Six months ago my 10-year-old daughter and I were part-way into a year of travelling in Asia. Now we are lucky enough to be waiting out the pandemic on a tropical island in north Queensland.
We flew home from Japan in March - just days after our government asked Aussies to come back - into voluntary isolation, nowhere to live and, like everyone else, so much uncertainty. My income relies on tourism and travel, and when that stopped so did most of my money, apart from what I could withdraw from my superannuation or scrounge by pausing my mortgage repayments.
We isolated in a friends’ granny flat up the coast and then, as our house in Sydney was leased, moved into my parents’ home. It was tough, living back in 1989, and it didn’t improve as the pandemic dragged on way longer than any of us had expected.
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We waited it out and when NSW was allowed to travel again we took off in a van to explore for a month. We bumbled on down the coast and after Emmie broke her arm at the Culburra skate park we turned west over the mountains and into Wiradjuri country, learning about Indigenous history, bushrangers, farming and wine. I pressed on and tried to ignore the scratching in my mind about where we would go when our road trip was over.
Freedom always has a price, and when we travel in Asia we can afford it. But we can’t afford it in Sydney. Rents, while lower due to the pandemic, were still high, and I panicked at locking myself into anything in the 'burbs without an income and not knowing what was ahead.
I narrowed down three criteria for a place to wait out the virus. It had to be warm, it had to be affordable, and it had to feel like an adventure.
And somehow, through a series of failed plans and direction-changing bumps from the universe, and in the sliver of time the Queensland border was open, we ended up on an island I had never heard of before.