Bits & Pieces

Oh no, guys! I got a job and left it all in the span of one week. It was a “sales”/charity fundraising job and, while it was for a good cause, it felt a little scammy, like I was trying to lock people into a two (maybe more) year contract without fully telling them all the details. The more shady and avoidant I could be, the easier it would be to sign people up. At least most people were nice and willing to stop for a chat. In New York I might get a few big F*** You’s and maybe run over by a car.

Unfortunately, it seems like these types of jobs are the most popular around here for those on a working holiday visa, so I’m digging a bit deeper and exploring other options. Meanwhile, I’m busy not saving my money and trying all the cute cafes.

Wild Flour Cafe Redfern

Maybe I can get a job in one of them and free coffee will be provided…

Ampersand Cafe Paddington Sydney

There’s still much to explore. The other day I was walking back from yoga, and I saw a woman feeding these birds in the park. Keep in mind, these are just regular ol’ everyday birds in Sydney, and there were dozens of them:

Cockatoo Sydney

And the regular trees are either fragrant with flowers that perfume the air or huge with giant roots and plenty of nooks to settle into with a good book. Australian life is beautiful!

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One day, I was leaving Mike’s apartment and, instead of taking my usual left, I decided to turn right. I discovered a nice, big park for running that I had no idea was there! I passed through and saw a long street of bookstores, health food shops, yummy-looking restaurants, and a sweet gelato place where I may or may not have immediately stopped to taste. I followed the road all the way down to find this gorgeous harbor view:

Glebe Point Sydney

I will certainly miss romping around Mike’s neighborhood, but here’s a sneak preview of the area I’ll be moving into over the weekend:

Surry Hills Arts District

Sculpture by the Sea

There’s one area of Sydney that I keep coming back to again and again:

Bondi Icebergs

Bondi Beach! I think we can all agree that it’s the best one. I wish I could live there, but it would make life difficult for getting into the city for work, not to mention for 6am yoga class. Oh well, they’re having an art event this month on the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk.

Sculpture by the sea bondi

Sculpture by the Sea features heaps of sculptures lining the coastal path along the cliffs. Heaps. So many more than I was expecting!

There was this tea party on the rocks:

Sculpture by the sea bondi

And this spaceship to beam us to other galaxies:

Sculpture by the sea bondi

And these ones that, hey, maybe we remember from indoors at the White Rabbit Gallery:

Sculpture by the sea bondi

I was already impressed by the sea views without any adornments, so the sculptures made them all the more interesting. We are appreciating art in all its forms!

Sculpture by the Sea bondi

I went to the exhibit two times already. It was much more crowded on a weekend day, but the second time I actually went with someone who was part of the building team for my favorite sculpture of them all. So impressive! What a small world!

*My favorite one was not the below horse statue, though it is pretty nice. I forgot to take a pic of the winner!

Sculpture by the Sea bondi

I walked all along the cliffs until the path opens up onto a big lawn, where there were about a million other sculptures, including ones with entrances to go inside.

Sculpture by the Sea bondi

There always seems to be something going on here. Keep it coming, Sydney!

Sculpture by the Sea bondi

House Hunting in Sydney

Big news today… my house search is over! After browsing flatmate finder, gumtree, and three different Facebook groups for 2.5 weeks, I found and got approved for a room yesterday in the Surry Hills neighborhood. It was definitely one of those “when you know, you know” situations.

Darlinghurst Sydney

I was tiring of looking at places, even though I’d only gone to see about six. Everything moves fast in Sydney, so when you see a place posted online, it’s usually available within the next few days to a week. I knew I still had time before Mike gets back from his work trip, so I was being kind of picky and waiting for one that felt right. I had seen a few that I was on the fence about—great locations or nice quality, but something was always just a bit off. I finally found two that I nudged and convinced myself into wanting—one was right near the gorgeous park pictured below, but they both ended up falling through.

