This is by far the longest time I’ve ever gone between posts.
I just… lost my motivation.
2020 started out as a normal year for me, but when my life rapidly changed and so many new restrictions were imposed, the life that I had spent so long creating just seemed to fall apart.
Now, about twenty months after Covid-19 changed the world, my life looks completely and utterly different. Many things have changed, some bad, some incredible, but I am hopeful that soon I will be able to dust off my passport and get back to doing what I do best;
Going on adventures.
So, before I dive back into blogging and creating travel content, I thought it only right that I catch you up on what’s been happening in my life.
My 2020 started off pretty normally. I had just returned from a trip to the DRC, Sudan, Ethiopia and Madagascar and immediately started planning what trips I would go on next.
The first cab off the rank was a trip to Japan to meet up with one of my closest friends, Ethan. Ethan (or E-dawg as he is affectionately dubbed) has been one of my besties since late high school. We had both lived in Adelaide for many years but since I moved to Darwin and he moved to Melbourne, our opportunities to visit each other had been sparse at best. So, when Ethan had a few weeks free on the way home from an adventure in Mexico, the USA and Canada, it only seemed right that I meet him somewhere on his way home!
In terms of flight paths for both of us, the best meeting point seemed to be Japan. We met in Tokyo and spent a week training around Japan, eating all the ramen our bodies could handle and just generally having a great time.
Next up, we hopped on a short haul flight and ended up in the Philippines. We spent another week in the Philippines and it was a little hit or miss. Siargao was meh – it rained most of the time and the vibe of the place was that it was trying to be the next Bali. I also had a mild case of food poisoning for the first time in all of my travels! After all the dodgy looking street food I have eaten over the years, and you know what got me?
A bloody smoothie bowl.
We then hopped over to Coron for some diving which was so much more my vibe. Our hotel was fairly grotty, but the diving was fun and the town was laidback and relaxed. During our time there it started to become obvious that people were getting nervous about Covid. Everyone was wearing masks in airports and people started contacting me much more frequently with concerns.
It’s not that I didn’t know about Covid, I just really didn’t think it would blow up the way it did.
In my mind, it would be like the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014. When that happened, people were telling me I was nuts to still travel to the continent, and I did, and it was contained and everything was fine.
In my head, Covid-19 was being contained by China and it would all soon blow over. Little did I know…
After returning from the Philippines, it was time to travel to Sydney to attend my first ever Mardi Gras celebrations!
This festival took place from February 28th to March 1st – keep those dates in the back of your mind.
This was an important Mardi Gras for me for multiple reasons. It was a bit of a last hurrah (although I did not know that yet). I got to see my friends gather from all around Australia. Most important however was that I was in the midst of a bit of confusion in regards to my sexuality.
Since I was a young teenager I had identified as bisexual. I always knew that I had found women attractive and thought men that were handsome and never questioned anything further. I had casually dated a few women here and there, but it was never anything serious as it seemed almost impossibly hard to date women as a bisexual. There is a lot of biphobia within the lesbian community, which means that many queer women will pretty much write you off when they hear that you date men too.
Men do not have this aversion (although it is fetishised, which is an issue I don’t have the time to deep dive into in this post) and thus I mostly found myself dating men.
In these relationships, I often found sex unfulfilling and found the emotional connection or ‘the spark’ to be something that was impossible to find – something which I always thought was my fault, although for whatever reason, the idea that I may not be that into men just hadn’t occurred to me.
If this seems insane – google compulsory heterosexuality – it’s a real thing, and it affects many more lesbian or queer identifying women than you would think.
When I was at Mardi Gras, the gears started to shift and I started to really deep dive into my own head and think about what I really wanted in my future romantic pursuits.
March and April 2020
I arrived back to my home in Darwin on the 1st of March and within just a matter of days, my entire life had changed. By March 10th Australia recorded it’s 100th case of Covid-19 which signified the first wave of the virus in Oz. People started getting nervous, grocery stores were stripped bare, I couldn’t buy masks, hand sanitiser, rice or pasta to save my life. I started feeling guilty and anxious every time I left my home and by the time Australia implemented its ban on residents EXITING the country on March 25th, my life had changed dramatically.
