When Does a Traveler Become a Resident? . . . The Search for a Place Called Home

"Art & About" Festival on the streets of Sydney

As with my post on my first six months abroad, I have been both planning on (read: procrastinating) & dreading (yep, *more* procrastinating) writing this post for quite some time now.  As my days in Oz quickly draw to a close, I can’t even begin to come to terms with the mixed emotions I’m currently feeling.  I apologize in advance if this post is not as cohesive as it could be, but perhaps this stream of consciousness style best mirrors my current frame of mind . . .

Below is a letter I wrote to my parents some time ago:

Dear Mom & Dad,

I want to come home.  I wish I could.  Today is Monday.  Everyone in my tent is homesick.  We haven’t been doing much.  Remember you said Kelly’s mom might pick up me & Kelly, well I want you guys to come too.  I hate the songs we sing.  Last night it rained & today it rained too.  I hope the days go faster because it’s getting more & more boring.  Please right back soon. (Editor’s Note: This is not a typo, that’s just how I spelled ‘write’ at the time – oops!)

Love, Niki

Home Sweet Home - in cold & snowy Buffalo, NY

OK, so hopefully you’ve figured out by now that this letter truly was sent *quite* some time ago – as in over 20 years ago!! 😉  I was away at summer camp with a friend & clearly I was having a hard time. 😦

Fortunately life in Oz has not been quite so miserable (far from it, in fact), but that’s not to say it’s always been easy.  While I wouldn’t give up this experience for anything, there were definitely periods when I wished I could take a sort of “time out,” for lack of a better word (a vacation from my vaction, perhaps?), to visit with loved ones & experience the familiarity of home (Take bananas, for example – do you have any idea how much it cost just to get a banana here after the Queensland floods?  Try $15/kilo (that’s almost $7/lb!)  Oh, how I longed for a banana!  Fortunately prices have recently come down & I can once again afford the delicious fruit. :))

But here’s the thing – as much as my blog might portray my experience abroad as a vacation, of course it’s much more than that.  I do in fact eat more than just dessert – heck, I even cook my own dinner once in a while! (despite the lack of culinary skill I displayed in my Thanksgiving post, I do alright for myself ;)).

Nanie's Homemade Soup - Made by Moi!

I go grocery shopping.  I do laundry.  I vacuum & do dishes & rake leaves.  And although I know it was only part-time for six months, I worked in order to support myself.  And at some point along the way I stopped feeling like a traveler.  In fact, I think I almost stopped identifying as a foreigner (besides the accent – gives me away every time ;)).  But in all seriousness, in some ways, I started to feel more like a local.

I don’t think I can pinpoint the first time it happened, but I can give you some recent examples.  Like on my bus tour to nearby Hunter Valley – everyone else on the tour (besides my flatmate Mia) was truly a non-resident of Sydney (including the Melbournian on the trip) – visiting the city only briefly & staying with friends or in a hostel or hotel.  When the bus dropped us off back in Sydney at the end of the day, one of the girls from the tour asked Mia & I where we were going.  “Home,” she replied.  And then there’s the guy from Melbourne who asked me for directions just the other day . . . & I actually knew where to send him! (which, if you know me at all, is a pretty big feat since even in my own hometown my navigational skills are pretty hit or miss 0:-)).

Home Away from Home - My Flat in Sydney

So maybe you can understand why, although I’ll be going home next month, it also feels a bit like I’ll be *leaving* home.  I’ve become accustomed to the cars driving on the other side of the road, seeing (& tasting) every macaron flavor known to man each time I walk into one of Adriano Zumbo’s patisseries, hearing phrases like “how ya goin?” & “good on ya!” on a regular basis . . . I’m going to miss that . . .

Macaron Day 2011 Window Display

I thought I would have a clearer picture by now, but I still can’t fathom how this experience might shape the way I make decisions moving forward: What will I do next in my life because of the time I spent abroad?  I can’t imagine a future which doesn’t include more travel – there are so many places I still want to see.  But I also know that, for me at least, long-term solo travel can take its toll.  After months away from friends & family, I am aching to return home & hug my loved ones.  So I am torn.  Drawn to both adventure & comfort in equal measure.  Away for too long & I start to feel homesick; Stay in one place & I become restless.

