It was a planned trip of a lifetime that hit some bumps in the road, but those obstacles have now created an adventure much more exciting than originally thought.
Marnee Monczko and husband Barry were world travellers on a quest to finish a lap of Australia. Then the world changed.
"We've lived in Australia for 23 years now," Marnee said.
"We're originally from Canada, but we have lived on the Gold Coast since arriving here.
"We worked, lived and had children. The nice life. Then the kids grew up and left. There was really no reason to hang around the Gold Coast any more.
"We thought to ourselves, what are we doing? So, we decided to take a gap year and travel."
The travel plans began in 2018. They were well thought out and the couple had a long list of things to see and do.
"First went back to Canada, international travel used to be a thing," Marnee said.
"We spent six months there. Next was the US, Guatemala, then we were bound to start the lap around Australia in 2019."
With an extensive history caring for animals, Marnee came up with a clever idea to make some money along the way.
"We became pet sitters," she said.
"I've always grown up with pets. Growing up my family had a farm and a pet store. I always thought other families had exotic pets growing up.
"We started our lap on the Gold Coast and made our way down. We began to get a really good rapport, five star ratings with our pet sitting abilities, then the fires and floods began at the end of 2019.
"We changed some plans and just went with it, little did we know that would be the beginning of the world would change.
"Around February in 2020, we were in Perth and COVID was beginning to hit full swing. Life was so easy before all of it.
"When we got to WA, we were in Dongara, we had absolutely no place to go. Caravan parks were turning everyone away.
"It was so out of control, but luckily a little mum and pop caravan park took us in. We stayed for two months and did whatever we could to help. We lived very nicely there and are forever grateful."
As the borders began to open again, the couple tried to get the trip back on track and began to book more pet sitting work.
"We got a lot, but we were so delayed and it just wasn't going to plan," Marnee said.
"COVID made us realise you can't make plans. We turned around and became slower travellers and just went with the flow.
"We got to one part of Australia and just thought, lets go right up the middle. Why not?
"We got to Coober Pedy and were reading an ad post asking for help at this Katherine Top Didj Gallery place.
"We knew nothing about Aboriginal culture, art, but it seemed to match our skill set. We just couldn't say no to the opportunity.
"Now we're here in Katherine."
Top Didj Cultural Experience in the Northern Territory was founded in April 2009 by Alex and Petrena Ariston. Once they took in Marnee and Barry, a friendship was formed.
"We found a real sense of belonging here in Katherine," Marnee said.
"We're learning about Aboriginal culture and art. Life happens when you're busy making plans. This has been so much better than the traditional lap around Australia.
"We are so grateful to Alex and Petrena. They are such wonderful people.
"When Darwin's gates closed, we were sitting in this little sweet spot in Katherine. It was just amazing. I'm very grateful to be here."
It wasn't the only friendship formed. An outstanding artist who is also a part of the Top Didj family made a lasting impression on Marnee.
"I get to work two sessions a day with Manuel Pamkal," Marnee said.
"I think Manuel is a national treasure.
"We are great communicators. We teach new things about one another's culture everyday. We bounce off each other, we can anticipate what works well with our work.
"He's a showman, with a very amazing story to tell.
"His art is beautiful and I get to assist him. We're from completely different worlds, but it's such a strong friendship and he's one of my favourite people in the world."
Along with creating art, the Top Didj team rehabilitates cute little creatures and sends them on their way.
"We work hard and it's a very gratifying way to live," Marnee said.
"Wallabies are the most resilient little animals I've met in my life. This one little wallaby we looked after, she has evolved into a little independent creature.
"She released herself back into the wild. Visitors can feed them sweet potato chips and she doesn't even show up to work anymore!
"She's now totally nocturnal. We've now got two more and we start the process again. They're the sweetest little animal, but the only thing I don't like is, we work really hard, hustle, and when we bring out the baby wallabies, they get all the press by just showing up looking cute!"
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With all good stories, there is finally an end. It may be nearing, but the memories of Katherine will never fade for Marnee and Barry.
"Our contract ends at the end of October," Marnee said.
"There's a viscous wet season around then we're told. We're sad we're at the halfway point and October feels too close.
"We thought we knew what we were going to do, full of answers, but to be honest, we don't really have a plan.
"I'm confident and resilient enough to say it doesn't really matter. I know something will come up.
"You may think you're in control of a situation, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow, keep afloat and enjoy the ride.
"For now, we'll squeeze every little bit of fun and experience out of Katherine in the time we have left."
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