Coming back to Ireland - Q&A with Bríd Stack.
Travelling back to Ireland can be a major undertaking at the best of times, but it takes on a whole other dimension in the midst of the pandemic. One person who went through all this was former All Ireland winning ladies Gaelic footballer Bríd Stack, who returned home after her first season in Sydney, Australia with the ladies Australian Rules Football Team, Greater Western Sydney Giants.
FRS spoke to Bríd all about her experience.
Bríd, during the year you moved back to Ireland after a period living away. How was that experience?
It was incredible and exceeded my expectations of what living away from home would be like. I've never been away from home for longer than three weeks, so the prospect of a six month stint in Sydney to play AFLW in a professional capacity with the GWS Giants was a huge opportunity. To top it off, I had the opportunity to experience it all with my husband and young son. The stuff of dreams.
What were the initial steps you had to undertake as you were planning your journey?
I had to complete an extensive visa application which required a lot of documentation. My infant son and husband came under my application and thankfully, our visas were granted promptly. In addition to the visa, we also have to apply to the Australian Government for travel exemptions. This seemed to be a newly introduced Covid related protocol and while our visas went through smoothly the exemptions proved a lot more difficult. We got there in the end with under a week to spare but it was definitely a testing situation.
Travelling is obviously more difficult in the midst of a pandemic. Were you concerned about what implications the pandemic would have on your plans?
Yes, of course.
Cancellation of outbound flights from Ireland was a big issue before we got going. Australia was allowing a certain amount of people into the country per day and if that limit was met, flights were immediately cancelled. We were due to fly in October but didn't end up securing a flight until the 9th December. The uncertainty was difficult to plan for so it was important to be adaptable. We were due to complete our two week block of quarantining in Adelaide but found out last minute that we were being diverted to Perth. Flexibility is very important when travelling during a pandemic.
On our return trip to Ireland, we had to be very well prepared before our flight. Firstly, your Covid test had to be within 72 hours of your flight. It was so important to allow approx 4 hours before our flight to go through the lengthy check in process at the airport, as well as printing off hard copies of all Covid related travel documents, such as the travel locator form, to speed up the process. The cherry on the cake was a toddler that wanted to touch every surface in sight. Ideal.
Did you have to do a lot of research on what restrictions you would face as part of your journey and upon your arrival back home to Ireland?
I found the gov.ie website very helpful as well as contact with some of the Irish girls involved with the AFLW that had already gone home before me.
Travelling with children can bring an extra dimension to things. How was that experience with all the various public health measures in place?
Travelling with an infant certainly knocked the romance out of us fairly lively! Especially an infant that wants to touch everything!
We were entering a third lockdown in Ireland at the time, which meant when it came to travel, we were hyper vigilant about touching surfaces, mask wearing, sanitising and the likes.
Thankfully the flights were relatively unoccupied and he slept for most of the time. In the months that followed, we experienced Sydney with minimal restrictions bar the necessary requirements for weekly travel during the AFLW season. Thankfully Ógie adapted well to the weekly flights and all that went with being involved in a professional environment like the continuous Covid-19 testing. By the time it came to the long haul homebound flight, it thankfully wasn't too traumatising for him (or us!!).
How did you cope with the restrictions once you got back to Ireland? Did you have to isolate?
Again we had done all of our research before we left Sydney airport by logging onto gov.ie.
We flew into Dublin on a clear mild day at the end of May and the view coming into Dublin was the most lovely sight. It was like being wrapped in a comfort blanket and it was so reassuring to hear Irish accents.
We had all our relevant documentation for coming through Dublin airport and it was all very swift. As we were travelling to Cork with a lot of baggage, we opted to get the Aircoach so we had that pre-booked as it was only running at half capacity.
We wore our masks the whole way home and when we arrived into Cork, we then isolated for 5 days before completing a follow up Covid test which had to be done minimum 5 days after you arrived home. The 5 days isolating worked in our favour, as it allowed us time to adjust and try to combat the jet lag. Turns out a jet lagged toddler is fun for the whole family!! We got our follow up test on day 5 and received our results the next day. There were plenty meet-ups with plenty ugly crying in the days that followed.
What advice would you give to anyone who is planning on travelling back to Ireland at the moment?
Do your research. Make sure you have everything filled out before you get to the airport as the delays can be lengthy otherwise. A big issue that we experienced was a change in baggage allowance that we weren't made aware of. There seemed to be less weight available for each passenger to bring with them and as a result, it cost us ALOT to get all our luggage home. Travel as lightly as possible. Oh and be prepared for the lovely sight of seeing home after a spell away. There's no place like it!!
Bríd Stack is a sporting ambassador for FRS Recruitment, working with us on our sponsorship of GAAGo for 2021. Through our partnership with the GAA, FRS Recruitment aims to connect with Irish people scattered all over the world, reminding them of the fantastic opportunities for living and working back in Ireland. Visit www.70minsofhome.com for more information