• Lizzie Shutt

My Sudden Return to the States and What I'm Up to in Quarantine

If you have not seen on social media or heard through the grapevine...I’m back in Florida! Bet you can guess why? Yes, the unforeseen consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic Emmett and I decided it was best to return and believe me this decision was difficult for me and quite shocking. Although I arrived late Sunday night, I am just getting my wits about me enough to write and share how it all went down and what I am planning to do back in Boca.

Thursday afternoon March 19th (Wednesday night in FL) my parents FaceTimed with me and explained the virus is continuing to spread and they think it’s best we come back home, but would support us by paying for an apartment if we were determined to stay in New Zealand. Little did they know before this call Emmett and I were scheming to escape to Bali for the next few months, but I didn’t dare bring that up after what they just told me…

After talking to them we had to harvest our grapes from the school vineyard (we were taking a wine class) and another classmate came to help us out. She was a study abroad student as well and had booked flights heading back to L.A. on Saturday. Picking grapes and talking to her about the situation made me think that going home was the right decision. So in a matter of hours my plans for the next few months drastically changed.

There was much to do before we could leave and it soon began to overwhelm me, especially when Emmett tore the whole van apart and was ordering me to pack. We had picked grapes for three hours, I was all sticky, had to make dinner, and definitely not in the mood to pack up my whole New Zealand life. I felt very stressed and sad and confused about everything, which I’m sure is what most people felt in reaction to the virus outbreak and the sudden suggested self-isolation and widespread panic.

Emmett had made up his mind. He was set to leave and ready for warmer weather. Don’t get me wrong, I’m currently enjoying the sunny days in South Florida, but I just felt that there was so much more I wanted to accomplish before returning home. There are so many places I wanted to explore, people to befriend, van life to live, and time to just be away from my usual life. I really wanted to stay- but that was a selfish choice, I knew I had to consider those I love, the potential of not being able to leave for an extended period of time, and the unpredictable consequences of the virus soon to spread throughout New Zealand. I allowed Emmett to help me pack and we went to sleep in the van one last time (in the school parking lot lol)!

Friday March 20th: We thought it best to go wash all our dishes at the campsite we usually slept at just in case we sold the van that afternoon. Tensions were high since I still felt uneasy about the whole decision and how fast we had to leave. In addition, we had to return to the wine lab that morning to destem, crush, and prepare the grape juice for fermentation (just in case we may be there another few days). This process took about 2 ½ hours. It was a great experience and I wish I could have seen the whole process through. I’ll make a post all about it soon!

We made it to our appointment by 2:30 pm at the car dealership hoping we would get a decent offer for the van. We waited 20 minutes then finally he came to inspect it. He looked at the front seat for about 30 seconds all the while talking to us, basically saying they wouldn’t buy it and good luck! That was only the start of the many let downs on the phone to follow. The best and only offer was around $2,000 NZD ($1,160 USD); I was like HELL NO! I will sell this van for a fair price! We ate lunch at our favorite place, The Little High Eatery, and figured out future steps for the day. I began putting up the van on Facebook MarketPlace and the Backpacker Board. Emmett and his dad did not think it would sell that quick, but I was determined to prove them wrong! We stayed at a hostel that night because our sheets were gross and I wanted to shower. I was annoyed at Emmett and his lack of hope and help in selling the van so it just fueled my dedication to sell it even more.

  • * We had bought the van for $10,000 NZD (at the time currency exchange ~$6,400 USD). So I aimed to sell it for $6,500 NZD but advertised it as a very negotiable need to sell this weekend! *

I asked for at least 48 hours to sell the van before giving up and taking the car dealer's $2,000 offer. He booked tickets leaving Sunday morning (aka only have 24hrs now) … you could say I was mad, but that night I was already getting people messaging me so it was all okay, at least I was hopeful, haha.

Saturday March 21 was an eventful day to say the least! We woke up early and headed to our favorite funky coffee shop, C1 Espresso, for breakfast and to take an online exam. We got there and Emmett ordered, but I waited to check if the wifi was working… there have been previous issues. I tried everything and it didn’t work so that was disappointing. I still ordered a vegan banana and berry muffin. I hadn’t tried their muffins yet so today was the day and boy did it make me happy!

