Regrettably, today I have touched back down in Australia. I am currently quarantining in Howard Springs, Darwin. This is probably surprising for a lot of people who knew that I didn’t want to be returning to Australia any time soon. But as much as I didn’t want to do it, it was necessary. I ran out of options.
I haven’t really come to terms with it all just yet, and I don’t want to get bombarded with messages and calls. So basically this is a FAQ that should answer all your questions about me returning to Australia! Haha. I’ll go over why I am back, how I got here, where I plan to live, what I plan to do, and what my future is looking like.
Why I’ve come back to Australia
Unfortunately for me, as well as so many other people, I lost my job. I was a writer, and worked for a number of companies. My primary clients were in the travel industry and new start up businesses. And well, we all know what happened to the travel industry. My work decreased 10 fold, and so did the payment for each article.
This also happened with a footwear company that I write for. And the business writing I was doing was paying me about 10% of the industry standard. Online work is ruined since covid and the sheer number of people who need work.
Understandably, companies have a much lower budget than they used to, so they are giving preference to people who can afford to work for very little money. For some people, $50 USD can last them a week. For me, it was 2 days if I was super thrifty.
I got down to $5,000 AUD. This would have lasted me another 6 months in India, but there is no prospect of online work improving anytime soon. The market is flooded and supply far outweighs demand. Companies care less for the quality, and more about the costs as they also need to try and make it through these hard times.
Unfortunately $5,000 is the exact cost for me to get back to Australia. My ticket was $1,600 and the quarantine fee is $2,500. The extra domestic transfers and hotels bring it up to $5,000. So I had a choice to make. Become broke in India in 6 months, or lose everything by returning to Australia now.
Obviously, I have chosen that returning to Australia is my best option. Here at least I have the chance to get a job and rebuild. But the thought of becoming homeless in a foreign country isn’t exactly the most thrilling thing in the world. Although I would have loved to stay in India for as long as possible, it wasn’t practical or smart.
For people that know me personally or regularly read my blogs, you’ll know that there have been many times I’ve been rushed to hospital. No matter how many times I tell people that peanuts will kill me, they still always seem to make their way into my food. With anaphylaxis, this is life threatening. I genuinely am surprised that I am still alive.
This is an unknown disease in India, but they have still managed to save my life each time. This is quite impressive considering by the time I get to hospital I can move or speak, and most of the time I am unconscious or having seizures.
Having this during covid times has made it even harder. The people with me who know what is happening aren’t allowed in the hospital with me. So the doctors are trying to guess what is wrong with me, or wake me up so I can tell them. The latter isn’t possible. Even if they manage to wake me up, my throat is usually so constricted that I can’t get any words out.
It has been over 8 times in the past 12 months that I have been rushed to the hospital for this. I think I have set the record for the person who has survived the most anaphylaxis attacks! And no matter how cautious I am when ordering food, it continues to happen. My body and mind are affected for weeks after an occurrence. And with this happening every few months, well there is only so long you can play russian roulette before someone dies!
With my nihilistic approach to life, I was fine with this the first few times, but once it started to affect my brain I realised I couldn’t risk it anymore. There was one instance where I didn’t think that my mind would go back to operating normally again. It was about 10 days before I could think properly. And once you’ve had a taste of that and are lucky enough to bounce back, it’s not a risk you want to take again. So this played a big part in my decision about returning to Australia.
How I managed to get back.
Wow, how to even attempt to write this. It has been so incredibly hard. I purchased my first ticket to get back to Australia back in April 2020. That was 10 months ago now. That flight was cancelled last minute, and I’m glad I hadn’t started making my way to Delhi yet. Being stuck in Delhi literally is what nightmares are made of. I was once mistaken as a prostitute and had a man waiting outside my room at 3am… but that is another story.
I watched so many people make it to the airport and have their flights cancelled. And I also had a million hoops to jump through, including trying to get the required documents through the Australian embassy, who were absolutely useless throughout the whole process.
First I need to have a little vent about the Australian Embassy in India. They are the most incompetent people you could imagine. When they threw their hands up to say arranging flights is too hard, random people stepped up. A group of completely unqualified and unconnected people were able to arrange the repatriation flights that our own government organisation could not. I think that alone says a lot about their competence. Also, their total lack of care. I once sent an email asking for help to get an Epipen. That’s the medicine that will keep my heart going for about 45 minutes if I come into contact with peanuts. I named the email URGENT MEDICAL ASSISTANCE REQUIRED. And I never even got an email back from them.
I also called not long ago to see how I could get a ticket. I was getting passed around to all these numbers where my call would get cut. On the 4th attempt, I just asked the receptionist to help me. He told me of a flight through Qantas and gave me a number to call. He also advised me to call Air India for a flight ticket as there were some available. The number he gave for Qantas was actually Centrelink, so my dad looked like an idiot when he called them asking for a ticket. And Air India had no flights.
I understand that these people are trying their best, but if their best is not organising flights, not responding to urgent emails about a life or death situation of one of their citizens, and the only information they are able to provide is all incorrect….. Well I think that just goes to show how much faith everyone stuck overseas has in our embassy. It felt like no one would be returning to Australia any time soon if it were solely left in their hands.
But back to the ticket… Getting a seat on one of these flights is like winning the lottery. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade sends you an email with a link and a code. You have about 10 minutes to purchase a ticket after you get this email to be able to secure a ticket.
