Before I’d ever set foot in this place, Australia was this thing in my mind for a very long time: a sunshine country full of beaches and beautiful, friendly people. In the depths of winter in Toronto, I had this recurring dream where I would wake up on a beach, squinting at the sunlight – the sky unbelievably blue, the surf frothy. The soft sand littered with lifeguards and beachgoers all out enjoying the gorgeous, sparkling day. It was so warm and it felt so real; it felt hopeful and happy and right. I’d wake up from the dream and lie still, eyes closed, trying to hold onto that feeling for as long as I could. I wanted to feel that sunshine…
I visited Australia for the first time in 2012. My best friend Sid and I had always wanted to go ever since a fateful summer living on an island in Greece, where we’d met our first Aussie friends. We spent years after talking about it, but it was one of those trips that seemed like you would need a lot of time and money…and it just seemed SO FAR AWAY. So we let ourselves get swept up in our work and relationships and the trip became a distant dream.
Then one day, out of the blue, Sid said she was planning a three week trip to Australia and asked me if there was a chance I would come. At the time I was a few months into what I thought was my ‘dream job’ (aka. the thing that was going to make life better, fix everything, give me purpose, etc.), but it had turned into my own personal nightmare – as these things do when you rely on a job to fix your life. I was depressed, anxious and had no idea what to do next. I felt so trapped and I needed an out badly. This was my out.
Quit my job and travel for three weeks?!?! I thought it was crazy at first…three weeks away was a lot in Toronto at the time, but the idea wouldn’t leave my mind. After a month of more misery at work, I realised this was the perfect excuse to leave. I also found out it would only cost $500 return for me to fly with Sid since she was a flight attendant, which basically removed any other worry I had left. Looking back this was all such an obvious sign from the universe – when things start flowing, let the river take you!
So I gave my notice, threw caution to the wind – with no job prospects for when I returned – and left. We flew to Vancouver, spent the afternoon there (such a good flying break – highly recommend), then took the midnight flight to Sydney where we were set to arrive early in the morning.
When we got out of customs I saw a row of palm trees just outside the gate. The air had a headiness to it. It felt like beach to me. The sky was blue. The colours were different – have you ever noticed that not all blue skies and sun are the same? This sky gave off a bright and warm light. I thought about that feeling I would get when I watched an Australian tv show back home. It was weird to be travelling in an English speaking country – so easy, but still different. We went to buy a bottle of water and I remember being shocked at the $3 price (haha, if only I knew!). We got on the train and headed to Central Station where our hostel was.
When we arrived in the city we were both awestruck. More palm trees. Blue skies. Heat…and this was downtown (or as the Aussies call it “the CBD”). I remember a change starting to take place within me (an awakening really) that I couldn’t yet articulate. The gears were turning. This was an English speaking, first world country – NOT in the US (which I was never a fan of), with amazing weather. We were giddy with excitement.
You know those things you put off for awhile out of fear, a purported difficulty, or a myriad of other reasons? But then, when you finally do it you’re like…oh. OH. OHH! And regret immediately not having done it earlier? That was Sydney for me. That was Australia. I had a huge…“How did it take me this long to get here?!” stamped in my brain, on constant repeat. Why would I ever have put this off? Yes, the flight was long, but really – any flight longer than 8 hours is going to take your day and night anyways, right? And yes, it WAS so far away from Toronto, BUT in all the ways that mattered, it didn’t feel very far at all. It was easy to navigate, there was no language barrier and it was familiar – a thoroughly western city. And then on top of all that, it was absolutely, bloody gorgeous. I finally understood what world class city meant. The harbour, the ferry commutes, the luscious park havens right in the CBD (Hyde Park and Botanical gardens), the food and THE BEACHES: white sand, clear water, 20min from downtown – they were everywhere! And the weather, did I mention the weather?! It was Toronto on its most glorious day…every day.
I loved Sydney the minute I laid eyes on it.