We had to meet a potential buyer at 11:30 so it didn’t leave us much time to finish cleaning the van for a proper viewing and to start our exam (luckily the exam was open until 5pm NZ time). She was interested, but also planned to look at other vans that afternoon. So I started answering all the Facebook messages trying to line up a few for the afternoon (we had to sell the van before 3pm because the car dealer closed at 4pm just in case we need to take their offer). Next we headed to two surf shops to see if they would buy Emmett's surfboard, but they didn’t offer fair prices and suggested its best to bring the board home. The employees were sweet and helped bubble wrap the board tightly.

My phone didn’t have wifi/service so we zoomed back to the hostel to see who else contacted me about the van. A lady said she would buy it 5,000 NZD for sure! I was relieved and told her she can have it! She lived an hour away so in the meantime we worked on our exam. Then I noticed a message saying a guy is here to check it out...whoops I guess we’ll be courteous and show him around. He was traveling with a friend and ended up really liking the van, but they wanted a pre-purchase inspection which we did not have time for. Now back to the exam!

The woman and her family checked out the van and loved it! They went to the bank to get out $5,000 NZD, while we took all our bags and knick knacks out for a final cleaning. I went upstairs to finish my exam and Emmett got the cash (he was pretty much done with his exam). Teasing him I finally got to say “I told you so” haha … little did we know that cash would be useful the next day!

I turned in my exam at 4:30 pm and fell back on the bed with a smile. Now for the fun part: packing all our little things into our already stuffed luggage; It didn’t take too long. We decided to walk to Riverside for dinner because it has a bunch of little restaurants and a fun vibe similar to Little High Eatery. Everything was closed or closing though so we ended up going to a fancy Japanese steakhouse. The sushi, warm saki, and the front row hibachi show was fun even though we were way underdressed and still hungry.

Emmett’s favorite dessert is ice cream; he loves it! He became obsessed with the Ben & Jerry’s shop here (so funny to me), but I suggested we try somewhere new and maybe he would like it too. The place was across the street, Rollickin' Gelato, and oh man I can say that was some of the best vegan ice cream I’ve ever had (there was regular ice cream he loved too).

Emmett was still feeling like he could eat more so we got back to the hostel and made the rest of the oats, mixed with cacao and chocolate chips. It hit the spot and we saved some for the plane ride scheduled for the next day. Then off to take hot showers and enjoy an early bedtime because we had to wake up at 3:25 am.

Sunday March 22nd was the day that never ended. To sum it up briefly we took three flights totaling 17+ hours and 9+ hours in layovers all in a 12 hour period. Thinking I’m crazy? We flew from Christchurch, NZ 7am on Sunday and landed in Orlando, FL 7pm Sunday due to the time difference! Our second flight was originally planned to leave Monday, but on Sunday we found out it was canceled due to it going through Sydney, Australia. We received much needed help from an airport agent and paid for our new airline tickets in cash. What a relief it was, but that meant no shower until home!

I am grateful to have friends and family that love me and are so happy to have me home! Currently, I am in self-isolation at my cousin’s apartment so I have not seen anyone except my dad, but my mom and sister fully stocked the kitchen for me to indulge in all the cooking and creating I want.

As I reflect more on this abrupt decision and homecoming I have a greater understanding of how people all over the world are stressed and filled with uncertainty. I believe that this virus is a wake-up call to all of us. We are being told to rest, reflect on what we value in life, create and start hobbies we have put off, enjoy time with family, and to have a world wide shared experience. People all over the world are connecting for support and looking out for their community more than ever!

Although I am saddened by the pain and difficulty this pandemic is having across the world, I am hopeful the wake-up call will not be wasted. I am hopeful that we can start to view this time as a gift, a lesson, a chance to reset, rebuild, and create. Humans have an enormous capacity, even greater than most know, to persevere and evolve. Trust in nature and the process of regeneration.

For now I will be cooking, painting, reading, Facetiming, creating content, revamping my brand and website, and much much more. I hope you find something to do each day that brings a warm smile of appreciation across your face. I’m here if you ever need to talk!

"Live Dirty, Eat Clean & Green",

Lizzie Shutt


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