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A Long-Awaited Return


Like many ex-pats, I took an opportunity too good to pass up and in 2019 I accepted a job in the United States. A country I never considered living in, however, the job was an amazing opportunity and would afford me the experience of living overseas. Like many who choose to do this, they do so with the knowledge that family and friends can come and visit them, or you can return and see them as frequently as you want. Indeed I did.


From starting my job in April 2019 until July 2020 I returned to Australia at least six times. Yes an advantage of working for an airline, but that was part of the decision process of taking the job. It would be easy that if I had a week off then I could go home, even if it was just for a day or two. After two years my seniority would now mean I could have rosters that would allow me to be a FIFO (Fly-in/Fly-Out) worker and I could be living in Australia right now.


Before you go, wow, that's a lot of mileage. You are talking to a girl who flew from Australia to England (round trip is 48hrs) for just 36hrs on the ground, so, come on. But then comes along something called COVID.


The world shut down and my home country of Australia chose an isolationist strategy to save itself. When its policies of border closures and quarantines were announced it was meant to be only temporary. Yet in 2021 it appears Australia has no plans to reattach itself to the world (and its own citizens) until Christmas 2022. In March 2020 I returned to Australia, as my Government ordered me to, only because I was stood down, but three months later that stand down was over and I was recalled in July 2020, my contract was for three years, so I couldn't say no. When I boarded that flight to the US I never thought it would be a year before I would ever see my loved ones again.


Returning, even in an emergency, is now impossible in Australia. No employer is going to grant you two weeks leave for a quarantine on a multitude of occasions. Also, the ever-changing passenger caps on flights to Australia makes it a logistical nightmare and near impossible to ever return home freely. Due to COVID, I might still have US employment but my salary was slashed by 35%. It effectively means I have to save every penny now. So frequent trips home are out of the question. My loved ones can't come here either because of Australia's outbound border ban, they have tried too and have been denied. So what else is there to do but hope for the occasional miracle?


As my June 2021 roster came out I noticed that it worked out that I would have two and half weeks off, when combined with my days off at the end of May. A chance to go to Australia and barely lose out financially? I had to take it, so I did.


During my trip, I kept a daily journal that I've finally had a chance to get ready for publication on my site. As I read it now I do laugh at how I comment on NSW's common sense approach to COVID but it reminds me of how fortunate I was to have had this opportunity. I had always planned to return to Australia in September 2021 for a period of time, however, that is now looking highly unlikely due to the current inbound caps on arrivals. So my only four days at home with loved ones is something that I am very fortunate to have had. Returning home to hug my loved ones, when many other ex-pats can't, I know means I was afforded a privilege that many can't undertake. I don't for a second deny that. But if returning home to see loved ones is now considered a privilege and not a right, well then that's the real problem, isn't it?


I do bicker and moan a bit with my journal here, but as one person said to me. Doing this means I took part in what will be a dark chapter in Australia's history and I was on the receiving end of it. Therefore it had to be catalogued and shared. As my endeavour to return home again in September is closing I will honour those four days I got with my loved ones. Hopefully, it's not another 11 months before I will get to do so again.