Breaking Through the Sound of Silence
Hello. It’s been awhile. More than a year, in fact. Yikes.
I’ve been long wanting to sit down and share something on this space on the internet that I do, after all, pay money for the privilege of owning. Unfortunately, I seem to have suffered from a 13 month long writers block that has quite a bit to do with the events of March 2020 onwards, and a bit too with events that took place well before then.
I can, like many other travel bloggers, mostly blame COVID-19 for this. How can we not? It’s absolutely decimated the travel industry, across the globe.
However, my problems started a little earlier, before the first news story on a new virus was even ‘printed’ (I use this term loosely, because digital age).
2019 had been a good year for my blog. After largely viewing the whole travel blogging thing as a hobby, or something I just couldn’t get my head around (and so, watching my contemporaries, or blogs younger than mine ‘take off’ – great for them, but blergh for me), I decided to get serious about Birdgehls and treat it like a business.
A teeny, tiny business, mind you. But a business all the same.
A simple reset in my way of thinking was a game changer for my blog. I joined blogging Facebook groups, finally learned how SEO worked and planned my future posts accordingly.
Thanks to my five years of blogging, I was sitting on a pile of already written content, that just needed a bit of tweaking here and there.
I worked my butt off and my blog started reaping the rewards, as the numbers climbed. Heading towards Birdgehls’ fifth anniversary, I was very close to reaching the number of views I had set myself as my goal for that year.
Then Google released an algorithm update, funnily enough on my five year anniversary. How’s that for timing.
Many small content creators like myself woke up that morning to see massive reductions in their traffic, as their posts were bumped from their top ranking positions in the global search engine.
I’m not sure if there is a word to describe seeing something you’ve poured your heart and soul into disappear overnight. Disheartening? Not strong enough. Maddening? Well yes, I was mad, but it doesn’t encapsulate how I was feeling at the time.
Google have been on my shit list for awhile and this was the final straw. I’ve been working on eradicating them from my life for awhile and have almost succeeded. I might share how I’ve done this in a future post – it involves a fair bit of time and sacrifice, but it’s been well worth it.
It’s okay, I told myself. It’s a minor setback. You can bounce back from this.
I decided to give myself a break from blogging, while I recalibrated. But then, Australia caught on fire.
I don’t really have any words to describe this experience either. I live in a city, so I was ‘safe’ for this round, but there were several occasions where I woke up to a Melbourne engulfed by smoke from the fires burning out of control only three hours away.
There was a terrifying drive home from NSW after Christmas, just after things got really bad, where we were racing against time to get back to Melbourne before the Hume highway closed, listening to the alerts on the ABC (god bless our national broadcaster) and seeing the smoke set in across the road, right in front of us, from the fire raging only 30 kilometres away.
And the projected three billion animals lost to the fires and their lasting effects. Truth be told, I haven’t been able to process the colossal loss of last summer yet and what it means for our country, and the world. There hasn’t been a chance.
On a personal level, my blog content is largely about Australia and suffice to say, we weren’t doing much travelling at that time, being terrified for our lives and all.
And then COVID-19 hit.
The first lockdown was interesting. Not good. Not even bad – as despite my blog views tanking for the third time in a four month period, I still had my bread and butter job. Very thankful for this.
In many ways, it was much needed time for rest and reflection. I’d been going hell for leather from January 1st of 2020 – having moved house and signed up for various commitments including a four month permaculture course (life-changing and something I certainly want to write more about later), while balancing what had become a rather insane social life.
I remember looking through my diary in February and realising that I didn’t have a single free weekend until June. That in itself, is kinda terrifying.
Of course, everything then fell apart and was cancelled and it was almost… dare I say, nice to have some time to rest, and get stuff sorted. Stuff that is important, but I’d never really had the time or energy to see to.
Unfortunately, after the first lockdown ended and things elsewhere in the country picked up, Melbourne quickly went from bad to worse.
We had about a two week period in I think, late May and June when everything seemed to be okay and then it quite simply, wasn’t. Everyday we were waking up to bad news, as elected officials sat on their hands and the numbers rose.
This led to a staggered approach to tackle these issues, culminating in some of the harshest lockdown restrictions in the world, for daily case numbers that barely rivalled that of the countries worse affected.