I was lucky that I happened to be on my emails when it came through. And fortunately, I was lucky enough to get a ticket, but many others weren’t. There was 7 days until my flight and a series of hoops to jump through. I had to get to Chennai, fill out about 6 different forms, remember too many things and get a covid test.
The Nightmare of Chennai
My first flight to Chennai was cancelled the day before it took off. It just so happens that my bank was down at the same time. After 4 attempts, I managed to get another flight to get me there on time. If I didn’t get a flight on this date, I would miss my flight to Australia!
So I made it to Chennai, and when I got to my hotel I was turned away. They would only accept Indian guests. So after frantically trying to find a new hotel on zero notice, I got one. Then I had to book in my covid test for the next day and I was running out of time. There is only one place I could get the test that was approved by Qantas, and it had to be done the day before our flight.
When I tried to call and book, the person on the other end couldn’t understand my accent, so refused to book me in. Trying not to stress out, I got the people at reception to speak to them. They were unable to understand the name of my hotel, The Mount Manor, and couldn’t understand my phone number. Every time I said 0, they thought I said 4. And every time I said 2, they thought I was saying 3. Even the people at reception were unable to get them to understand. When I explained to the people at reception that I wouldn’t be returning to Australia if I didn’t get this booked in, they laughed at me. They also couldn’t understand me so thought I was telling a joke.
After hours back and forth, they finally said they had booked me in between 12 and 2 pm. On the day, my window came and went. And we only had until 4pm to get the test done! I called 3 times to confirm they were coming and someone always promised to call me back, but they never did. Finally, someone came to do my test at 3:30pm and I could finally relax.
I thought I was in the clear and it would now all be smooth sailing. But I still first had to go through my hotel scamming me and another nearly eating peanuts incident (even though I told them 8 times and even had it translated in their local language!) to get through. I decided it was safest to just get to the airport 2 hours early and wait it out. There was a clearance issue with our flight, and all up I was at the airport for about 8 hours. But I was finally on the plane and headed towards Australia!
What happens now.
For the next 2 weeks, I am in Quarantine in Darwin. I have no idea where I am going to live, and will have no money to be able to afford anything. I am going to use my time in quarantine to find a job, but it will hopefully not be in Melbourne.
Melbourne is where I had my mental breakdown, which was a combination of everything that happened in my life there. My job, my health, my lifestyle, and the traumatic events I went through. I don’t want to be back there and slip back into old familiar, yet destructive habits.
I don’t want to be getting wasted every weekend, which is what a lot of my friends love doing. And as much as I love all of my friends, I will be staying well away from that. I’m happy to have a drink or two, but that’s it. No more than that, and definitely no other uppers.
I’ve worked too hard to get off my medication and become happy with my life, and I can’t risk letting all that go to waste. So I am planning to be in Melbourne for about 2 weeks. I will see some friends and family. I have grandparents that are likely not going to be with us for much longer, so it will be really nice to say goodbye.
When it comes to finding work, I’m really lucky I have experience working in high paying jobs. I considered doing something less effort and skill, because my old job was a part of the reason for my breakdown. But really, I want to save as much as I can. I have every intention of leaving Australia again as soon as possible, which means the more money I make, the quicker that will be!
My Biggest Fears
One of my biggest fears about returning to Australia is seeing my friends again. I know that people will be telling me that I make my own decisions on how my life works out. But think to yourself for a second about the people you are surrounded with. You can’t tell me that they don’t influence your life. Now when I think about most of my friends, we saw each other on weekends where we would always have more than 10 drinks a night (probably a lot more than 10!) and most of the time people would be doing drugs.
That wasn’t just one of my friendship groups, it was most of them. I don’t know how I am supposed to interact with them if they are all doing that and I’m not. I don’t want to put myself in a position of temptation, so I’m just going to avoid it completely. Which means no nights out for me! I would love to see everyone, but perhaps over lunch or dinner rather than a night out. And a super cheap meal because I’m poor haha!
The other fear, and a super real one, is my health. About 2 years ago now, I was told that I would be in a wheelchair in 5 years. This is due to a series of diseases that are shutting my body down. As much as I don’t want to believe this will happen, I can feel it. I’ve been feeling it for years. And one of the reasons I went to India was to try and find an alternative way to stop it from happening. My diseases are incurable, and they are rapidly causing my body to deteriorate.
Say for argument’s sake that the prediction was right, that means that I only have 3 years being mobile. If I spend 2 years in Australia working (I’m starting with $0, so it will take a while to build up the funds to leave again) then I only have one year left.
If you knew you had 3 years left, what would you do? Would you spend it trying to find a cure, none of which are known? Would you have just stayed overseas? Or would you try to save as much money as you can to travel again?
I’m actually super interested in people’s responses to this, so please do write in the comments!
You could probably guess before reading this that I’m not overly thrilled to be returning to Australia. I think I am still in denial, because I don’t feel anything at all. I think the thought of living somewhere else in Australia and planning to travel again are the only things that are making this bearable for me.
So for now, I’m adjusting back to life after returning to Australia. It’s strange introducing myself with my real name instead of Lala, it’s strange flushing toilet paper, and it’s really strange hearing Australian accents. I will need to… uggghhh…. Set an alarm again (vom!) for when I get a job again. But it’s ok as long as I have my exit strategy!
I still have many more blogs from my travels in the pipeline, so hopefully you can all live vicariously thought my travels along with me 🙂