Where's Hamish Blake gone? Not so long ago the multi-platform funny guy was on my various screens a few times a day, showing me all the great holiday experiences in Australia, entreating me to join. But then he disappeared, along with my chances of actually taking him up on the offer.
You can't market holidays to people in indefinite lockdown, which is why there's no Hamish anymore. Tourism Australia is no longer promoting holidays here, it's promoting vaccinations. We're all trapped. A holiday to Cairns might as well be a holiday to Cairo.
Still, you know that once Australia does start to open up again, the push will be back on. Holiday here this year. Stay in Australia. Explore your backyard.
And I have to say – right now, I don't really fancy it.
I miss the rest of the world. I miss the confusion and the thrill of foreign lands.
Right now I'm kind of over Australia. It doesn't feel good being here. This doesn't feel like a place I want to spend my time and my money. And I know that hurts the wrong people and I know it's sad, but it's a feeling I can't help.
To begin with, this is not a financially safe place to book a holiday, and most of us have been burnt already. It's too unpredictable. A lot of state borders are closed right now, particularly to those of us in NSW and Victoria, but even when they do creak open, there's no certainty they'll stay that way, no agreed parameters. They close, they open, they close again.
Travellers aren't cared for or catered to. People get stuck away from home and their own governments don't let them back in. Hundreds of Victorians have been living essentially as refugees for months on the northern side of the Murray, waiting to be allowed back home. It is currently easier to get into Western Australia from India than it is from NSW – even for compassionate reasons, even if you're vaccinated, even if you're willing to quarantine.
Who would book a holiday to somewhere like WA right now? Not me. Not only do I have absolutely no idea when I'll actually be allowed in, but I also don't feel a huge amount of love emanating from the west.
This whole country feels so fractured right now, and fractious. Friends argue on social media. Families are split by arbitrary border lines. Premiers beat their chests and lay blame on all the other states. Media fans the flames. Readers lap it up. This is a country that has vilified its own citizens, separated families, locked people out indefinitely and called it making you safe.
This is not a nice place to be right now. And so when I finally get out of lockdown, when I'm presented with the chance to leave my 5km radius, when I have the opportunity to take a long-awaited holiday … do I really want to do it here?
This is not to even mention the fact that, hey, I've spent a lot of time in Australia recently. All of my time, in fact. For 18 months now. I know we have beauty here, I know we have ancient culture, I know we have joy. I've seen and experienced some amazing things.
But I miss the rest of the world. I miss the confusion and the thrill of foreign lands. I miss the wide-eyed enjoyment of being far from home. I miss the sound of other languages, the smell of other cuisines, the look of a place that's not my own.
If I can access all of that before I can access, say, Caloundra, you better believe I'm getting on a plane and leaving this island. Every country has its own problems associated with COVID-19, but I'm up for experiencing someone else's for a while.
Of course, we're yet to see what international travel will look like in a mid-pandemic world. For all we know, the federal government might have a trigger finger that's just as itchy as our state premiers'. We might see Australia open and shut, open and shut, countries on the green list, countries off the green list, which will shatter travellers' confidence pretty quickly (just look at how things have gone under the UK's 'traffic light' system).
I don't plan to leave Australia until this new system, whatever it is, has been tested and proven somewhat predictable, even if not exactly reliable. With a young family at home I can't take the chance of being stranded.
And yet still I predict that the opportunity to head overseas will roll around before I'm able to confidently book a holiday in Queensland, or Tasmania, or Western Australia.
And I'll take it. Singapore? Yes, please. Japan? Come at me. South Korea? That's sounding better than Bunbury right now. The UK, Europe, to see family, to catch up with friends? Show me the boarding pass.
This isn't Tourism Australia's fault. They've got a hard job getting people to holiday here this year, and even next. It's not the fault of the local tourism operators, for whom I have a huge amount of sympathy and respect.
It's just the way things are. Sorry, Hamish. See you in Niseko?
Do you plan to holiday in Australia this year or next? Or would you prefer to go overseas? Where do you think you'll be able to go?