So, be honest, who thought I would have made it thus far?
I know when I first moved here, we were featured in several news articles talking about our move, and many commented that I’d be running back home super fast once I figured out that Croatia wasn’t the paradise I was expecting.
A few times, I wanted to.
But I did not. Not yet anyway. Two thousand, nine hundred and twenty days…and counting, and I am still here.
If you have read any of my other expat in Croatia updates, you will know that between years 3 and 5, I was a huge emotional mess, and struggled a lot with life, work, and making friends (so much so, I could never bring myself to write about the anniversary)
I thought the worst was behind me as I enjoyed my 5th and 6th years living in Croatia. Then the god-damn-pandemic broke out, and year 7 was kind of miserable. Having no visitors from Australia and being in financial trouble due to the pandemic were just the pits.
At the end of 2020, my father was diagnosed with MS and told he had cancer. I was gutted not to be able to quickly get on a plane and go help my Mom and sisters with my Dad. Not to be able to sit next to my Dad and help him through his grim diagnosis. I could not leave my two little boys in Croatia without me at Christmas time, and the costs were just too high at the time to fly all 4 of us to Australia.
F*ck you COVID-19.
I genuinely thought by mid-2021, the Australian borders would open up, and we all could fly back to Australia then. Ha, how naive I was.
In December, missing out on having the regular visit from my mother-in-law (who I adore!) spend Christmas with us was just awful. Christmas felt so lonely without her. I just wanted some love and joy from back home, and the video calls were not cutting the mustard. Not even close.
F*ck you COVID-19.
I told myself that 2021 would be better, Australia would open up its borders – or at least let the prisoners, oops, I mean, citizens off the island. But no, they did not.
The Australian Government is saying more like mid-2022 until Australians can depart. Urrgh, that sinking feeling in my gut gets heavier every time I think about it.
F*ck you COVID-19.
And, I wish that was the worst of my sinking feeling, but it was and still is not.
In January, my 40-year-old sister died somewhat unexpectedly. Leaving behind a husband and three kids, the youngest just 6. I could not travel back for the funeral or spend time with family due to the ridiculous costs and hotel quarantine rules imposed by the Australian Government.
When she passed, the return flight cost was around AUD 15,000, with another AUD 3,000 for hotel quarantine (14 days spent locked up in some cheap-ass hotel), plus PCR test costs. All up, that is more than I make in a whole year living in Croatia.
The costs made it partially impossible; I mean, I could take it from savings, borrow it from family and friends – but, in actual fact going would have been somewhat pointless as I would not have made it out of the 14 days quarantine in time to go to the funeral.
Instead, I watched my sister’s funeral online via my laptop at 3 am one dark, sad morning. I wasn’t alone thankfully, friends were with me, as was Mr. Chasing the Donkey.
But that’s when I started to realize that eight years living in a foreign country with no family really sucks when you don’t have the option to travel freely as we did pre-COVID.
I know, COVID-19 has screwed up so much for so many. We had a family member pass from the virus, another who spent months in hospital battling it. Our Octopus Private Transport business is struggling due to lack of tourism. Others have gone bankrupt, and generally, life is not the same for a single person on the whole planet. For sure, I am aware that I am not alone in my misery.
That said, I still very much love Croatia. For all of the same usual reasons, everyone else moves here. The beach. The laid-back lifestyle. Safety. Having kids grow up bi-lingual. Blah blah, blah, none of that has changed. Not one bit.
But, this pandemic has made me realize more than ever how FAR away I am from my family. I wish I could take a PCR test, jump on a plane, spend a few hours on board, land, and be home to give and receive warm hugs.
But nope, Australia is so far away, and the policies in place make it financially impossible to take my family back to Australia.
For a family of four like mine, the costs are currently about $30,000AUD for flights and mandatory hotel quarantine costs. And the Australian people don’t want Aussies to come back – they all want to keep the borders shut up, kept tight, and protect the ones who live there. Well, at least that is how it seems when I talk to family and friends living there.
That all said, I still don’t want to move back to Australia. Croatia is my home.
Despite it all, I have no plans to leave Croatia, and in fact, I am thinking about how best to plan for university for my two boys and also about my retirement here. How to fund those things, and making sure that our lives as expats in Croatia get better from here…after covid f*cks off that is.
And, life is not all doom and gloom; a few weeks ago, we started traveling again. Having spent time at two kids’ hotels in two weekends isn’t that bad, aye?
It was so great to be able to explore again with the kids showing them new places (don’t worry, we wear our masks in and out) and staying at hotels so that I escape cooking and cleaning for a few days!
Plus, we also became God Parents again to a sweet little boy who we adore – so that’s a big cherry on top of the year of poo that is 2021.
Here is to a better 2021/2022 to you all. And, fingers crossed that my 9-year living in Croatia update is much more positive and happy – much like this one from 2019!
Love and health to you all from Zadar, Croatia. xx