Centennial Park Sydney

Feeling a little disheartened, I took a couple days off from desperately clicking links and wrote down a list of what I really wanted/needed. I scheduled two viewings for the weekend and ended up falling for the second one. It’s a reasonable dream within my budget— lots of light, next to a big park, decent-sized furnished room with storage, and a couple of seemingly cool/fun/interesting-yet-responsible flatmates. There were even some added bonuses that I didn’t think to ask for: an indoor pool and a little gym downstairs!

Centennial Park Sydney

I saw the little graphic below in someone’s Instagram story later on, and it resonated with me. When I found the one, there was no self-convincing or desperate reconciling. I had a feeling of certainty, and I was glad that the other places hadn’t worked out.

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I’ll be moving next weekend, and I’m excited to do some settling in! I’ve been living out of one suitcase for the time so far, so I’ll be glad to remember what the heck I packed in my other bags. More photos to come soon!

Halloween Down Under

I guess everyone getting all dressed up for Halloween is mainly an American thing, because we did not see a ton of people being festive here at all. There were some, however—mostly kids outside of schools and some supportive parents. I saw one trick-or-treater with a very small pumpkin bucket, because I suppose stuffing two pillowcases full of candy and eating it til Christmas is an American thing as well.

Halloween campfire

My Aussie friend Amanda made sure I got my fill of celebrations, though. First, we went to a campfire dance party at a place (possibly in the side yard of a church?) called the House of Magic. The spooky decorations, campfire, and chai tea were quite enough to satisfy my autumn-starved soul.

House of Magic Sydney

We were the only ones dressed up, so we soon made moves toward a more costume-themed celebration. It was a house party as good as any Halloween gathering in the US! I got a lesson in cheap Australian booze options, and met some authentic Sydney friends.

House of Magic Sydney

An A+ Halloween overall.

How to Make Friends in Your New City (or Country)

During our nightly dinner table chats, Mike and I have been talking about how it can be hard to make friends in your thirties and how it can be hard to make friends in a new city/country and how maybe it can be hard to make good friends at anytime in anyplace! We agreed that meetup groups that exist for the sole purpose of meeting people or networking don’t really work. But, if you throw a shared hobby, interest, or skill into the mix, there’s a much higher chance of making an actual friend.

Redfern Sydney NSW

I’d like to propose that another good way to get out there is by meeting up with friends of friends. Sure, it’s riskier—they could still be a weirdo or you might awkwardly have nothing to talk about, and you can’t really ease your way out five minutes after walking in, but it could also be great and open many new doors that previously appeared to be closed or non-existent.

Bondi Beach

I tried this last week, and it resulted in a.) getting coffee at one of my favorite places, b.) going to the beach for two days and playing soccer in the sand, c.) having people to go out with on a Wednesday night to a teen/student nightclub, and d.) discovering two or maybe three new friends from Italy!

*Yes, I have learned in my time on earth that going out on a weeknight before early morning yoga is not the best idea, but I am in a “yes” to everything mindset, so I tried to be home by midnight-ish and sucked it up til nap time the next day.

Bondi Beach

After nap time, it was back to the beach. Can you believe it? We played more “football” except this time there were tons of blue bottle jellyfish threatening to sting our feet. Oh well, they are very cool to look at, though. Long live my beach life!

Down for Dumplings

I always seem to find my way to Chinatown in one city or another. Last week was no different. After yoga and two morning interviews, I took a walk through town and wound up on Dixon St, the main street in Sydney’s Chinatown.

Chinatown Sydney

It was pretty quiet in the early afternoon on a Tuesday, but I’m eager to go back on a Friday for one of the night markets. I scoped out the restaurants, ice cream stands, and tea shops, but I had my goals set on a different part of town for lunch.

The path from Dixon St. leads down to Darling Harbor. I remembered it from my last visit—pretty crowded and touristic, but a good place for pretty views of the harbor and, I hear, fireworks every Saturday night. It’s also home to the Chinese Garden of Friendship, which costs only $6 to enter so I should just suck it up and go to, but during both visits I’ve gotten too tired/hangry to continue my tourism. I had some snacking to attend to.

