I was overseas with my mother from the 2nd of March 2020, to the 18th of March 2020. A lot happened with coronavirus during that time, at home in Australia. This is my brief diary to document my experiences.


Our Holiday

We were in Birmingham when we saw on Facebook that people were buying toilet paper. We laughed. “Of all things, why toilet paper?” We shared memes with each other – recipes on making lasagne from toilet paper, Australians replacing their coat of arms with toilet paper motivs, photos of toilet paper stocked shelves with ‘if you remember this, you had a great childhood’.

Then we saw fights in the toilet paper aisle, and we really wondered what we were missing.

We laughed at Crufts, when the announcements said to wash your hands. There was talk about ‘the proper soap’. There were stations everywhere for hand washing. We were happy to be at Crufts, and the attention around coronavirus seemed ridiculous. Perhaps this is what the Brits do about a virus, we thought.

Online, the status updates got more frequent and strange. Empty supermarket shelves. People asking what they should or shouldn’t do. One event cancelled. Then another. Then another. Then all dog sports in all states for over 6 weeks.

While in the UK, it all seemed well. Perhaps it was a little quiet, but we were fine – we got served in cafes and restaurants, admitted to all the sites. There was not one blip on our tourist plans.

There was a contradiction to what we were experiencing in England to what the media was suggesting was happening in Australia. At first, it was subtle. As time went by, we realised Australia was getting more and more worried, while England was… nothing.



We heard that our departure airport would be closed before we were scheduled to go home. It didn’t happen. It’s hard to know what to believe or where to get the right information.

We had learnt that we would be in mandatory 14 days of ‘self-isolation’ on our return. What does that look like? We both lived with other people – how do we self-isolate away from them? I had lofty ideas that the government might fund accommodation. I couldn’t work, and I again thought the government might provide some kind of compensation for the leave-without-pay I would need to take. Instead, the government imposed fines for breaking self-isolation protocols. They went the stick instead of the carrot.

The protocols said that we could live together, but not in the same room, or even the same bathroom. These expectations suggest that officials must hold some pretty unhappy marriages. Instead, hubby decides to self isolate with me – but the only leave he can get is annual leave. He’s not required to stay home with me, and no one is actually sick, so sick leave is a no go. At least he’ll get paid for the two weeks that I don’t.

My husband scrambled at home, trying to prepare for my return. Shopping for two weeks of isolation. I felt guilty as I saw online photos of empty supermarket shelves, thinking that hubby was home, buying up. But we both had to live on 2 weeks of supplies. Living in a rural area we had the pros of already living a life out of a chest freezer and a cellar. The con of our location is that we cannot get home delivery. The husband had to buy up, and before I got back. Everyone else, we wouldn’t be in your shops for 2 weeks.


The Flights

The prime minister put out an urgent call for all Australians to come home. We were already at the airport, waiting to board our flight. We couldn’t get home any quicker.

The first leg was from London to Dubai and I was terrified that we wouldn’t get any further. It’s one thing to suffer coronavirus in England, it’s another to suffer it in the United Arab Emirates.

While on the flight, a lady was distressed. She had been in contact with someone who had coronavirus. She didn’t want to self-isolate. She wanted to go back to England, where she wouldn’t have to isolate at all.

The second flight, Dubai to Adelaide, was late. As we boarded, Aussie accents filled my heart in places that I didn’t know were empty. These people said ‘mate’ with a drawl. They wore wifebeaters and tatts and I had neither but felt at home.

As the wheels left the tarmac I thought that the next soil I would land on would be Australia, would be home, and I would be staying home for a very long time.

But I still worried that we would be sent back. I don’t know what makes a plane divert back, but it could happen. We weren’t home yet.


The Return

There is an Aboriginal word for ‘the feeling you get when you return to your own country’. There’s probably several words for it, and I always think about this concept when I drive home from the Eastern states – when I see the Adelaide Hills and relief floods my chest.

When the plane touched down in Adelaide, I wanted to clap. We had made it home. It didn’t seem like anything else mattered then – to have coronavirus in your own country would be fine. To self-isolate in your own house. Anything, it’s fine, as long as I’m in Australia.

We shuffled off the plane, sleep-deprived, into humid night air.

At the end of the tunnel, staff, dressed in medical smocks and masks, passed us coronavirus information sheets with gloved hands. This attire was the routine at Adelaide Airport, it seemed – a striking difference to England.

The man who checked our passports asked if we had any questions. I asked him, “Are we allowed to drive?” He said, “It’s all in that paperwork there – but yes, with a mask on and with no one else in the car.” The paperwork said nothing about driving.

There are more unanswered questions about self-isolation but I’ve seen people post screenshots, on hold for over 4 hours waiting for the hotline. It’s too hard to ask a question, so I’m left to hope that good-enough is really good-enough.

When I put my sim back in my phone and turned it on, I got an alert about the total fire ban and severe fire danger rating for the next day. My heart skipped a beat wondering how I could evacuate my pets while in self-isolation. I told myself it wouldn’t happen, and dismissed the notification.

My father picked us up and I stayed my first night in Adelaide in my parent’s home. The self-isolation guidelines said I was to go straight from the airport to home, but I hadn’t budgetted for an Uber to get me the 80km from the airport to home. Who would’ve paid that bill? Sure, I could’ve driven home that night, but having not slept in well over 24 hours, that would’ve been unsafe. 

We watched the news. Australian borders were to be closed. But we had made it back.