Like many of us, I had grand plans for international travel in 2020.
In late 2019 I was busy setting out plans to visit The Maldives in March, Italy in June, Finland in November, and I was hoping to throw in a road trip around Namibia as well. The end of my thirties were nearing, my travel blogging business was finally starting to take off, and my husband and I had all but decided that having kids wasn’t on the cards for us.
2020 was shaping up to be my biggest year of travel yet!
However the end of 2019 rolled around and there was a lot of anxiousness in Australia as our country was literally burning all over. Australia was battling the worst bushfires our country had ever faced. Thousands of people lost their homes, some lost their lives, and over a billion Australian wildlife perished.
My family home in central NSW where I grew up, came under threat on Christmas Eve. My siblings, partners and parents all gathered at my brothers house in Sydney to celebrate Christmas together. But it wasn’t the most joyous occasion, as we were all praying that when my parents returned home, they would still have a house.
They did. They were one of the lucky ones.
Unfortunately the fires continued to worsen well into January. And with everything that was going on at home, I along with most other Australian’s really didn’t give it a second thought when we heard reports on New Years Day about a mystery virus originating in China.
Our last overseas trip to Jordan in late 2019
From One Crisis to Another
A few weeks after the bushfires subsided, Graeme and I decided to take a little trip to Port Douglas, on the Tropical North Queensland coast. After a stressful start to the year we just wanted to chill out and do nothing for a weekend.
There I was relaxing by the pool, feeling slightly sorry for myself after a few too many wines the night before, when we read in the newspaper that Australia had reported its first case of coronavirus.
Like many Australians, I was completely oblivious to the shit storm that was about to unfold. (Apologies for the use of language but y’all have to agree that there really is no better way to describe 2020 ?).
Related Post: The Ultimate Guide to Port Douglas, Australia
We were enjoying a relaxing weekend in Port Douglas when COVID finally reached Australian shores
The Moment Everything Changed
In early March, things were really starting to escalate around the world. Italy has gone into a full-blown lockdown, the USA was reporting astronomical case numbers, cruise ships were turned away from ports, hospitals around the world were literally overflowing with sick patients, and everyone was pointing the finger at China.
My stepdaughter returned home from a holiday in Bali with flu-like symptoms.
Our household went into a panic. For 3 days we locked her in her bedroom (with only Netflix to keep her company) while awaiting COVID test results. I moved out of the house and stayed with a friend, while my husband self-isolated at home to look after her. I went on a spree of stocking up on face masks and hand sanitiser, and desperately tried to find a supermarket that had some toilet paper in stock (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this article).
Days later, the Australian Government announced a complete international border closure. For the first time EVER, Australia’s travel alert level was raised to “Do Not Travel” and all Australians living or travelling overseas were advised to make their way home as soon as possible. Restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, and all non-essential businesses were all forced to close down.
This was really happening!
We began cancelling flights and travel plans, and had to find ways to move almost 1 million frequent flyer points (that took years to build) as my preferred airline went into voluntary administration.
My husband and I own a business in the restaurant industry, so we began pivoting our business model that had taken 15 years to build and ceased producing an income for us and our employees overnight.
Australia began to embrace for the worst. As horrific reports of a rapidly escalating worldwide death toll and overflowing hospitals began to emerge from Europe and New York, all Australians were told they MUST stay at home and not leave the house until further notice.
It felt like World War 3. Only this time the enemy was something we could see.
Airline travel as we know it has changed for the foreseeable future!
Lockdown Wasn’t So Bad After All
The initial period of lockdown in Australia (which lasted from March to early May) was pretty lonely and stressful for many people. However, we are so fortunate to have a stable government, good economy, and a proactive welfare system. Most Australians were actually paid by the government to sit at home and watch Netflix.
In April, I celebrated my birthday in lockdown. I’m not much of a party animal, so I was actually okay with this. We got to know our neighbour very well during lockdown and learned that we shared the same birthday! So we had a socially distanced champagne toast across our back verandah (definitely a lockdown highlight).
By the end of lockdown we had sort of become used to working from home, tackling 1000-piece puzzles of cities around the world, cooking up a storm, and going out once a day to walk the dogs. (We were allowed out once a day to exercise, and only with other people from our household).
At least we got to leave the house, even if just for 1 hour a day – that’s better than many cities who weren’t allowed outside at all.
I came to appreciate the fact that I am very privileged to live in an amazing country, have a nice home in which to self-isolate, in a city where living arrangements are a lot more spread out than most. I didn’t have to homeschool children, and we received amazing support from the government to keep our employees and business running. If anything, lockdown actually made me more grateful for so many things.
Related Post: 6 Simple Tips for Working from Home Like a Pro
My lockdown working from home setup… our dogs were the best company!