Darling Harbour

The walk back to Mike’s place took me past a tiny street-between-streets called Spice Alley. It’s a strip of ten hawker food stalls offering cuisine from China, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Um. How is a person supposed to decide between those options? I see no reason to ever eat anywhere else.

Spice Alley Sydney

After much time spent debating, I chose a plate of chicken and veggie dumplings from Shanghai. Australia doesn’t have many of its own delicacies that are worth writing home about, besides fish and chips, kangaroo (no thanks!), and emu (also no!), but I’m happy to sample treats from nearby nations. It was the perfect lunch break after an interview-filled morning. Sending a million cover letters and resumes can get to you after while, so it was nice to forget my struggles with a plateful of dumplings.

White Rabbit

I’m writing this from the future where I’m trying to throw together a last minute Halloween costume, but my first weekend in Sydney was full of things I love. Of course, Friday was a hit, what with Noodle Night and all. On Saturday, I took two dance classes at Dance Central Sydney. I used to take dance as a kid and it still really makes me happy, so that’s what I want to spend my time doing, ya know?

White Rabbit Gallery

Sunday started with yoga— as the best ones always do. The studio I’ve been going to has live music on Sundays, and it makes the practice really special. I never want to miss one! It takes a little less than an hour to walk back to Mike’s, so if I’m not in a rush, I’ll skip the bus and take the path through two nice parks and the center of the city. It’s been nice to get a little tour of all the neighborhoods; my biggest problem is that I like them all and can’t decide where I want to live!

White Rabbit Gallery

As I walked back on Saturday, I needed to stop at the grocery store for a few items. I bought some new deodorant that I don’t really like the smell of, so I’m currently dealing with that. I also walked past the White Rabbit Gallery, a Chinese Contemporary Art Gallery that I didn’t have time to visit during my last trip down under. It’s open on Sundays, so I decided to pop in.

White Rabbit Gallery

Wow! I didn’t know that I was into contemporary Chinese art before, but I guess now I am. There were so many interesting pieces; I took my time and didn’t want to leave. There was one very long scroll of cartoon illustrations that takes you through much of Chinese history, and I was glad one of the attendants handed me a guide so that I could understand some of the intricacies.

White Rabbit Gallery

I’m kicking myself for not taking any photos Sunday night, because Mike brought me along to an experimental music gig at the Petersham Bowling Club, aka the PBC. The type of bowling here is lawn bowling, which I assume is kind of like bocce, but I have no idea. It’s had a bit of a resurgence with hip young people in the past few years, kind of like our shuffleboard trip to Brooklyn. They had good beer, fun-looking lawn bowling (although we didn’t have time to play), and two stages for musical activities. Hope we’ll be back there soon!

Noodle Night

Like I said last time, one of my favorite ways to find out about fun stuff to do in a new city is by word of mouth. That means sometimes I have to break out of my comfort zone, put my phone down, talk to strangers, and then remember what they say, take my phone back out, and write it down! When I was waiting for my Uber at the airport, I heard a girl saying that there were free walking tours offered twice a day, every day around the city. I asked her where they met up, and followed her advice to join one. I was hesitant to do such a touristy activity now that I’m trying to blend in as a real “Sydneysider”, but it was a good way to learn many things and enjoy a free afternoon activity whilst being around other people.

St Marys Cathedral Sydney

The tour went all around the central city area, lasting almost three hours. I knew it was a good one because I paid attention almost the whole time and barely got distracted like I have been known to become on long historic tours. I learned that you can rub this boar’s nose for good luck and donate some change to the hospital behind him:

Il Porcellino Sydney

And that the two animals on the coat of arms of Australia, the emu and the kangaroo, were chosen because they’re both unable to walk backwards. So the country keeps on moving forward, and I like that message.

