Trapped in paradise: travellers stuck in Byron Bay
THOSE who've still chosen to travel despite new rules restricting this have been criticised for flouting COVID-19 related restrictions in the Byron Shire.
But some travellers who were here before the pandemic hit have become effectively stranded.
Emilio Obeso, from Mexico, arrived in Australia on February 10 and has been in Byron Bay for almost three weeks.
"I am a tourist, I had been travelling for four months around Asia, and I expected to finish my trip in Australia," Mr Obeso said.
As travel bans came into effect and airline ticket prices soared, he realised it would be difficult to get home.
When he checked ticket prices, Mr Obeso said a trip home would have cost him $5000, about triple the usual price.
"All the countries began to close the borders, that means that I could be stuck in another country without the possibility to get back home or come back to Australia or cancel my flight," he said.
He's currently safe, staying in a Byron hostel.
"Because of my visa I'm not able to work, but I was looking for exchange accommodation for any job that I can do," he said.
"I worked in Mexico as an event producer and I used to have a barber shop."
Mr Obeso said he's a "smart guy" who learns quickly.
He took to social media to help identify the options available to him.
"When I wrote the post on Facebook I didn't expect all the massive answers from these lovely people supporting me," he said.
"I received different type of offers (room, food etc)."
He said he'd had an offer from "a lovely couple" who offered for him to stay in their home in exchange for help with tasks.
"I feel so blessed for all the love that I received for the Byron Bay community," he said.
He said while he hasn't received any government support, he believes travellers in his position should be afforded some form of help.
"I would like the government to help us as a travellers, because we spent our money here and this situation is out of our hands," he said.
"I have been meeting a lot of travellers in my same position.
"They are so worried and anxious and having a hard situation … would like to talk for all these people and ask for help or options to survive here."
While some backpackers and other visitors to the shire have copped flak for flouting social distancing rules, including in the surf, Mr Obeso stressed a lot of people are doing the right thing.
"A lot of travellers like me, we are responsible and conscious," he said.
"We are not looking to stay illegally in a country, but now we can't go back to our homes and we need to have an option here."
Could you help someone in Emilio's situation? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.