Dream trip turns sour for Dundalk couple

Former Louth Rose of Tralee Aoife Heffron and her boyfriend Kevin White have seen their dream trip to Australia turn sour with the pair currently enduring one of the world’s longest lockdown’s in Melbourne.
Aoife and Kevin, from Dundalk and Bellurgan respectively, left Ireland for a dream trip to Australia in March 2019 originally basing themselves in Burrima, New South Wales before the devastating bush fires forced them to move on to Melbourne where they relocated last January.
The pair had barely settled into their new home when coronavirus forced the government into implementing tough lockdown rules which saw curfews and travel limits enforced in Melbourne. The Victorian capital has been under social restrictions since 16 March with only a few weeks break when the city tried and failed to get back to some kind of normality. The curfew is not due to be lifted until 26 October. According to Aoife coping with lockdown has been extremely tough for the couple but she is thankful that they can lean on each other for support when needed.
“We are currently still in Stage 4 lockdown since August 4th. What Stage 4 means is 8pm – 5am curfew is in place, only one person can leave to get groceries, all businesses are closed except for essential services and most restaurants offer take away only. 5km travel limit work permits are needed for travel and you can only leave for exercise one hour a day. Borders are shut to Victoria along with borders being set up along Metro Melbourne as regional Victoria is in stage 3 and they want to stop people fleeing,” explained Aoife.
“To be completely honest it has been extremely hard coping with this enforced lockdown. We have been in lockdown since March apart from a couple weeks where Melbourne attempted to open back up before going straight back to stage 3 then stage 4. When you constantly have timeframes laid out where you expect to gain a bit more ‘normality’ and that date is constantly moved and met with further restrictions it zaps all hope that there is a end in sight. At the beginning we were really all in this together but now Melbourne is the longest and strictest lockdown in the world which makes isolation even more isolating.
“We purchased our second year visa whilst in lockdown part 1 in April with the hopes we would be able to get back to exploring Australia in a couple of months, we never could have expected that borders would be trapped and waiting until November before we can even go out for a meal. It can get frustrating. We have each other and constantly talk about how we are feeling. We make a point of discussing our mental health, because that has taken a hit, I already suffer with anxiety, so we do little things to make sure we look after ourselves and one another. A lot of Self Care! We are grateful to have one another to go through this unique experience with,” stated Aoife.
“We are big film fans so we enjoy watching and re-watching films/tv shows, although we are starting to run out at this stage! We both love cooking and have been using some meal delivery services so we can constantly try new recipes. I generally share our cooking evenings on my Instagram stories (@aweirdheff),” noted Aoife.
The couple are both currently working in Melbourne with Aoife able to work from home as the Social Lead for Accent Group who run 15 footwear brands across Australia and New Zealand while Kevin works in the construction industry. Despite the pressures of lockdown Aoife does try to look at some of the positives citing stronger bonds with friends and a stronger relationship with Kevin as just two of the good things to come out of the last few months.
“It would be very easy to be miserable and say there have been no positives but we have the beach nearby and Albert Park where the Australian Grand Prix is held as our local park. There is so much beauty around us and Melbourne sunsets are simply breathtaking. I’ve oddly made more friends and built stronger bonds with older ones throughout this experience. It’s been really incredible to create these connections with new and old friends without being able to see them or even being 100′s of miles apart.
“And the key positive that has come out of lockdown is that myself and Kevin have not murdered each other! A pandemic and the most extreme lockdown on the other side of the world with just the two of you can test and strain a relationship, but it has really made us stronger and appreciate our bond. That is not to say there haven’t been some testy days, but they can be counted on one hand,” she added. You can follow Aoife’s Australian adventures on her personal blog at www.aoifejane.com and on Instagram @aweirdheff.

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