“A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” – Moslih Eddin Saadi
Every journey begins with one small step. In this case, it began with one very long flight. Fifteen and a half hours from LAX to Sydney. (I think I slept for part of it but that’s still up for debate). I’ve had a few weeks back in my real life to process everything I did and saw during my two week stay in Sydney. I originally thought that the trip would inspire an entire series of blog posts (and likely will still) but for now I’ve decided to take the easy way out and to compile a list of the things that stand out the most. So, in no particular order and without bias, here goes:
- When opening the drain of a sink or flushing the toilet, the water really does circle the drain in the opposite direction. Watching it do so is not, however, as exciting as my mind had built it up to be.
- When planned and executed correctly, public transportation can be as, if not more, effective than personal transport. It took me a few days to figure out the buses and the transfers, but by the middle of the first week I was commuting like a local. Busses, trains and ferries criss-crossing the Sydney metropolitan area are clean, always on time and easy to navigate. I was starting to feel like a pro by the end of my stay and it was actually kind of weird to have to drive myself to work when I got home instead of catching a bus down the street from the house.
- Only pretty people live in Sydney. No, seriously. I stood out with the rest of the tourists. The locals are easy on the eyes and in great shape- all of them. I was starting to get really self conscious walking around town.
- There is no free parking. Anywhere.
- Fish & Chips taste better on Bondi Beach paired with a cold beer and good company.
- Apparently there are people who think Bruce Lee was in The Karate Kid. WTF?
- Whilst Australia might be home to more creatures that can kill you than anywhere else on the planet, they are surprisingly hard to find. I still checked my shoes before putting them on though.
- Despite all of the jokes I’ve heard about it, national healthcare isn’t bad. Two companion trips to the hospital for tests and imaging and I found the staff to be friendly and the process to be rather efficient. The main waiting room did have a slight “people of Wal-Mart” vibe going.
- I’m ashamed it took me well over 40 years to go to a professional rugby match. I’m hooked.
- Meat pies. Thanks for teaching me, Shay. They aren’t as sketchy as Sweeney Todd sings about them being. I was a bit concerned, though, over what was meant by “Australian meat.”
- Australia’s politics don’t lean quite as far to the left as I has assumed. While I was there, there was heating debate among politicians and citizens about marriage equality. I had assumed it has passed in Australia along with the rest of the Commonwealth well before it did here in the States.
- After several days of being driven around town, an American can almost get used to riding as a passenger in the seat they are use to driving in. The left turns still feel like they are taking you head on into oncoming traffic.
- Higher Education bureaucracy may be the one constant in the universe.
- The coffee is the best I’ve ever had. I think I may be swearing off of Starbucks (except in drastic airport and convention center circumstances).
- Kangaroos (especially joeys) are much cuter in real life and koalas are so fucking over you and your photo op.
Sydney. Sydney. Sydney. You have won me over. You are far more beautiful and welcoming than I ever imagined. You are full of life and damn fine coffee. In the end, it wasn’t really about the tours, the opera house or the amazing climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The most meaningful thing I took away was the importance of, and the respite found in, being so far away from all that can drag you down (like office politics, Facebook bullies and partisan politics). It’s about spending unhurried time in the company of one of your best friends and being made to feel like part of the family- so much so, in fact, it was a jolting reality the last night to realize you actually live somewhere else.
Time to put the pennies in the piggy bank and figure out how to do it all again.
“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes