Unsettled in Sydney
January 1, 1970
by KitKat Gibbs
I had no idea what to expect when I first arrived in Sydney. Or Australia for that matter! A sunny and warm version of my hometown of London? A friendlier version of London? A more-touristy London? If that’s even possible. I’d been dreaming of visiting Australia for years and finally I’d plucked up the courage to actually go for it, spend a year in Australia on a working holiday visa. On my own. There was no turning back now.
Why Australia for a Working Holiday?
“Why Australia? It’s so far away!”; “You’re going on your own? You’re so brave/stupid/crazy” In my planning stages I got asked these questions so often. Why make the jump? Well it’s an English speaking country, the weather (duh?!), it’s a safe place (I had thought about going to South America but my research and horror stories from a friend quickly swayed my opinion of going there on my own) and it’s always appealed to me to take a year out to live and work in another country. It’s not for everyone but I felt like it was my time to do it. It’s a cliché but I wanted to ‘find myself’ and I was inspired by friends who had done the same. It had been a dream of mine for a while and having recently coming out of a long term relationship and enjoying some much needed ‘me time’ for the last few months, I felt more ready than ever to take the leap and say goodbye to my friends and family for the next 365 days…
Arriving in Sydney
I landed in Sydney mid-morning and managed to navigate myself to my hostel on Kent Street. I’d deliberately chosen a hostel in a fairly central location. Despite never having visited the city before, I’d managed to pick a hostel right outside central station in a pretty safe and friendly area. I felt totally unsettled. Probably down a number of factors… jet lagged from the 25hr flight over from Heathrow; I told myself I would stay awake for the next 12hrs at least. I was overwhelmed with excitement and nerves and being in a foreign city, alone. “Wow… I’m here. I made it!”
I sat on my hostel bed in my 6-bed female dorm alone and looked out the window at the city and blue sky. Thoughts and anxieties racing through my mind… what do I do now? Will I make friends? Will I like the city? Will I like Australia? What if I get lost? Will I be safe and feel safe a female alone in a foreign city? Only one way to find out! Let’s go and explore. I grabbed my map and worked out a basic plan of what I wanted to see and do on my first day. Of course top of my list was the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. I wanted the full touristy Sydney experience! Each time I visit a new place I go into full on tourist-mode and have a little checklist in my head of things I want to see and do. Tending to take over a little on holidays with friends as I sort an itinerary for the week we’re away.
Meandering down Elizabeth Street I found my way to ‘Hyde Park’. If you’ve been to London you’ll know that Hyde Park is one the biggest parks in the bustling capital of London. I felt at home as I grabbed a pastry and coffee and sat on a park bench watching the world go by with the sun beaming on my face. Only thing different to the London Hyde Park is these weird Ibis birds everywhere. Almost prehistoric looking birds with long beaks, they look aggressive but seem to just keep themselves to themselves. Smiling to myself as I relaxed and enjoyed people watching for a while. I’d recommend anyone to just sit, chill and people watch for a little while in a new place. Whether outside a café, a park bench, busy restaurant just grab yourself a coffee (or cocktail, depending on the time of day) and just soak up the atmosphere around you. Enjoy some me time.
Get lost, Sydney!
I got pretty lost on my walk to the famous hub of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Partly because I was totally in my own dreamy jet lagged world taking whatever street I thought looked interesting and popping into random shops and partly because wow we rely on the GPS on our phones so much! It dawned on me pretty quickly just how much we are looking down at our phones; we miss so much of what’s on around us. I took an unusual and much longer route rather than relying on my phone to take me a direct route. But it’s so much more fun to get lost in a new city! Sydney felt pretty safe so I wasn’t worried. Having visited various European cities and New York, I knew to be in ‘city mode’, i.e. keeping an eye on my bag and generally trying to be aware of my surroundings.
This is it!
Wow, the Sydney Opera House. What can I say! I’ve arrived. I’ve made it. This is Sydney! The walk up to the world famous building with the Harbour and Harbour Bridge on your left and all the lovely shops and (rather pricey) restaurants on your right seems to take forever. Don’t rush it, enjoy the stroll and take in the atmosphere. In pictures and on the TV you see the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera house and they both look massive. I always had this ‘one day I’ll see them in real life’ thought in my head. That day was today and I was so excited!! Walking up to it in the early evening light felt magical. The whole area was lit up and I had butterflies as I approached the Opera House.
The first thing you think of when someone says ‘Sydney’ you automatically think of the iconic images of the Opera House with the bridge in the background. The Sydney Opera House is much smaller than I imagined! It’s a stunning piece of architecture and ‘must see’ for anyone visiting Australia.
Where am I now?
Fast forward 10 months to my first very overwhelming day in Sydney and I absolutely love Australia! I spent an amazing couple of months travelling and seeing the wonderful sights that ‘Aus’ has to offer, I’m now working in my dream job in Brisbane. I’m so happy I made the jump to come here.