As I once again ponder my next steps in life, I feel it’s appropriate to remind my readers (& myself) of the travel/life philosophy I wrote at the beginning of this journey:

Live in the Moment

Step Outside My Comfort Zone

Let My Heart Lead & My Mind be the Accompanist

Seek Passion in all its Forms

Although I don’t think it will ever be easy for me, I’m beginning to understand (on an intellectual level, at least) that it’s OK not to know.  That what comes next cannot always be neatly laid out like tomorrow’s clothes.  Sometimes it’s nice just to wake up in the morning & ask yourself, “What would I like to do today?”

Now before you scoff at how naive that may sound, let me clarify that I don’t intend for that statement to be taken literally.  What I mean is this – who we are & what we desire is constantly evolving.  Throughout our lives we continuously meet new people, develop new interests, learn new skills.

Lauren & I at Bar 99 in Glebe

I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy to sit with the not knowing – it’s not.  But maybe it’s not so important for us to be able to answer all of life’s questions; perhaps it’s enough simply that we are not afraid to ask them.

All I can really say for certain at this stage of my life is that I will continue to ask questions – of myself, of others, of the world around me.  I think that’s the best way to stay true to each of the ideals I’ve been striving towards throughout the past year.

So . . . What would I like to do today?  Today I think I’ll hop a flight to Queensland – Christmas on the beach sounds rather nice . . . 😉

The Art of Packing Lightly . . . well, sort of!

It was exactly four months from the day my plane touched down in Buffalo on October 8, 2010 that I departed once again for Oz.  Somehow in that short period of time I had made up my mind to quit my job, rent my house & leave my family & friends back home for a year of adventure abroad.

My house in snowy Buffalo, NY

Once the the big decision was made, the most difficult part of my preparation was figuring out what to pack?!

Just think for a moment about all of the things you use each day; now imagine trying to squeeze them into one suitcase & backpack, both of which by the way, you have to lug around with you everywhere you go.  Remember, too, that my first few months in Oz were spent on the road & my last month or so probably will be as well.  That means that as much as I may want to at times, I have to try not to collect *too* much stuff while I’m here – my suitcase was already busting a gut before I even left home! 😦

No, I did NOT bring all of this with me - hahaha! These are some of the boxes I packed & stored in my attic so I could rent out my house while I'm away.

So what *did* make it into my suitcase?  Well, in the end I packed pretty much the way I would for a two-week vacation – except that I had to account for four different seasons (thank goodness I didn’t have to worry about boots!)  I also tried to think about work clothes – although I wasn’t 100% sure what type of job I would end up in & what the dress code would be.  I wanted to bring some jewelry, but I had to select items that would be somewhat versatile so I would get enough use out of them.  And of course shoes, bulky as they are, had to be chosen carefully.

So much to think about!

My winter jacket from The North Face

One of my first concerns before I left home was finding appropriate jackets that would keep me warm & dry, but that were also lightweight & compact.  Thank goodness for The North Face!  The winter jacket above may appear bulky in the picture, but it is super light & it kept me nice & warm through the winter months.  The one below is just a “shell,” but I’ve used it often as a raincoat/windbreaker.

My rain jacket from The North Face

Amazingly, both jackets fold up into neat little bundles, as you can see in my next photo.  Very convenient when you have limited space!

Both jackets fold up into small bundles for easy transport

As for other clothing, I tried to pack a range of items that would be easy to care for, & on the whole, not too bulky.  I also tried to bring tops that would match more than one pair of pants & this line of thinking also helped me to select shoes.