How Australia has Managed the Pandemic (So Far)
For those readers who don’t know about how Australia is managing the pandemic, here’s a quick run down:
- In March 2020, the Australian Government shut down Australia’s international borders indefinitely. For the foreseeable future, only Australian citizens and residents are allowed into the country. Most flights into Australia were cancelled (and many are still not operating). There are many Australians still trapped overseas, who either cannot get a flight home or can’t afford a flight home (as flight prices are astronomical). Many states also temporarily shut down state borders to control the spread within Australia.
- Any person who enters Australia from overseas is forced into mandatory hotel quarantine for two weeks and required to undergo COVID testing. This strategy has so far proven very successful at preventing any persons arriving with the virus from spreading it within Australia.
- All Australian’s went into an initial mandatory lockdown period of 8 weeks beginning in March. This successfully reduced our COVID numbers to a manageable level (<10 new cases per day), allowing businesses to open up again in May.
- After the first lockdown, temporary regional lockdowns have occurred whenever a cluster begins to emerge. For example, Melbourne went into a second lockdown between June and October as the city experienced a second wave, and Sydney’s Northern Beaches also went into a temporary lockdown period just prior to Christmas as a mystery cluster formed and numbers escalated quickly.
- All state governments have introduced a very rigorous contact tracing strategy. Whenever Australians go out to a restaurant or public place, we are required to sign-in and provide contact details. When someone tests positive for coronavirus, all locations and persons who are known to have been in contact with an infected person are contacted by the government and are required to get tested and self-isolate. The aggressive nature of this contact tracing means that COVID numbers in Australia have remained low and businesses can operate as normal (with a few minor restrictions to ensure social distancing).
Australia has managed the pandemic really well, and we’re finally allowed to fly again!
Australia Has Reopened for Business (But Only to Australians)
With everything that had occurred between March and June, I was so proud of Australians, as well as our government. They’ve copped a fair bit of criticism for the way things were handled during the pandemic, but by the second half of 2020, Australia was in a better position than most countries in the world.
Some call us the lucky country. And yes, the geographic isolation of our continent certainly helped delay the spread. But if it weren’t for the Australian governments quick reaction to the pandemic, and (most) Australian’s willingness to comply with the restrictions placed upon us, we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in today. It’s safe to say that I’m more proud to be an Australian right now than ever!
With international borders not expected to reopen until 2022, and most Australian business getting back to normal, Graeme and I decided to start exploring our own country and support local businesses that had been affected by the pandemic, as well as the Australian bushfires.
We live in Queensland, and we currently have less than 20 active cases in our state. Our state government has been extremely conservative in controlling the spread of the virus. Our state borders remained closed to most other Australian states until early November.
So between June and November we explored the beautiful sunshine state of Queensland. We spent a weekend in Noosa Heads, visited the Gold Coast several times, took a well earned holiday to Hamilton Island and Hayman Island in the gorgeous Whitsundays, and we also did a road trip from Cairns to Cape Tribulation and got to see the the World-Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest.
Related Post: The Ultimate LUXE Guide to Hayman Island, Australia
Enjoying our first 2020 holiday at beautiful Hayman Island!
Our 2021 Travel Plans
As I mentioned earlier, the Australian government has indicated that Australia’s borders will most likely remain shut for most of 2021. So our plans for 2021 are firmly set on Australia only travel.
Our state government is also very conservative and will not hesitate shutting the borders at any time if a cluster forms in another state. This means that most of our travel in 2021 will likely be arranged last minute.
I recently sat down and wrote out my very own Australia Bucket List – all the places I want to see in Australia before I die. For the foreseeable future, I plan to start ticking this list off, one by one. If you’re also stuck in Australia right now, why not have a look, download a copy and tick things off yourself! And if you’re wondering whether or not it is safe to fly in Australia right now, check out this article.
We’re hoping hoping 2021 will allow us to do another road trip in Tasmania, visit bushfire-affected Kangaroo Island, Uluru, as well as some of Australia’s amazing wine regions. And if Australia and New Zealand finally open up the much talked about Trans-Tasman travel bubble, then we may even find ourselves booking our first flight overseas again! ?
Are you able to explore your own country or elsewhere? If so, we’d love to hear whether you have any travel plans for 2021!
Planning to explore more of Australia? Read on for inspiration:
- 50+ Famous Landmarks in Australia to add to your Bucket List
- 15 Incredible Queensland Island Holidays & Resorts for Your Next Vacay
- Flying in Australia during COVID: Everything You Need to Know!
- 15 Weekend Getaways from Sydney that are Perfect for Couples
- 8 of the Best Romantic Weekend Getaways from Perth for Couples
- 10 Amazing Stops Along The Great Ocean Road
- Where to Find the Best Laneways in Melbourne
- A Weekend Guide to Noose Heads: Where to Stay, Eat & Play
- Ultimate 6 Day Tasmania East Coast Road Trip Itinerary
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About the Author:
Amanda Twine is the founder and creator of Fly Stay Luxe – a luxury travel blog sharing informative travel guides, food guides, hotel reviews, itineraries and tips about how to make luxury travel more affordable.