- Countries Visited: 30 – most of Europe, a bit of South America, a little of the US, Canada and Indonesia.
- Travel Wishlist: USA, Russia, Zimbabwe
- Locked down in: Hawthorn, Melbourne, Australia.
“So take that slow-boil of existential terror, marinate it in an ever-increasing level of restlessness, and then add in the fact that I was neck-deep in online dating at the time, and you’ve got a perfect mix for some shenanigans.
I went god damn crazy.“
Lockdown has been weird.
And I mean really, REALLY weird.
Much like my mate James who invited me to write this (and whose own post you can find via this link), I’m a traveller with a taste for adventures; I’ve hiked all over Australia in all kinds of conditions and nearly had my arse kicked by the elements, terrain, wildlife and my own stubbornness more times than I can count. I’ve also travelled a lot, including living for a year in remote Indonesia.
Essentially put, I like to move around. Even in my professional career I had cultivated a nice arrangement where I had a dozen different jobs going at any given time, and could generally work wherever I liked – mostly cafes, three or four a day as the mood took me. A ridiculous waste of money considering you need to buy something in every place to justify hanging around, but for me the change of scenery kept me feeling fresh and prevented procrastination. I rarely, if ever, worked from home unless it was a seriously urgent job, and even then only late at night – just far too many distractions in my home!
So when the lockdown came crashing down, advancing from virtually nothing to stage 3 inside a fortnight in Melbourne, that lifestyle ended pretty damn decisively. And now I was stuck in the house. For everything.
A slow decent into madness ensued.
Restlessness kicked in almost immediately, but I was ready for that and adjusted pretty well: lots of walks to break up the day, good maintenance of my social networks via online platforms, and plenty of work kept me going (another benefit of having a dozen jobs is that they never all fail at the same time). I even took the extra step of getting really into my crafty stuff, taking commissions from friends for copper items I could make at home, ensuring I always had something I could work on.
That lasted me the first few weeks. And then shit went downhill.
Week by week I started noticing my emotional state getting more and more… intense. Small things having big impacts and my thoughts becoming more and more over the top. I have a big interest in politics, and that’s a dangerous game for your mental health at the best of times, but during the lockdown? Pure mental poison. And yet at the same time, I couldn’t look away – what could be more politically interesting than a global crisis happening in real-time? It was the mother of all case studies, and my brain ran wild with it. A pity then that the realities were so grim.
My big travel plan for 2020 was to head to the US for a couple of months in November and really get to know the place. As an Australian, the US is the source of virtually all of our pop culture and has taken on an almost mythical quality; I wanted to get past the crazy extremes the media showed us and figure out what made the nation tick. Covid put an end to that idea pretty damn fast, but also set off a chain of events that made me look at the US in a very different light – is this dumpster fire really a place I want to go anymore? Originally I wanted to time my visit with the November Presidential election, on the basis that no matter how it played out, it would be the experience of a life time. That’s technically still true, but getting swept up into a second civil war isn’t exactly what I had in mind.
And the US isn’t alone in this. God knows when we’ll next be able to travel internationally, but I have no doubt that the experience will never be like it once was; just as 9/11 changed airport security forever, so too will this pandemic alter biosecurity from this point on. Will some nations restrict tourism out of fear of a fresh outbreak? Will additional health checks be required, self-isolation procedures, restricted movement, movement tracing software? Will it be possible to relax into another culture again when everyone is so paranoid about foreigners potentially bringing in the virus? Time will only tell, but the world just got a hell of a lot more complicated by any measure.
So take that slow-boil of existential terror, marinate it in an ever-increasing level of restlessness, and then add in the fact that I was neck-deep in online dating at the time, and you’ve got a perfect mix for some shenanigans.
I went god damn crazy.
As with so many single people at the time, I made up for the lack of in-person contact by hitting Hinge for hours a day. At peak I had over 30 different conversations going simultaneously, all at various stages of development and all absolutely, infuriatingly pointless: no matter how well the chat went, we couldn’t meet up. Tension mounted as everyone got progressively thirstier without any way of getting satisfaction, stress built up and simply maintaining all the damn conversations became overwhelming for no pay-off, and it all came to a head where I started to ‘break up’ with people who I had never actually met. It was madness.
This is also the period where I started ritualistically setting things on fire, but as a former Scout (literally every one of us are pyromaniacs) and current blacksmith that barely rates a mention.
Eventually the sheer ridiculousness of the situation sank in, and after a nice refreshing six hour walk one Sunday (I literally went out for an hour and just… kept walking), I managed to pull my shit together and settle into a routine, but life has remained pretty tense – especially following Melbourne re-entering lockdown after a second outbreak and people quickly running out of mental energy for staying in lockdown.
But none of this really scares me. At the end of the day this will get sorted out, the question is more about the amount of harm caused in the process than whether it will be fixed or not. No, what really worries me is what happens after this, because someone has to pay for all this shit. The very critical question is ‘who?’
Make no mistake here, that very simple decision will dictate how each nation, and the world collectively look for the next decade. If the burden is shared equitably, we’ll all feel the pinch, but ultimately become the stronger for it. But if that burden is dumped on those with the least, through cut services, ‘austerity’ measures, and tax breaks for the rich, then we will see society begin to rot. Crime, instability, civil unrest and that ever-creeping spectre of climate change will rise and become the new normal.
And as always when our leaders, both in government and industry, fail us, the people need to rise to fill the gaps their failures leave. Fortunately for us, this lockdown has been surprisingly good preparation for exactly that! Throughout this pandemic we have seen friends, family and whole communities pull together in ways you’d think would be impossible considering they weren’t actually allowed to meet up in any way. We’ve adapted, we’ve learned, and we’ve innovated – and eventually we will overcome this like every other challenge we’ve ever faced.
In all likelihood there’s an even nastier storm on the horizon not too long from now.
But me and you? We’ll be ready for it this time.