Australia coat of arms

We walked through Hyde Park, saw some food tents and fences set up, and our guide told us that Friday night would be the last Noodle Night Market of the season. And the last one to be held in Hyde Park, the original location, probably ever. There are few things I love more than noodles, so I knew I had to be there! Luckily, Mike’s office is right next to Hyde Park, so he agreed to meet me after work for some noodle noms.

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However, there were not only noodles to choose from. There were just about all the asian delicacies you could imagine, and some that might’ve been made up just for the event: bao buns, satay, bubble waffles, fish balls, a wild spiral french fry creation on a stick, etc. etc. You want it? You could probably have it, if you were willing to wait in the lines of about a million people each. I wanted the flying noodles pictured above, but they were so popular that we got tired of walking to find the end of the line. No matter; we gathered a couple beers and stood in a much shorter line for likely very similar tasting, non-flying noodles.

Noodle Night Market Sydney

All was right with the world.

Things I worried about when moving abroad

During my visit to LA last week (was that only a week ago??), Katherine and I were waiting to order breakfast at a favorite place and started talking to the guy behind us in line. What do you know, he had spent three years living in Australia and had lots to tell me about Sydney. He recommended a few coffee shops and, boom, here I am eating brekkie at one of them.

Single O Surry Hills

I didn’t really mean to order a whole breakfast situation, but I needed to kill some time while waiting for a store to open, and the other option was to order takeaway and stand at this curbside counter, which is also kind of cool and nice to have, but not for journaling.

Single O Surry Hills

Word-of-mouth is one of my favorite ways to find out cool places to visit in a new city. I also like reading posters and all the little signs on bulletin boards. Now Instagram is helpful too, if you know where to look. I like to read off-the-beaten-path lists and local’s guides, more than say a “Top 10 blah blah blah…” a.k.a. things you usually already know about or know will be crowded with tourists like you. I’ll peruse those, too, and do a little extra research of reading reviews and other websites to see if it’s worth my while.

Here’s a list of things I worried about when I decided to move to Australia, mainly because I might need to consult it later if I ever move anywhere else or if anyone ever asks! It’s more of what I was concerned about before leaving, not getting set up once I actually arrive—that’ll come later!

  • My car: I went back and forth about whether to keep or sell my car. Since I am only planning to be abroad for a year or less, and I’ve only had this car for about a year, it seemed to make more sense to keep it. I’m also able to store it in my mom’s garage, so that’s a huge plus. I knew the registration would be up for renewal, so I found out that California has a “planned non-operation” option (CA DMV) for $22.

  • Car insurance: I was planning to cancel my car insurance entirely while it would be in storage, but after talking to the insurance company (progressive.com), I decided to keep limited coverage for $20/month that would cover events like break-ins or weather damage and keep me from paying a fee to reinstate full coverage when I get back.

  • Health insurance: I expected Australia to be a utopia with free health coverage for everyone, including international travelers, but sadly that is not the case. They do have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with certain countries, but not the US. I purchased a travel health insurance plan with Allianz for $100/month. Not sure I’ll ever end up using it, and I’m sure some people would avoid the cost, but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  • An international phone number: Mike helped a lot with this one! Of course, I would need an Australian phone number and plan for jobs, banking, and general life here in Sydney, but I wanted to use my phone from home. I also wanted to make sure I wouldn’t miss any calls or texts if someone tried to contact my old number. Mike swooped in to the rescue with two guides to phone plans in Sydney (1 , 2) and I chose Vodafone, because that’s what he chose and I was too lazy to research further. He also sent me a link to Tossable Digits, a service to hold your old number and port any attempts to contact you from your old phone to your new phone. It’s been working well for me.