I’ll start with the outfit I wore on the plane, which has become a standard for me on long flights: a grey sweatsuit & sneakers.  The sneakers are the bulkiest shoes I have with me, so it was easier to wear them rather than try to stuff them into my suitcase.  The sweatsuit is nice & comfy which makes it easier to sleep on overnight flights.  The top is basically a zip-up hoodie, so I always wear a t-shirt underneath so I can take the sweatshirt off if I get too warm.  The perfect flying outfit!  As an added bonus, I figured the hoodie would come in handy in cooler weather & the sweatpants could be used as pajama bottoms. 🙂

The only other shoes I brought with me were a pair of black Sketchers (which have turned out to be the perfect shoes for my job at Ghermez Cupcakes) & a pair of flip-flops (a.k.a. thongs in Australia), which are great for use in hostel showers & of course on the beach!  Oh!  And I also brought slippers . . . no, not Dorothy’s ruby slippers, just regular old wear-around-the-house-in-winter-so-your-feet-don’t-get-cold-slippers. 😉

Pants were relatively easy to figure out – I brought one pair each of jeans, khakis & black pants.  I also brought two pairs of capris – jeans & khakis – & a pair of jean shorts.

Tops were a bit more difficult – how many to bring & of what type?  I arrived in Australia in late summer & I knew the weather here would be much warmer year-round than it is in my hometown of Buffalo, but I also realized it could get cold in the winter, as well as in the Outback at night, so I wanted to be prepared.  To that end, I decided to bring the following:

  • 2 sweaters (in addition to the hoodie mentioned above) & 1 3/4-length sweater
  • 1 long-sleeve shirt & 2 3/4-length shirts
  • 9 t-shirts . . . yes, 9!

T-shirts packed & ready to go

Nine may seem like a lot of t-shirts to some people & perhaps not enough to others!  Considering I would be away for a year, I figured it was a good compromise.  Although I have had a few things mailed to me from home since I moved to Sydney & I have also bought a few things (yeah, I know, there’s *no* way I’m getting everything back into that one suitcase!), I wanted to have some variety at the beginning of my trip while I was still on the road.  Even more than that, I wanted to make sure I had enough clean clothes to wear without having to do laundry every other day!!

Sweaters - yes, it does get "cold" in Australia!

As my mom started calling me, I was now officially a “bag lady:” all of my clothes were neatly tucked away into the “Space Bags” you see above.  I’m not sure if they really saved much space when all was said & done, but the organization certainly helped in those months I was literally living out of my suitcase.  I also used them to separate clean clothes from the dirty ones.

In addition to the sweatpants mentioned above, I also brought another pair of pajama pants & 2 more shirts (1 short-sleeve & 1 long-sleeve) to use as pajama tops.

  • About 2 weeks worth of socks & underwear, plus a few bras
  • Bathing suit & Beach towel (I still can’t believe I actually stuffed a beach towel into my suitcase – yikes!)  I guess I figured I wouldn’t want to get my bath towel [the Rick Steeves travel towel mentioned below] sandy & possibly not have the chance to wash & dry it before showering!)
  • Rick Steves quick-wick travel towel
  • Small travel hair towel

Of course I brought the usual toiletries: Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash, Shaving Cream, Razors, Lotion, Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss, Mouthwash, Face wash, Moisturizer, Contacts, Contact solution, Brush, Hair gel, Deodorant, Sunscreen & a few other odds & ends.

I even brought along a “laundry bag,” which was just the cloth drawstring bag that held an old air mattress I had at home – hahaha!  Dryer sheets came in handy to keep my suitcase smelling fresh as I was traveling, but haven’t been needed so much now as I don’t have a dryer in my flat. 😦

A mini flashlight was my mom’s idea (good one mom! :)) & it definitely came in use while camping, as well as in the hostel – if I was coming or going while roommates were sleeping, I didn’t need to disturb them by turning on the overhead lights.

A mini umbrella . . . which has since broken.  I am now on my *third* umbrella in Oz, but this one (*knock on wood*) seems to be holding up.

A travel alarm clock – which has also since broken.  I now use my Aussie mobile as my alarm.

