The Struggles of Living Abroad in 2020

With the corona situation still in full swing globally, the world is a very different place and there appears to be no end in sight. Living abroad in 2020 has sure been challenging at times. From trying to sort out new visas, travel insurance, flight costs, postal delays and keeping up-to-date with new COVID related rules and restrictions, 2020 has sure tested us several times.

For those of you reading and thinking to yourself, ‘well you should of returned home’, it’s not at all that simple! When we moved to Europe last August, from our home in Australia, we packed up our lives, sold off our belongings and committed to a new life. We bought a van, converted it into our home and settled into a new beginning of life on the road. So, I’m sure some are still thinking, and??? 

Our van is our home, imagine trying to sell your home in a foreign country in a matter of days or short weeks, packing your life up and rushing around in high risk airports in the middle of a global pandemic, trying to franticly get home! Doesn’t sound like a smart idea does it?!? Airports were and still are (in my opinion) a red flag and COVID hotspot, that we wish to avoid.

So instead of putting our health at risk, we opted to stay put and ride it out. At that point it was the smartest thing we could do for our own safety. We of course, sought after advice from the Australian embassy and were told to follow the Austrian governments advice. 

So here, 7 months on from our decision to stay abroad, we are still here and still healthy and safe. During this time, life has not been easy for the majority of the time. COVID put all our plans on hold and meant, that due to this and visa departments being closed worldwide for an extended period, we were in a massive panic. As we are not EU citizens, we need a visa to be able to be legally here after a 90 day period. The amount of help and advice we received during this time was poor. The amount of back and fourth phone calls and emails we made was absolutely ridiculous and heavily time consuming. The worst part is that all that got us no where and left us more stressed and unsure then before.

As if the stress of visas wasn’t enough, travel insurance companies decided to start making life difficult and not paying for medical bills we were entitled too, as they realised we were still abroad. I am not talking about exclusions due to pandemics and not being covered for COVID related expenses, I’m talking about everyday script repayments that were once paid. They started asking for doctor reports on top of receipts which is usually all you need. Now when lockdown broke out, doctors were only accepting emergencies and it was a total risk to ones health to sit in a waiting room at this point. So unfortunately, we lost out as I was not going to expose myself to a high risk area nor pay more money for a doctors report to have them come back and say it’s not adequate and they are still not covering expenses. It is so disappointing having this happen to us and we are well aware we are not the only ones this has happened to during this time. You pay top dollar for coverage to ensure your health is a priority and so that expensive medical bills whilst abroad will never be an issue should they arise. Luckily, there a select few travel insurance companies doing right by those living abroad and offering full coverage in these challenging times, so you bet we jumped onboard right away!

The biggest stress is finances. Corona lockdowns and restrictions meant no work and even less work for those from abroad if they were/are lucky enough to still have a current visa. It also meant that, when we were faced with dilemmas and what felt like an unresolvable issue at the time, going home was not even an option and was our absolute last resort. With current flight restrictions and the sky high prices, how can one afford to go home? We recently spoke to some aussies who are also still abroad, who have looked into flights to get home early next year. They were quoted an absolute bomb for flights and on top of that expense you are then hit with a $3,000 hotel quarantine fee on arrival. For us to go home, it could cost us tens of thousands! For that money, we could live here in our van for probably at least 2 years! That is just crazy and I honestly couldn’t warrant spending that amount when we are in a safe place and are making smart decisions and protecting ourselves as much as possible from COVID. It’s very concerning for those that don’t have somewhere to live or that don’t feel safe and wish to return home.

We have received no help what so ever from local authorities or even our own embassies. They can’t even offer decent and correct advice or a straight forward answer, even when we were in a massive panic due to visas and overstays in the EU. I feel for all that are stuck and/or choosing to live abroad currently. It’s been a real eye opener and I am so glad we have managed to resolve any issues we have had on our own, because if not, you really have no one to turn to. 

The lack of help and support from embassies and authorities was disappointing, in particular from Australian embassies. We are so thankful that we have been lucky enough to have made good friends abroad, who were/are willing to open there home to us and provide us with a safe place to stay when we had no where else or needed someone to go to make a plan for our next move. We are grateful to be a part of the vanlife community also, where we have been offered help and support when we felt stuck. It’s very reassuring to be able to connect with fellow people travelling or living abroad who may have been through similar scenarios and can offer helpful advice and possible resolutions. It’s amazing to see people come together and offer help and support to others in times of need.

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