  • Money transfers: I came over with about 300 USD in cash in my wallet, which I haven’t used. I’ve been using my credit card (Chase Sapphire) for almost everything and also took out some ATM money using my US debit card. I won’t want to do that for much longer, especially when getting paid or paying rent, so I set up a bank account here, again with Mike’s help. After doing some of my own actual research, I’m using Transferwise to send money from my US bank to the new one here. It seems to take 2-4 days and hopefully will arrive in time before I need to make any security deposits.

    • *Oh yeah, if you’re wondering, I saved about $12,000 in preparation for this trip (including helpful gifts from friends and family. Thank you!) I’m sure it could be done with less, but I like taking myself out for breakfast and having a bit of a just-in-case cushion. The working holiday visa requires that you have $5,000 in the bank or a departure flight booked, but they didn’t check either of those things upon my arrival. Actually, I just did the electronic check-in and didn’t have to talk to anyone in customs—what a luxury.

  • Prescriptions: I don’t have much helpful advice on this one. I tried to see my doctor and dentist in LA before leaving. I stopped taking my birth control this summer, so that’s one I may have to figure out here. I ordered four boxes of new contacts, which was kind of hectic and last minute, so just a reminder to make sure to stock up on your valid ‘scripts and maybe bring an e-copy with you.

Sydney street art

Apart from what to pack, I think those were my main concerns. Did I miss anything?

Daily Practice

Today I sat at the park in ideal weather, surrounded by some type (or many types) of dog and owner meetup. I’m happy to say I’ve been doing a bit what I came here to do already. The drastic time change has made it easy to wake up for six am yoga practice. From Mike’s couch, I walk about five or ten minutes to the bus or train, ride a few stops over to the west side of the city, and wind through a nature trail to the yoga studio. I unroll my mat and take a trip back inwards after a summer of what had probably been my most scattered sessions since I started practicing yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga Moves Sydney

Some nights I’ve woken up at 2 or 3, hitting my head on the hanging light above when I get up to use the bathroom. The light is well-placed for the couch when it is a couch, but not for when it’s acting as a bed. Oh well, I’m extremely grateful for a landing pad with a good friend. And thanks to a combination of good fortune and melatonin, I’ve been able to fall back asleep for a few more hours.

Mike has a great apartment in a quiet but happening part of Sydney. It’s close to the train, walking distance from a park with a pool, and seems like one of the best places to live. The bedroom is separate from the living room/kitchen (ie. my room for now!), so hopefully for him that makes it easier to have a guest. There’s a lovely patio and some good plants, too.

Paddington Sydney

I’m a little homesick since I spent my last days having the best times with fun friends and family, and I feel like I was just getting used to having a job I loved and a social life at the beach when it was time to leave. But all the moving gives me hope that, with time, I can establish something good anywhere. However, it is a little disorienting that people walk, drive, ride escalators, and do everything on the left side here!

My first days have been spent walking, riding awesome modes of public transport to get to know the city, meditating and journaling in parks, drinking coffee at cafes, and writing cover letters. At night, Mike takes me out to eat and drink in different neighborhoods. We’ve had some delicious dinners— most notably at a vegan pay-what-you-can community hangout in one of the most hip locations—and some drinks at a quirky bar just down the road. Yoga and novelty are some of my favorite things, so life right now is looking pretty sweet from where I’m sitting.

First Steps: Sydney

When the plane wheels hit the ground in Sydney, I felt hesitant but hopeful. Jet-lagged and far from home, but trusting in the experiences that await me. I have to pinch myself a bit to believe that I’m really here. I dreamed up this whole adventure while packing to leave our Airbnb in Bondi Beach back in March. Some voice from somewhere seemed to say that I should come back. I imagined maybe I could drive cross-country, spend the summer in Jersey, and return to Sydney in the fall, but I almost shrugged it off as too crazy of a plan. When I bought my ticket, I even purchased the flight insurance, which I rarely ever do.

Rushcutters Bay Sydney

But everything since then has seemed to fall into place. My clothes and car are all at my mom’s house in NJ. I put my car insurance on hold for $20/month and took out a “planned non-operation” certificate so my vehicle could potentially stay registered in California next year. I have a place to stay with a dear friend for the first month. I didn’t have to use that flight insurance after all.

