drive the numbers as close to zero as we can. Spring is here and well… it’s slowly warming up. Welcome to Australia outside quarantine!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lindsay says:

    You made it, Katie! That’s so exciting! I am not sure that I would have survived the two weeks in the hotel without the ability to leave, so I commend you for that. Do you think you’ll be able to stay in Tasmania now for a while so you don’t have to go through quarantine’s again? Have you found that other countries are doing better at stopping the spread or are they just approaching it with more draconian measures than the US?

    Like

    1. The goal is certainly to avoid another two week quarantine, so I will be staying in Tasmania for the foreseeable future. In Tasmania, the strict border regulations and quarantine requirements have worked in containing the virus. And while other parts of the country are experiencing outbreaks, the numbers don’t come close to the United States. Another key thing is that the virus hasn’t been as heavily politicized here. Lockdowns and regulations are seen as methods to protect everyone vs an infringement on personal freedom. Also, there is the obvious advantage of being an island, which makes it much easier to control who comes in!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lindsay says:

        Makes sense. Honestly I do believe a lot of the virus restrictions at this point are based on politics (unfortunately). I cannot wait until the governors are eventually required to give up their “powers” and allow the people to figure out how to live again. Do you think you could share about life in Tasmania for those of us who can’t travel anywhere warm right now? The cold is coming quick up in Minnesota! 🙂

        Like

      2. Yes, absolutely! I’m working on it now 🙂

        Like

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