Whew!  I think that’s about it for what was in my suitcase & I probably couldn’t have fit another thing in there if I’d tried!!  Now onto the items I originally packed either in my backpack or purse:

  • Important papers, such as my flight info, visa info, initial hostel reservation details, travel medical insurance information & Aussie bank account info
  • Passport, License
  • Credit card, Debit cards, Aussie cash
  • Travel pillow (makes long/overnight flights so much comfier!)
  • Laptop & Flash drive
  • Camera
  • ipod
  • Adapter
  • Jewelry: A watch, 3 necklaces, 3 pairs of earrings, 2 rings (I now have 3 rings since I bought an opal ring at Coober Pedy :)), Anklet
  • A journal & 2 books: an Australia guidebook & Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love (I’ loved it so much I figured I wouldn’t mind reading it a few more times if reading material was scarce during my travels.  Fortunately I was able to borrow books at various hostels & I now have a card from my local library – just like a real Aussie resident! ;))
  • A Planner – which has come in handy to help me remember birthdays & such, plus I now use it to keep track of my work schedule, bills I have to pay, etc. (yeah, I still have to pay bills on “holiday” :()
  • Glasses & Sunglasses
  • Medications
  • “Earplanes” – I always use these on long flights now as I get terrible sinus pain from the change in altitude. 😦
  • 2 small locks (for my suitcase & backpack &/or to be used on a hostel locker)
So – I think that just about covers it!!  As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had a few things sent to me & I’ve also purchased a few things since coming to Oz, so I’ll probably have to ship some stuff back home in the end – not ideal, but it may be unavoidable as my suitcase already weighed just under 19 kilos (42 lbs.) when I flew from Alice Springs to Melbourne in late April . . . And that doesn’t include the nearly 8 kilos (17 lbs) that were in my backpack!

All in all, I’m pretty happy with what I packed.  Could I have made do with fewer clothes?  Probably.  But at the same time, I can honestly say I’ve used everything I brought with me multiple times.  *And,* miracle of all miracles, I actually don’t think I forgot anything! (And if I did, I haven’t missed it in 7 months! ;))  Now if only I could curb my desire to go out & buy some new summer clothes now that spring has arrived Down Under! 😉

Six Months in a Land Called Oz

A great place to pause & reflect . . .

I’ve been avoiding this particular post for some time now.  In fact as I write this I still don’t know where to begin.  I thought I would publish my first reflective post after my first month abroad, but I was busy enjoying life on the road with Heather & Adam & it was enough just to keep my notes up-to-date on all the things we were seeing & doing each day.  That’s alright, I thought – I was living in the moment, soaking it all in, there would be time for reflection later.

Heather & I enjoying a beautiful day at Perth City Beach in Western Australia

The end of my third month – a quarter of the way through my time in Australia – marked another important milestone, but at that point I was going through a bit of a transition – that from traveler to . . . well, for lack of a better word, resident! (don’t worry mom & dad I haven’t applied for permanent residency, hahaha ;))  I was in the midst of making what I would consider to be my second big decision of this journey (the first being to come to Australia at all) & that was whether I should spend the working part of my work & holiday visa in Melbourne or Sydney.

The Clocks at Flinders Street Station in Melbourne

Of course by now you know that Sydney won out & I am quite happy with that choice, as well as the initial choice to spend a year Down Under, BUT . . .

. . . six months in, what do I have to say about it all??

I suppose the best way to go about reflecting on my time in Oz thus far is to revisit the travel philosophy I wrote shortly before departing on my trip, specifically: Live in the Moment; Step Outside My Comfort Zone; Let My Heart Lead & My Mind be the Accompanist; and finally Seek Passion in all its Forms.

Let My Heart Lead & My Mind be the Accompanist

I will start here as it was this piece of my philosophy that finally enabled me to overcome my fears, rent out my house, quit my job & buy a one-way ticket to a country I had previously spent only two weeks visiting.  How did what initially seemed to be such a difficult decision suddenly become a no-brainer for me?

Goodbye Buffalo . . . Hello Australia!

It happened like this: I first came to Sydney to visit Heather in September/October 2010 while she was living here on the 12-month Work & Holiday Visa that I now also possess.  I had such a fabulous time that I (privately at first) started to flirt with the idea that maybe I could follow in her footsteps . . . but no, no, no, that was totally crazy!  Banish the thought!!  How could I just pack up & leave?  Very irresponsible indeed.  I think it seemed to some as if I was giving up the pieces of the American Dream I had worked so hard for – leaving a house, a job, family & friends to – to what, travel?  Was that a worthy enough goal?  After all, it’s not as if I hadn’t taken short-term vacations abroad before (while keeping the security of a full-time job back home) & I’d surely do so again – wasn’t that enough?  What was the point of leaving everything behind only to return to a life of uncertainty 12 months later?