In spite of my middle seat, I slept for the first half of the flight here. Then the woman next to me asked if I wanted to switch to the window seat because she kept needing to get up. My streak of airplane seat luck continues! After watching a movie, I discovered a very timely book on my Kindle written by an Australian author. The Top Five Regrets of the Dying offers some of the exact messages I needed to hear and that I have faith will guide me in this whole process. As I settle in, I am reminded not to grasp and force frantically. The author shares the way she fell into composing music and caring for the elderly. Her story rings so familiar to me as she stepped away from a “good” job in banking to chart her own course. From feeling the joy of an afternoon alone beside a stream, to the exhaustion of overworking in service of others, her life stories really resonated with me. I had totally forgotten about the book’s place in my Kindle library, and yet it seemed to find me at just the right time.

Sydney Opera House

As the plane descended into a grey early spring day, I closed my eyes to stop and breathe. Let things unfold. Follow your heart. Don’t chase the money (ok, maybe chase it a little bit to find a job in under a month…) Don’t let the fear of running out of it guide your choices. I am eager to push something to unfold—I set up a bank account, got a new phone number, and sent a dozen applications on the first day—but after my in-flight reading, I am willing to try to be patient and see.

How I packed for a year in Australia

I am not the expert here, so I probably shouldn’t be writing this. But whenever I told anyone I was going to Australia for “up to a year”, that was the first thing they wanted to know. So, here’s what I brought:

How I packed for a year in Australia

I would say, overall, that I packed for this trip with reckless abandon. I don’t officially know how long I’ll be staying since I don’t have a job yet—a month? six months? a year? forever? I’m not planning on backpacking this time around, so I wanted to bring most of my life in order to stay in Sydney and live with it. Clothes weren’t too hard because it doesn’t get terribly cold here. Shoes were the hardest. I brought nine pairs.

I tried to limit myself to seven yoga pants, but I couldn’t. I like them all too much. I packed a couple versatile dresses for the wedding weekend and in case I get invited to any others, plus my sequined jumpsuit in case anyone wants me to come to a party. The green backpack has mostly exercise and casual clothes, plus my rain jacket. I stuck two pairs of sandals in the water bottle holders, and they almost fell out mid-flight, but they didn’t—whew! I slipped in a pouch of pens, highlighters, and pencils, just to have. I brought an alarm clock, two bars of fancy soap that I got from the Dutchess County Fair, a big contact solution and many pairs of contacts thanks to 1-800-Contacts filling my prescription last minute.

You can’t really see it, but under my jean jacket, there’s a canvas bag that holds my backpack, water bottle, and camera, which is really a great idea because you can fit almost three personal items for the price of one. I also have my traveling tripod, external hard drive, and microphone to hopefully make some yoga videos for you. In my backpack, there’s my laptop, iPad (that I use as a Kindle), two books, two planners (one for next year!), a fresh journal, chargers, and my work notebook. I squeezed in a reusable coffee mug because I try to care about the environment whenever I remember.

The patterned bag has my winter attire. I left it in LA at Katherine and Nath’s house so that I wouldn’t have to check three bags on the flight to LA. And I’d like to use it as a carry-on if I go on any international Asian adventures. I ditched my yoga mat and ukulele at the last minute with a few tears in my eyes, but I figured those would be easier to repurchase in Sydney than to carry on the plane with my other items. My mom is shipping a box with my wetsuit for surfing and, no, that is not a sarcastic joke; I am a real surfer!

I think that about covers it. I was tempted to try public transportation with one bag on the back, one on the shoulder, and two rolling in my hands, but Uber was just affordable enough not to have to. I’m safe and I’m here!