I had a lot of time to myself during March and April, which was hard for me at the time – I’d never missed my family at home in Adelaide so much in my life. They were only a 3.5 hour flight away, but they might as well have been on another planet. I spent a lot of my time feeling pretty depressed, but all that time to myself afforded me a lot of time to think and led me to a place that I really hadn’t expected.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe, I was gay.
By my birthday in May, life had started to normalise for those of us fortunate to be in the Northern Territory. We had only had a couple of confirmed Covid-19 cases and not a single case of transmission within the community. Our state borders were firmly shut. I couldn’t leave, but I could enjoy relative freedom within my Darwin home.
I started going out again, I started working my way through the (unbelievably small, but we will get to that later) gay dating pool and started feeling a little more at ease again. I still had hopes that I’d be able to travel by the end of the year and thus my depression started to lift.
June + July 2020
With border restrictions still in place and showing no signs of easing, I started to make an effort to enjoy and appreciate the things that I could instead of feeling sad about the things I couldn’t control.
I signed a lease for the first time in my life and enjoyed the freedoms that come with living alone and not in a house sharing situation. I made a drastic hair colour change for the first time in my life. I started going to pub quizzes and going to watch the sunsets on the beach.
I was making the most of the little things.
By early August, I was able to travel back to my hometown of Adelaide in South Australia to see my father for his birthday. It was so nice to be home, and that trip started to sow the seeds of longing for my home in Adelaide – something that I never thought would happen.
Also, August was the month in which I finally felt comfortable to put a new label on my sexuality. I came out as a big ole’ gay to my parents, friends, family and on social media this month. After years of repressing myself and wondering why my relationships had never worked, I had finally worked out this important part of who I was, and I was so excited to share this with those around me.
My coming out was incredibly easy, and other than the fact that I (still, to this day) lose a hundred followers or so everytime I mention anything remotely LGBTQIA+ on instagram, I haven’t received any hate at all – I am extremely lucky.
If I had been missing Adelaide in August, those thoughts were promptly forgotten come September. This last month of (relative) dry season was filled with camping adventures, big gay booze cruises for Pride month and cocktails poolside. I was having too much fun to miss Adelaide – and what a blessing is that?
October was a month of some high highs and incredibly sad lows.
In the middle of the month, I went to work and started a shift that wasn’t much different from any other day, except that it was a bit busier and a bit more acute than normal. I was looking after an unwell patient who was needing 1:1 midwifery care and who had the potential to deteriorate. I had felt my phone vibrating in my pocket a few times but didn’t think much of it. When I quickly exited my patients room to grab some supplies I took the opportunity to briefly glance at my phone and found a text message from my Dad telling me that my Grandfather had passed away that morning.
I didn’t have time to process it at that moment so went back into my patients room. After a few moments she rapidly deteriorated and we escalated into an emergency (which was managed and everyone was fine). However, I didn’t have the chance to so much as take a seat and have a sip of water until about 5 hours later, when I just broke down and cried in our tea room.
Grandpa Burne was the only grandfather I had ever known and I was very close with him. I would miss his cheeky chuckles, his wisdom and knowledge, the way he always found a way to top up my wine glass and our long conversations about the world. To find out that he had passed away so suddenly was quite the blow, and I started making preparations to fly down to Adelaide for the funeral. On October 23rd I said goodbye to Grandpa Tony surrounded by my family.
During my time in Adelaide, I found it quite difficult to sleep and I felt quite on edge. Because of this, I spent a lot of time scrolling through social media and playing games on my phone – they kept me distracted from feeling too sad. All of this scrolling included a few Tinder swipes, though I didn’t think too much of it at the time.
Before I found out about my Grandfathers passing, I had made plans to go on a trip to Cairns in tropical north Queensland with one of my favourite friends from work and my all time favourite kiwi, one miss Laura. We had a wonderful boozy week away and took every opportunity to soak up some sun, go for a swim and indulge in an aperol spritz or bloody mary about every half hour.
Laura was newly single, and went on quite a few dates during our trip, which left me with a little alone time. I knew that I had a month off work coming up in November and that I was planning to spend it in Adelaide, so I decided to see if I could line up a few dates myself; after all, I had already kind of exhausted the limited lesbian dating pool in Darwin.
When I opened up Tinder I found that I had quite a few messages sitting there from people that I’d matched with whilst I had been in Adelaide. I had a few chats and ended up lining up around 6 or 7 dates, with my only intention being to have fun and enjoy my month off work. I didn’t think too much of it, little did I know that that decision would change my life!