I asked myself these questions & many others before I made my ultimate decision.  I searched for signs that I should take the leap so I wouldn’t have to bear the immense burden of making this choice all on my own . . . well, needless to say I started seeing signs everywhere.  I tried as hard as I could to turn anything & everything around me into a sign, but I knew in my heart that none of those occurrences were signs at all – they were mere coincidences & vague connections at best.  I only saw them as signs because I wanted them to be.

Searching the Skies for an Answer . . .

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was trying to turn everything around me into a sign!  I was trying to turn them into signs because I wanted them to be signs.  I wanted them to be signs because I wanted to go to Australia.

So I had my answer, simple as that: I wanted to go to Australia!  All along it was there, just under the surface, but I couldn’t acknowledge it, I was too blinded by fear.  Once I fully understood the strength of my heart’s desire, there was no going back.  I felt so empowered that I could make such a major life change & yet feel so relaxed, so relieved, so free!  I wanted to hold onto that feeling forever – the feeling that I am ultimately in control of my life & that I don’t have to follow a prescribed path in order to be happy or successful – I can create my own. 🙂

Sunset at Uluru - this is the life!

Now that’s not to say that the past six months living in Australia have always been easy, but if I could go back in time, would I do it all over again?  In a heartbeat.

And I’ve had at least one other opportunity to test out my philosophy on allowing my heart to rule.  Initially I had planned to live & work in Melbourne for a while, either instead of, or in addition to, Sydney.  By all accounts, Melbourne should have been my ideal city, known for its artistic vibe, culture & great cuisine.

One of the many lanes & arcades in Melbourne

But ultimately, it just didn’t feel right.  I’ve written a bit about this decision already & I will be writing about the two and a half weeks I spent visiting Melbourne soon in a separate post, so I won’t go into any more detail here.  Suffice it to say, my heart was right again – I should have trusted it all along.

Live in the Moment

Actually, one more thing about the decision above . . . I wrote in my travel philosophy how stressed I was at the thought of having to decide how & where to spend my time in Australia & that was before I had even left home!  I wish I could go back & tell the “Me” from six months ago to relax a little – I couldn’t possibly have known what to do back then because I hadn’t experienced any of it yet.  I would figure it out when the time came – in the moment. 🙂

That very idea still freaks me out though; I’m still not quite comfortable with it.  In fact, now that I’m at the halfway point of my trip (OK, who am I kidding, since before I even made the decision to come here), I’ve been wondering what I’m going to do when this adventure is over.  It’s not that I’m ready to go home yet – although I do get homesick at times & very much miss family & friends – it’s just that it’s so hard to let go & trust that things will somehow work out in the end.  I want complete security as well as unmitigated freedom but unfortunately I can’t have 100% of both.  So much can change in a year, in six months even, & I can hope & dream & plan all I want today but there’s no telling what tomorrow will bring.  So I have to let go a little & let each moment lead into the next, until finally enough moments have passed that I am ready & able to make those next big life decisions.

Living in the moment is easier when you have a view like this to remind you of how magical each day can be

Fortunately, living in the moment tends to be a bit easier on a day-to-day basis.  By that I simply mean pausing every now & then to appreciate what you have, enjoy what you’re experiencing & let the wonder of it all sink in.  It’s a bit like meditating (or as close to meditating as I’ll probably ever come!)  Whenever I eat one of Zumbo’s delectable macarons or gaze at the incredible beauty of the Opera House, or even once in a while at work when I inch ever so much closer to making the perfect cup of coffee, I feel like I am truly living in the moment . . . OK, admittedly there are also moments when I just want to scream & curse & kick the espresso machine, but I won’t mention that here. 0:-)