Penguin Parade

I hadn’t quite gotten my fill of animal sightings, even after our Sydney zoo tour featuring the koala breakfast, so I rallied Mike for another one-day bus tour, and we took a voyage down to Phillip Island to see the parade of penguins. Every night (I think) at this point about 2 hours from Melbourne, a number of tiny penguins waddle in from the sea and make their way up to their wooden nest boxes on the coast to sleep or feed their kids or mate (very noisy) or whatever else penguins do in their nests. I was told there would be hundreds of penguins to view, so it sounded like a sight worth seeing. Count us in.

But first, we needed to find more kangaroos, so we were taken to a stop at an animal sanctuary where they had koalas, emus, and a dingo for viewing and a bunch of kangaroos for feeding.

sleeping koala
emu

The kangaroos were very relaxed and open to being fed, but the whole feeding event really was a testament to the ridiculousness of human behavior when new animals are present. Everyone was crowding, poking, and generally bothering the very calm kangaroos, so it was a little disheartening.

Maru animal sanctuary

After the sanctuary, we visited the beach and ordered iced coffee, which is actually either coffee with ice cream or with a whole bunch of sugar. I should’ve just gotten a Golden Gaytime like everyone else was doing.

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We stayed in our habit of not listening to the time we were supposed to be back on the bus and then arriving to find we were the last ones on the bus. Then it was time for a stop at a place called the Nobbies, which held excellent seascape views and the Seal Rocks where, unfortunately, the seals are too far away for the naked eye to see.

The Nobbies

Finally, onto the much awaited final destination. We arrived at the penguin march around 7 and entertained ourselves with a light dinner and sunset vistas while waiting for the penguin migration.

Phillip Island

They started coming in around eight o’clock and, I must say, there were far fewer penguins than we were expecting. Like, we saw 8 when we were expecting hundreds. Still cool to see I suppose, but also a bit anticlimactic after all the hype of waiting. However, when we turned around to walk back to the van, we did see at least tens, if not hundreds of the tiny birds. The trip was saved, either by the viewing of the penguins or by the hot chocolate that was waiting for us when we got back.

Fairy Floss

During the trip, I overhead someone say that a visitor to Australia will take one of two sides: you’ll either decide that you’re a Sydney person or a Melbourne person. I had heard cool things about the art, music, and culture coming out of Melbourne, so Mike and I decided to make a weekend out of it and flew on the budget Tiger airline to check it out. I’ve also heard that Sydney is more like the west coast of the US and Melbourne is more like the NYC area. So, you can probably figure out which one I prefer as I sit here writing this from my sunny SoCal apartment with lots of grass in the backyard.

Melbourne botanical gardens

I didn’t dislike Melbourne at all, I was just surprised to find it so similar to big cities that I’ve seen a lot of before. Hip bars, delicious restaurants, but overall not much newness. Well, there was one new thing… Melbourne is well-known for its coffee, and we were promised some of the best cups of coffee in the world. However, I hadn’t been that huge of a fan of Australian coffee at that point. I don’t like to add cream, so I found the long and short blacks all too bitter and the lattes much too milky (even though they sometimes came with adorable koala designs!) I (and Mike, too) missed the good old fashioned drip, which, while it might not be the fanciest or highest quality, felt familiarly like a satisfying cup of home.

Melbourne coffee

On our first day in Melbourne, we were off to try this famed coffee, but I decided to mix it up and sample something new based some intriguing Yelp reviews. Enter, fairy floss. What was this? It looked like a cloud in a cup and appeared to be more about novelty than actual taste. I can be into that, especially in the midst of an impromptu vacation down under. I ordered what looked like (and was like) plain cotton candy and selected the matcha to pour over top. There was also a hot chocolate option, but when I tried to order a coffee version, the waitress looked at me like I was crazy (which was a lot coming from someone who seemed like they had inserted an IV drip of caffeine for her entire shift), suggested the matcha, then brought me an extra shot of espresso just in case I wanted to try it.