When I arrived back in Darwin at the beginning, I had a run of five night shifts and then I would be flying back down to Adelaide for a month off work. At about 5pm before the first of those night shifts, I started chatting again with one of the women who I had matched with on Tinder. At this point we honestly hadn’t talked too much, I just thought she was beautiful! However, she went out for some work drinks on this particular evening and proceeded to have quite a drunk conversation with me – and there are no words to describe how fun and exciting it was! All of a sudden, this was the date that I was most excited for. This was the date that I had to go on first, I was already thinking about cancelling all my other dates!
Just before I had to go to work I asked her if we could have a facetime date before I flew down, and she agreed.
I was pretty useless that night shift, and for all of those following.
Each night we would facetime from when she got home from work to when I had to go to work. When I was at work I was giddy and distracted. I hadn’t been sleeping well because I was too excited, and I often found myself not wanting to eat because of the butterflies in my tummy. This was the first time I had ever felt so excited for a first date in my life! We hadn’t met yet, but I just knew that there was something there.
I flew down on a Sunday and we met that afternoon. Our first date lasted three days, and our second date lasted the rest of the month (partly thanks to a Covid-19 related lockdown in which we naturally decided to lockdown together despite only having known each other for a week). We spent only two nights apart in my four weeks of leave and this was when she had to be in Sydney for work.
I fell hard, fast and deeply in love with Ella, in a way that I hadn’t thought possible. I had never felt so comfortable and at ease with someone, whilst simultaneously feeling exhilarated and overwhelmed with excitement. By the end of that four weeks, I knew that there was a very real possibility that she was the one.
When my four weeks of leave ended, it was quite a tearful goodbye at the airport even though we had already booked flights for Ella to come up to Darwin! This started a long four months of a long distance relationship and taking turns flying up and down to opposite sides of the country. Despite the back and forth and the ever present risk of border closures, we still managed to spend Christmas together and have a little getaway to the beautiful Marion Bay, all the while I started thinking about moving back to South Australia, and started implementing all the things I needed to do to make that happen.
January + February 2021
January would’ve passed by in a blip of busyness and long distancing, but it stands out in my mind because of the little trip that we were able to take for Ella’s birthday. We flew out to the remote Tiwi Islands and spent a few lovely days sinking beers, swimming in the pool, croc spotting, having picnics on the beach and watching incredible sunsets.
February was much the same, fly to Adelaide to see Ella, Ella flies to Darwin to see me, miss Ella when I’m not with her and repeat. Long distance relationships are hard! I had been in one before, but never with a partner who I’d fallen so truly in love with. Ella is my soulmate, and being away from her was the absolute pits.
March + April 2021
March was always going to be a busy month. I put in my resignation in Darwin and was on the hunt for a job in Adelaide, downsizing and selling a bunch of my stuff so that I could stay within my luggage limits and getting my apartment ready to be leased by a new tenant once I had moved out. I was also juggling applications for necessary government checks and approvals that I would need before I could work in SA as a midwife. All of this whilst working full time and juggling a long distance relationship!
I flew down to Adelaide on the 14th of March to attend three job interviews and to bring down a few suitcases of stuff to our new house. During this week, the Adelaide fringe festival was on, and on the Thursday night we decided to catch a show. During the show I noticed my Dad calling me, but kept it silenced and planned to return the call after the show.
Once we exited the show, I called dad back, but due to the busyness of the area, the reception was incredibly bad and I struggled to make out what dad was saying, all I managed to understand was that my dad had come off his bike and was in the hospital.
We jumped into a taxi and raced to the nearby hospital and ran into the emergency room. I asked to see Burne and spelled it out (the spelling of our surname isn’t something you see very often) and she asked me “which one?”
Turns out my father and my grandmother had both been admitted within a matter of hours of each other! Dad had come off of his motorbike at 50kms/hr (about 31 miles per hour for my American readers) and my grandmother had been admitted with a suspected urinary tract infection.
It was a stressful evening and I didn’t sleep very well that night.
The following day, Dad was moved to a new room but told he would be okay to go home on the Saturday. Grandma had moments of lucidity but the doctors warned us that the suspected UTI was not the problem and that she had developed pneumonia and was not responding to antibiotics.