Mouth-watering Macarons

Step Outside My Comfort Zone

I’ve actually surprised myself with this one in ways I never would have imagined before coming on this trip . . . I mean, come on, weeing in the bush?  ME?!  Not exactly something I had on my Oz to-do list, but it sure makes for an*ahem!* interesting blog post. 😉

Forget the animals crossing, this sign should read "No Toilets Next 96 km"

And then there’s the driving.  On the other side of the road.  With *me* in the driver’s seat.  Now if that’s not scary, I don’t know what is!  But I did it.  Not entirely sure I want to do it again, but I’m also not ruling it out just yet . . . 😉

Aussies, Beware: Niki is Behind the Wheel!

I have also had (& taken advantage of) the opportunity to try a few new foods during my time here.  Now, don’t get too excited, I’m not as adventurous as Heather, what with her feasts of ‘roo & croc & emu!  But I have had a few (vegetarian) foods that are indigenous to Australia, such as quandong & lemon myrtle.

Lemon Myrtle Pancakes with Quandong Sauce & Ice Cream

And I’ve also discovered a few other incredibly exotic foods that I somehow managed to miss out on previously – for example, avocados & poached eggs (I’ve always gotten my eggs scrambled or as an omelette) – I know, I know, this is really big stuff people!! 😉

Avocado, sourdough toast, Persian feta, poached egg, rocket & lemon infused olive oil from The Book Kitchen in Surry Hills

I did NOT, however, volunteer to go up on stage with George Calombaris & Gary Mehigan at the Good Food & Wine Show when they asked for a volunteer who was squeamish around oysters – I knew where that was heading!! 😉

As for traveling solo, it has been both challenging & rewarding.  Sometimes I enjoy having time to myself, free to wander about & see where the day leads; other times I’d prefer to be in the company of friends.  Having spent six months in Oz (only three of which have been in Sydney), it hasn’t always been easy to make new friends, but fortunately Heather introduced me to some great people she had met along the way & we’ve enjoyed some fun get-togethers, with hopefully more to come! 🙂

Me, Hannah & Lauren at an American ex-pat 4th of July Celebration (in case you were wondering, those are goofy American stickers on our faces)

Seek Passion in all its Forms

Alright, so I can’t claim to have had any international romances – yet!  But I have certainly been developing my passion for food . . . well, mostly just for eating good food, hahaha.  Hey, with patisseries like Adriano Zumbo, can you really blame me?  But don’t worry, I’m incorporating food into my life in other ways, not all of which impact my waistline. :-/  MasterChef Australia has become my favorite Aussie show . . . too bad season 3 just ended on Sunday, but hopefully another season of Masterchef (or maybe even Junior MasterChef!) will start up again soon.  I’ve landed a job at Ghermez Cupcakes (OK, admittedly this is *not* so good for my waistline as one of the perks includes free cupcakes!)  And finally, I am gearing myself up to hopefully take some baking & pastry arts short courses soon!  One course will definitely involve macaron-making (surprise, surprise) & perhaps I may find one or two other topics that pique my interest (without breaking the bank!)

Koala Cupcake I decorated at the Good Food & Wine Show

So all in all, I’d say my first six months of living abroad have been a success.  Here’s to another six months continuing on my great Australian adventure! 🙂

Vivid Sydney

The Opera House was my first stop after arriving in Sydney in mid-May

If there was any doubt in my mind (which if you know me at all, you know that of course there was), it vanished the moment I laid eyes once again on the reason I first fell in love with this beautiful city: the Sydney Opera House.  My decision to leave home for a year Down Under was perhaps not as difficult as my decision of where in Australia I should choose to reside.  Before beginning this journey, Sydney was the only city I had ever visited in Oz, so of course that was the obvious choice.  On the other hand, I had been told wonderful things about Melbourne & I couldn’t wait to experience the active arts scene & thriving cafe culture of this vibrant city first-hand.

