Return to WA
I'm very pleased to say that I have made it back to Western Australia! After four weeks of quarantine and four COVID tests, I am free again to roam the land - or the state at least.
Travelling in a pandemic
Organising travel back ended up being a bit more stressful than I hoped as I thought I was all sorted. While driving up the Californian coast with its surprisingly patchy internet, I found things changed each time I checked the news or my email.
I discovered my booked flight wasn't cancelled yet but would likely be as it wasn't possible to change terminals in Japan due to travel restrictions (it was cancelled the week after). The sudden imposition of a limit of 4000 arrivals per week nationally and the lockdown of Melbourne airport meant a slew of flight cancellations, price spikes and limited seats. The possibility of flights being cancelled at any point or airlines acting unethically by bumping economy passengers for business class ones remained up until the day I flew.
Australian states were talking about hotel quarantine payments, but how and when they'd be implemented - based on your booking date or arrival date - wasn't clear and may not be until the announcement was made and then it could be too late if it was announcement date itself. It made for a high-stakes guessing game of what to do. Paying $5000 to get back was more than I could afford (ticket + $3k quarantine).
Thankfully I was able to book a reasonably priced flight to Sydney from LA with Delta and I made the quarantine payment deadline for NSW by 10 hours! With the new flight booked and a back-up plan to head to Canada if the flight was cancelled, I was able to relax and enjoy summer while I waited.
West Coast US
On my solo road trip, I visited the the Redwoods in California, Olympic National Park and the Cascades in Washington, and a bit of Montana while seeing my Aunt Janie. I mostly explored the outdoors, camping and hiking. On the way back through Seattle, I had dinner with my cousin Ryan and his family near Pike Place Market. Some photos of the sights are below.
The flight to Sydney was probably the best flight I've ever had. 75 people total on board a plane built for 293 passengers. On arrival in Sydney we were screened by health workers then bused to our hotel, the Meriton Suites. It looks like I did quite well hearing other stories. Meals were delivered three times a day - a knock and a paper bag sitting outside the door. Human contact beyond FaceTime consisted of a guard sitting in the hallway 24/7 and two COVID test visits. As I had fractured the pointer finger on my right hand while hiking (fell on a rock), I couldn't write or type for very long. So I read books and watched a lot of Netflix and did a daily exercise video session. Very peaceful. I may well have been the happiest person in quarantine.
Getting to Perth required an exemption as state borders between NSW and WA had tightened significantly in mid-July. I got in under a criterion related to my job, but otherwise I wouldn't have made the cut. I really feel for those who are applying under compassionate grounds and are denied entry.
Another COVID test at the airport and registration with the Police (who did visit once to see if I was at home), and my parents and I set off for Goode Beach. Admittedly I didn't really considering it quarantine here.
Back to normal
It's looking likely that I will be able to return to my job part-time while I do my studies over the next several months. I gave up my house when I left in March so I'm still settling where I'll live in Perth, but I have options. Otherwise life will soon turn fairly normal again as COVID isn't in WA presently. A friend asked me the other day how I was going with all the craziness of the last few months. I'm really fine and fairly unshaken by it. I had a few things in my favour such as extended paid leave, but mostly while the world seemed absolutely out of control and uncertain, I knew God wasn't. There's a quote on my boat that I can see when I look outside the main cabin window "Be still and know that I am God", from Psalm 46. It was there as I tried and failed to get the solar power converter working. I vividly remember staring at it as we scrambled out the van to assess the damage after the accident - thinking even this He knew. I don't why things have gone the way they did nor am I likely to, but I am grateful to not have had to be my own rock throughout this. God makes a much better one. The boat and trailer are in Long Beach being repaired and additional supplies are in Monterey. Assuming I can get out of the country next year, it's looking like another attempt is possible, and probable! Thank you again for your continued support, prayers and interest. I'll check back in a couple months or so.