I get a strange sense of deja vous as I write this entry. It seems only a month or so ago that I wrote about packing up and farewelling the greatest city in Australia and the city that has been my home for almost a year of my life. And if I’m being honest, 2010 was one of the best years of my life.
But fresh back from New Zealand and Fiji there were a few more goodbyes to be said. I won’t lie – it was strange to come back to the apartment in which Fallon and I (and our housemate Grant) had enjoyed so many good times. I think everybody who has ever been through a breakup – planned or otherwise – can relate to that feeling of sadness as you walk around a place that had felt so full not so long ago. While most of Fallon’s things went back with her to the United States, it’s nearly impossible to completely erase somebody’s presence from your life. A hair tie here or there, a shopping list left pinned to the fridge, and other little things.
I’m not going to wax lyrical about it, but a big part of my motivation for heading straight back out on the road after getting back from Fiji was to avoid becoming mired in recollections and nostalgia in a place with so many happy memories.
And so it was that, a week after my plane touched down in Sydney after a whirlwind tour of Fiji and New Zealand, I found myself alone in Sydney Airport clutching my passport and a flight to Busan courtesy of Kuala Lumpur and Seoul. But that’s getting ahead of things just a tad…
A Multitude of Goodbyes
While it’s true that I had farewell parties and last chance lunches with several friends before Fallon and I left for our New Zealand trip, there were still plenty of goodbyes to be said before I farewelled Australia for another year. It never gets any easier to say goodbye to friends, especially when you have a rather pleasant habit of making new ones wherever you go.
After a pair of lazy days spent recovering, washing sand out of clothes, and packing for the Korean move – Monday rolled around with my first social obligation: brunch with Heather from There’s No Place Like Oz.
After hitting the Korean consul in Sydney (and being pleasantly surprised to find the cost of E-2 visas had gone down from $80 to $55) – I met Heather at trendy Cafe Ish in Surry Hills. I’d seen photos from her blog about the delicious fusion of Japanese and native Australian cuisine the place offered, so I was certainly excited to try it out for myself. Arriving a good half hour early I treated myself to one of their signature wattle macadamia ice coffees. Served up with a big dollop of macadamia laden ice cream floating in it, it satisfied even an anti-coffee campaigner such as myself.
Soon enough Heather was there and we were discussing our various travel plans. While I’m headed to the chill of South Korea in the winter, she’ll be embarking on a tour of Australia that I’m certainly looking forward to reading about. Brunch was a decadent soft-shell crab omelete that really needs to be tried to be believed. It was stunning. I also committed a Cafe Ish faux pas by photographing my food without asking the proprietor’s permission, but he let me off the hook with a warning. I know others have not been so lucky. Word to the wise: Ask permission before you whip out your camera and photograph your succulent meal.
With brunch finished it was time to say goodbyes, as I had an old Uni friend coming down to spend a few nights in farewell. I’ll miss my Travel Tribe buddies, even if I only managed to meet them in November and (aside from Tony and Heather) only the once. It’s such a great idea and I’d love to start up a Korean chapter sometime. I do need a project…
After a quick (and fancy) lunch with Tony from It’s Good Overseas at The Forum by my apartment in St Leonards, Tuesday turned into an impromptu night out celebrating some of my favorite night spots in Sydney. Earlier in the year I raved about the atmosphere, boutique beer, and scrumptious food at Hart’s Pub in The Rocks, so it stood to reason that I opt to have my farewell drinks there. There was a mix of old friends and new as guys I went to high school and college with bonded with friends made throughout the year working at a call center in the city. Cajun style crocodile bites were washed down with pint after pint of the delightful Kolsch (the hint of banana in the aftertaste is particularly good), and soon enough it was time to move on to our next venue.
Karaoke was calling us and with Korea just around the corner, I lead the lads (and ladies) toward BBQ City’s very friendly noraebang. Sadly the owners had neglected to pay their rent, so we instead went around the corner to a less well known noraebang spot above the Hungry Jack’s on George Street. The guys there still remembered me from the drunken shenanigans of my last farewell drinks, and were quick to supply us with cans of ice cold Cass and all of the weird snack food we could devour.
Two hours of drunken singing, yelling, gyrating, and stupidity ensued – until it was just myself, Randy, and Dave remaining in the room. 1am had just ticked over and our night was winding down, but an hour spent playing Dance Dance Revolution in Galaxy World and a quick stop at McDonalds were on the cards before we could call it a night.
Wednesday & Thursday
The goodbyes (and the drinking) were far from done, and Wednesday night found me out at Rob, Steph, and Dave’s house for a home cooked meal and some good company. The incomporable Steph had been kind enough to pick me up for the occasion, and soon I was lounging out on the balcony and savoring halumi and lamb kebabs while washing it down with a few Stellas. It was beginning to dawn on me that soon I wouldn’t have the luxury of attending 7pm BBQs in shorts and thongs.
Beers gave way to mojitos and a stirring game of Munchkin, and then it was white wine before I had to call it an evening.
Thursday night was a bit more low key. With my visa in hand and my packing all but complete, a few quiet beers and some delicious home delivered ribs and Mexican seemed a perfect way to call an end to my wonderful year in Sydney. Standing out on the balcony and looking out at the North Shore skyline one last time, it was clear that I have a lot to be grateful for. While I might have inwardly griped about not having any real ‘me’ time before leaving, it was certainly gratifying to have so many social things to do before I left. It’s always the case that you don’t really know what you have until it is gone, and I was finding that to be the case as my time in Sydney drew to a close.
But it’s more than friends I’m grateful for. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be young and healthy and in love in the greatest city in Australia. I’m grateful for the chance to learn to surf in Dee Why, explore the Blue Mountains, kayak in Sydney, and find new and exciting restaurants and bars. I’m grateful that I got to wake up to the sun blazing in through my wall length window in the summer and that I got to curl up on the couch with a pretty girl in the winter. I’m grateful that I got to see the Opera House every morning on my way to work and see the gaudy lights of Luna Park every night on my way home. I’m glad for races run on iconic beaches and bridges climbed. Glad for nights spent singing myself hoarse at Shark Bar and evenings spent having quiet post work beers at The Madison or Strawberry Hills.
I’m grateful that I’ve got a new adventure on the horizon and, after the sadness passes and the healing is done, I might someday be able to share Sydney with another girl. I’m grateful that I got to end two fantastic years on such a high note. Who else gets to end their relationship after two of the best weeks in it? After two weeks of zorbing and exploring and lounging on beaches and eating delicious food?
I’m grateful for so many things, and as I felt the plane surge underneath me and I left Australian soil once again – I was grateful for the adventures that lay ahead, and the knowledge that Australia is always going to be there for me.
And isn’t that one of the best parts of traveling? Being able to come back to a place you love and people who care about you.
I know it is for me.