For this reason, my original plan when I came to Australia was to give living in Melbourne “a go” & see if perhaps it would also be possible to spend a significant amount of time in Sydney (after all, if you can’t eat your cake, then why bother having it, am I right? ;))  Being the worrywart that I am, I was already feeling as if the weeks & months ahead were slipping away before I even left the States!  Australia is such a vast & diverse country: How would I ever find the time (let alone the money!) to do it all?  Or if I couldn’t do it all, how would I know if I was making the right decisions about what to do & what to forego?  How can we ever know for sure?  (Do I sound a bit neurotic here?  Welcome to my world . . . it’s exhausting! ;))

Ultimately I came to understand that there was never really anything to fear – what was the worst that could happen?  I spent a couple of weeks exploring Melbourne (which I had wanted to do anyway) & finally felt I could no longer ignore the fact that as much as I tried, I just wasn’t connecting with the vibe of the city the way that I had with Sydney.

Sounds reasonable enough, but at first I couldn’t help but feel guilty.  Theoretically speaking at least, Melbourne is the ideal city for me.  I enjoy the arts: Melbourne is known for its museums, performing arts & culture.  I love food: Melbourne is the culinary capital of Australia.  It had everything I thought I wanted in a city & I just couldn’t put my finger on why I wasn’t feeling the fit.  Here was my mind battling my heart again & I felt as if I had somehow let down an entire city & all its people.  I wanted to say to them, “it’s not you, Melbourne, it’s me!!”

A cheesy cliche normally reserved for breaking up with one’s significant other, I know, but I honestly felt that way!  Reason told me I should be quite happy in Melbourne, but my heart knew that logic has no real merit in such decision-making.  I felt for Sydney what I can only describe as homesickness: I missed the wild flavors of macarons from Adriano Zumbo, the alluring beaches of Bondi & Manly (I am so, so sorry Melbourne, but St. Kilda & Brighton Beach just don’t do it for me :() & most of all I missed the harbours – Sydney Harbour with its iconic Bridge & Opera House most of all.  I couldn’t stand being so close yet so far from a scene that I will never tire of viewing.

Lighting the Sails of the Sydney Opera House

So here I am.  And if I needed further reassurance that I made the right decision, all I had to do was see “Lighting the Sails” of the Opera House during Vivid Sydney, an annual festival of light, music & ideas held here each winter.  I’m afraid my pictures don’t quite do it justice, so you’ll just have to take my word that this was an incredible light show.  You can also check out the pictures on the Vivid Sydney website to get a better idea of what I was fortunate enough to experience in person.

Heaps of people showed up to see the Opera House in lights

In addition to the Opera House, Customs House also had an amazing light show.  I took a brief video of this as I think it gives a better perspective than the still photos . . . but I can’t seem to figure out how to get said video into my blog post.  It seems I need to save it in another format & those skills are beyond me. 😦

Sydney Customs House all lit up

There were also several other light exhibits around Circular Quay, not to mention the food stalls serving up hot meals (I wish I had realized this before I ate dinner prior to attending the festival! :(), hot mulled wine (this I could not pass up . . . although I am assuming that hot mulled wine is an acquired taste as it was not much to my liking) & cannoli half-filled with the traditional ricotta & half-filled with tiramisu – yum!

Light Sculptures at Circular Quay: Children & adults alike were fascinated by these human-like light forms.

I learned after the festival that this sculpture, entitled "Jellilight," represents giant jellyfish flying away from the earth up into the universe like reverse UFOs, escaping our polluted oceans.

Even this little boat got all dolled up for the occasion!

Now just in case my storyline has left you a bit confused, I should mention that I have skipped over several weeks of my travels because I just couldn’t wait to post about Vivid Sydney!  After Heather, Adam & I finished our roadtrip I spent over a week in Adelaide, another week on a tour from Adelaide up to Alice Springs & then over two weeks in Melbourne before finally settling in Sydney over a month ago!!  I now have an apartment with three flatmates in Leichhardt, Sydney’s “Little Italy,” as well as a job at Ghermez Cupcakes!  Don’t worry, I will be sure to fill you in on the details – all in good time!

Map of Australia

WA = Western Australia; NT = Northern Territory; SA = South Australia; QLD = Queensland; NSW = New South Wales; ACT = Australian Capital Territory; VIC = Victoria; TAS = Tasmania

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