Some of it was necessary. Some perhaps wasn’t. And while it was ultimately effective – to a point, because this virus keeps worming its way in – it will have lasting effects upon the city and its inhabitants.
I know the thing that I found hardest to adjust to, was the loneliness. Long hours spent by myself in the house, only able to venture outside for an hour a day. Not seeing any friends or family – only my boyfriend – for almost five months. Missing birthdays, seeing new babes and even a family wedding.
It was so weird too, to watch friends and family in other parts of the country live out their lives being a bit like ‘but what virus’. Once again, I wouldn’t want what Melbourne went through to be forced onto any other part of my country. It was long and sad. But still, so odd, particularly after we were repeatedly told throughout the first lockdown that we were “all in this together” and then suddenly… we weren’t.
When restrictions lifted, it was of course, a joyous occasion. But there was an underlying sense of trauma there. I cried when seeing people for the first time in months, in restaurants, the first time I sat back on the reformer at my pilates studio and driving over the state border to visit my family.
And with the most recent outbreak across the country, which I was directly affected by due to being on the wrong side of border again, I feel like I’m on edge all the time.
Australia’s response to this virus, while effective by world standards, has led to great division between our states and territories.
You no longer feel Australian anymore – you’re a ‘plague-ridden’ Victorian, you’re a hard-nosed Queenslander. You’re a Western Australian, living in one of the parts of the world who has been least affected by the events of last year and so, you’re oblivious to what everyone else is going through, or you’re from NSW and simply just do not care.
Not my words, rather it seems this is what you’re made to feel by political leaders, the media and through the views of other people.
And as most of the states now slam down their borders willy nilly, it makes it impossible to plan travel internally, which creates great problems when you are all part of THE ONE COUNTRY. Family and friends are spread around, work is based elsewhere. While our infection numbers are just under 25,000 since the pandemic began and our virus-related deaths minimal compared to the rest of the world, we certainly haven’t been immune to the effects of this virus. The scale of tragedies is smaller, but it remains tragic all the same.
However, we are still very lucky. There’s a lot to be grateful for.
The last year hasn’t all been doom and gloom. As I said, I was very lucky to keep my job and while there was a weird blending of work and personal time for many weeks (where life was just work, sleep, chores, work, WHERE IS THE FUN) I was grateful to still have money coming in and so thankful that family and friends have remained safe.
My new(ish now) place also has a garden and while I recently learned the soil is full of lead and so growing produce in it, out of the question, it’s been great to have a space outside to find solace in, to wander in very small circles mask free, to grow things and see wildlife rejoice in our shared space, except for the neighbour’s cat who is on my shit list just under Google due to its uncontrollable killing and is therefore, not welcome.
However through it all, I have been unable to write. My day job requires a certain amount of creativity and as I have discovered, I need nature to be inspired. Now I know why my feet itch after I spend to long in the city – I just gotta get out, hug some trees, face plant into the ocean and ogle beautiful birds.
I do enjoy the excitement and convenience of city life, but I’m a country gal at heart.
There is no real point to this blog post (is it a recap of the last 13 months? Sort of, I suppose but mostly me trying to process things), but it is momentous in its pointlessness. I have sat down at my computer numerous times over the last few months and tried to write and not gone beyond a couple of paragraphs, because writing felt pointless, which scares me as much, if not more than anything else that’s happened over the last year.
I’ve long wondered what to do with this blog. At times, I was tempted to shut the whole thing down. Delete it off the internet forever (where nothing is truly ever deleted, but anyway) and never think of it again.
It does seem a waste, however, to rid myself of something I have spent years creating. This blog has pivoted quite a few times since its inception – I’ve never really thought of it as just a travel blog, more like somewhere for me to publish my asinine wonderings, where anyone is free to read and as per human nature, judge them.
Plus some of my best performing posts have nothing to do with travel. And in all honesty, they end up being the ones that are far more fun to write.
And I want this to be a fun endeavour again. Otherwise, what’s the point?
I think above all else, 2020 has demonstrated that the lives we have been living up until now, that society itself, sits upon a precariously balanced house of cards.
Anxiety levels may be through the roof, but the last year has shown us what’s truly important. Life. Our loved ones. Our world. Each other.
Whoever happens to be reading this, I truly hope you are okay. One adage I’ve clung to in tough times, is this too shall pass.
Things always do, one way or another.