On Saturday I went back to visit Dad who was looking much brighter and Grandma, who the nurses told me before I entered the room was looking much better that day. However, when I entered the room something didn’t feel right. My grandma was calling me ‘Cherry’, which was unusual for her, despite the dementia she would normally confuse me with my older cousin Alison. She also kept telling me not to wake Tony and gesturing to the daybed where it seems like she thought he was sleeping. But her husband Tony, Grandpa Burne, had died almost six months earlier, and there was nobody else in the room with us.
I had a bad feeling, but the nurses were reassuring and I left the hospital at around 1pm.
At around 3pm I received a call from my uncle Martyn to tell me that Grandma was rapidly deteriorating. I rushed back in and found her in the midst of true septic shock, She was screaming, yelling, thrashing, trying to pull her clothes off and kept begging us to let her go home. It was hard to see her like that, but I know it was even harder for my Dad and uncles. The decision was made by our family and the doctors to withdraw treatment (antibiotics and fluids), keep her comfortable (with pain relief and sedation) and allow nature to take its course.
I stayed with her that night. It was just me and her. I slept for maybe an hour, and was kept busy by keeping her mouth and lips from drying out too much with a sort of balmy solution and helping the nurses with turning her and caring for her.
I went home Sunday morning and managed to get a few hours sleep. I emailed my manager and explained that I wouldn’t be making it in for my shift on tuesday.
I went back and forth a lot on the sunday and went home to sleep that night whilst my uncle Martyn stayed with her.
She passed away at 0742 on Monday the 22nd of March.
She was my last surviving Grandparent.
Watching her pass away was incredibly hard and often distressing (my eyes are welling up as I write this) but despite that, I wouldn’t change a thing. Being able to support her transition from life into the beyond is something that I am so grateful I had the opportunity to do.
The rest of March was a stressful blur. Because I wasn’t able to get back to Darwin until the 25th and then needed to reschedule my flight for the 29th so that I could get back to Adelaide for the funeral in time, it left me with only four days to pack up my entire apartment and move across the country when I was meant to have two weeks.
Oh, and I still had to work night shift during this time – it was brutal.
I started my new job in mid April and spent the rest of that month starting my new life in Adelaide.
In May we welcomed two new additions to our household in the form of two extremely gorgeous bunnies named Artie and Mabel. This should have been nothing but exciting, but Artie was sold to us already sick, and not long after we got her she ended up with a gut stasis and a two day vet hospital admission.
Why is nothing in life ever simple?
We did however manage to get away for a long weekend over my birthday. We took a ferry to Kangaroo Island and spent our three days sampling the local cuisine, admiring the natural rock formations and getting up close and personal with the local fauna.
June + July 2021
These two months passed by in a blur. We had planned to travel to Queenstown in New Zealand after the announcement of the travel bubble between our two countries, but that trip was cancelled after the Delta variant hit the East Coast of Australia.
I was also busy with applying for a new job – the one I had had was nice but I found myself really missing working in a public healthcare and wanted to get back to that.
Meanwhile, I was also planning a big surprise for Ella…
Amazingly, despite having a lockdown due to cluster of confirmed Delta cases here in SA – the outbreak was controlled, eliminated and other states reopened borders with us, which meant that the trip we’d been planning to Tasmania didn’t get cancelled!
We spent a week doing pretty much a lap of Tasmania, all of which culminated in one very special surprise…
The big surprise?
…and she said yes!
Yup, it may seem kinda fast. But like people say, ‘when you know you know’.
Ella is the one. I can’t wait to call her my wife.
So, what’s next?
Well, first and foremost, I want to get this blog back on track.
I’m going to be writing again and hopefully posting weekly from now on. I still have so many trips to write about that I took pre-covid (DRC, Sudan, Madagascar, Japan etc) and definitely want to write about some of my Aussie adventures.
I have an epic trip planned for November (border restrictions pending of course) and the government is assuring us that international travel will reopen by the end of the year. I’m vaxxed and ready to go on some adventures! I have tentatively booked a few trips for 2022 and have very clear ideas and plans for the trips I plan to take once the government will allow us to do so.
I’ve missed my wonderful community here and can’t wait to be a part of your lives once again.
Please let me know in the comments what you’ve been up to and how you have been managing in the pandemic.
Also, please vote in the poll below to let me know what content you are most excited about seeing!
Sending lots of love to you all.