22nd August, 2020

by Millie Costigan

It’s almost unnerving to remember that 2020 began with the calamitous bushfires which engulfed much of the southeastern Australian coast. In Melbourne, where I live, it was impossible to ignore that the country was on fire as the city was blanketed by an acrid smoke haze and the air quality plummeted to "very poor". It is vaguely disorienting to remember that much of this country was a blistering inferno mere months ago, as we reflect on the garish, gnarly seven months 2020 has offered us so far as the world tiptoes on towards catastrophe.

In the middle of this hellish Australian summer, my best friend and I took to the road. Longing for the serenity of the Australian bush and the company of just each other, we donned our pink cowgirl hats and drove to south Australia. The trip is saturated in golden light in my memory. We knew it at the time, that we’d be memorialising it forever. Perhaps that was why we were so performative about it all and insisted on wearing our pink cowgirl hats, emblazoned with the words "kiss me quick" wherever we went. We shunned social media and dramatically consulted our maps, rolled the windows down and screamed along to whatever we were listening to, revelling in the strange intimacy of long deserted stretches of highway. It was magic to feel distant from my home, and from the nightmarish hellscape of social media. It was just the wide-open road and the two of us, winsomely hapless.

Now, as Melbourne re-enters lockdown and the bitter loneliness of quarantine clouds my idle brain once more, I almost can’t remember what it’s like to crave isolation, to relish in being fully and completely alone. It feels like a nostalgic luxury, to declare a day just for myself, turn my phone off and withdraw to the underbelly of my brain, where no one can intrude unlicensed, as a truly cathartic activity. The dank recesses of my quarantined psyche are far too familiar to me now, and I long for the turbo-charged stimulants of normal life that I once begrudged. Yet even as I pine for sweaty clubs and crowds and chance encounters, the photos from this trip remind me of something important: that it will be a privilege to be lavishly alone once more, and that in our post-pandemic world there will be solace in the unsullied purity of the wide open road again.


Millie Costigan is a student and writer from Melbourne, Australia. She dabbles in photography, using her grandmas old film camera to capture moments that make her think: aren’t we lucky. You can follow her at @internet.millie