• Countries Visited: 13
  • Travel Wishlist: Vietnam and Cambodia, Hawaii and back to Aus to give my wee niece and baby cousin the biggest hugs.
  • Locked down in: Queenstown, New Zealand

“If everyone had a best friend like that wee legend we’d all be doing more than alright.”

As I sat in Queenstown Airport sobbing my eyes out an Airport Security man tapped me on the shoulder and discreetly asked if everything was OK and if I needed to talk to someone, as if I was some sort of security risk.

The only way I could describe how I felt was a genuine heart break. My visa was up and I was waiting for my flight back to Ireland after three years away. Like so many people who leave Queenstown, I wasn’t ready to leave and was so unbelievably gutted that I was. It wasn’t just the thought of having to go back to ‘normal life’ where it wasn’t socially acceptable to party every night of the week. I was saying goodbye to the first place that I truly felt at home for a very long time. A place where I finally felt mentally strong again.

The reality of going back to Ireland for the first time since my mum had died scared the sht out of me. I didn’t want to slip back into that “dark place”. Closing this chapter just didn’t feel right. So when my best friend, Orfhlaith came back to our table in the Departure Lounge bar saying, “Shell, cheers to the start of your holiday” it stuck. The few weeks to follow weren’t the best but they also weren’t the worst. It was so amazing seeing family and friends that I hadn’t seen in over three years but I still felt so unbelievably sad. I didn’t want to be there.

Knowing how low I felt, Orfhlaith moved me into her flat in Glasgow and I started looking for work. She said to me from day one that I shouldn’t disguise the feelings I felt for the sake of her or others. I was allowed to feel sh*t but on the flip side, was also allowed to laugh and have the craic if that felt right too. That environment is everything I needed and more and it definitely gave me the boost to get myself out of the ruck I found myself in. If everyone had a best friend like that wee legend we’d all be doing more than alright.

The reason why I’m telling a story that happened 6 months pre-covid is because that in someway it felt like my “lockdown”. I mean, there was no banana bread made in the time I was back in Ireland and the UK but it was a mad emotional roller-coaster.

Skip forward to March.
As I’m boarding my connecting flight in Doha airport, it’s announced that New Zealand are closing their boarders to international tourists. Sweet. I’ve just worked my arse off to finally get back and now what?
An 18 hour flight usually feels like forever but this was a different sort of forever. Was I going to get in on time? No one had answers for us so we just had to sit it out.
As I land I tried to connect to the Internet as soon as possible and breathe the biggest sigh of relief. Somehow it’s all good. No mandatory quarantine, just heavily questioned on arrival. Seven teeny tiny hours to spare.

I had about ten days of ‘social distanced freedom’ before New Zealand’s covid cases tipped to over one hundred and Jacinda announced the country was going into full lockdown.
With a few hours to go until our lockdown began I decided to have one last catch up with my mates, Jess and Mandy as they headed to Kmart to stock up on supplies for the six weeks ahead.
And there I saw him… Jess and Mandy’s dishevelled housemate Jase, curled up on the back seat of the car looking a bit fragile from the night before. Once he was able to muster up some energy he managed to crack a few jokes and we ended up getting on pretty effortlessly.

The six weeks of lockdown to follow ended up being fairly typical. I started off with the mindset that I’d use the time to get fit and instead I spent it re-watching Ru Paul and drinking copious amounts of red wine with one of my besties.
Amongst the wine and drag queens, Jase and I messaged and spoke over
FaceTime all day, every day. It was almost like we went back to old school dating and was super refreshing but our patience was definitely starting to grow thin. We were ready to meet up and go on a proper date which happened once Jacinda lifted the Level 3 restrictions.
Where to? The local chip shop. So glam.

The dynamic community of Queenstown has dwindled a little since lockdown as our little tourist town has been hit hard with the lack of internationals. Kiwis are coming to explore our gorgeous town but school holidays are short and the party no longer lasts seven days a week. Nonetheless, I’m pretty damn lucky and beyond stoked to be back in my happy place.