Matcha fairy floss

The pouring experience was quite a treat, and it was the best matcha I’ve ever had. No joke! Our caffeine choices gave us the energy to continue on explorations of the botanical gardens, figure out the public transportation system (some free, some not free, some trolleys), and eat the most incredible Italian dinner from this unbelievable restaurant, which you should go to and tell me seriously, how is it all vegan??

While I might label myself a Sydney person, I enjoyed the rest of our stay in Melbourne, playing hipster Guess Who?, drinking craft beers, and checking out the local music scene. I would certainly go back for more of any of what Australia has to offer.

Basking in the Blue Mountains

Towards the end of my time in Sydney, I was able to make a little excursion to a place I had heard a lot of wonderful things about—the Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters rock formation. I joined a bus tour, though I found out later it would’ve been just as easy to take the train, but I was happy to have company and a guide. We started the day with a lovely waterfall hike, where we saw some beautiful nature and some not-so-beautiful homes of the famed Australian spiders that will all quickly kill you.

Blue Mountains
IMG_3762.jpg

Then it was off to scope out the breathtaking landscapes around the Three Sisters. There wasn’t much hiking here, just a hop off the bus and take pictures sort of situation, but the views were certainly worth the trip.

Three Sisters

Afterwards, we went off to search for kangaroos IN THE WILD!!! And we were handsomely rewarded with three sightings. Two of them were moms carrying joeys in their pouches! The babies were actually pretty big, and I’m still not sure how they fit into the pouches. I also learned during this trip that kangaroos have two uteruses and can be perpetually pregnant. Yeesh.

Kangaroos

The day ended with a stop at a swimming hole, which was really nice, but would have been even nicer had I known that “wet clothes” is Australian for bring your bathing suit. Whoops!

Steps through Sydney

After our week in Bondi, I was back on my own to wheel my giant suitcase through the buses, trains, and city streets until finding my way to Redfern to stay with Mike, one of my bff’s from college. Redfern appears to be the Brooklyn of Sydney; it’s hip, featuring cute parks and coffee shops, and less crowded than the central business district. Mike has a very sweet and very adult real-life apartment there, and he was gracious enough to accommodate me on the couch-bed for the week.

Redfern, Sydney

Mike was working during the days, so I had some time to explore more of actual Sydney, which I hadn’t seen much of yet since I’d spent most of the first weeks in Manly and Bondi. I walked and walked, and sometimes took the metro. I visited the Royal Botanical Gardens and sought out fancy donuts that my friend had seen on Instagram.

Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney
Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

I did more yoga (at an amazing studio) and afterwards indulged in the famed Australian meat pies (mine was chicken; it was just okay).

Yoga Moves Sydney
Australian meat pie

When Mike got out of work, we visited pubs and found fish & chips, among other foods. I was grateful to have some extra time to explore Sydney, and glad that my visit took me to three very different parts of the city so I could get a feel for it all.

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Best of Bondi

Much to our dismay, our coveted beach week in Bondi, which started out looking like this:

Bondi Beach

Ended up, by the third day, and for the rest of our time, looking like this:

Bondi Beach

Oh no!

We ventured out on a scattered showers day for our Bondi to Coogee trek, but most mornings we were resigned to stay inside.

Bondi to Coogee walk

Although we had to content ourselves with the yoga and the sampling of Bondi’s outstanding places to eat and drink, we were able to make the most of it. For heaven’s sake, The Nine even made me this koala latte while I worked inside on a stormy day:

Koala latte The nine

Some of our other favorites were:

  • Bad Mama: We stumbled in here on a night when we were planning to go into Sydney, but the rain kept us home. We hadn’t made a reservation and Bondi restaurants can get crowded, so we weren’t expecting too much when this cocktail bar had open tables and seated us right away. We weren’t even sure they served food. How wrong we were! Everything was mind-blowing and we would happily come back for more.

  • Bangkok Bites: Incredible Thai food! Super crowded, but super excellent and fast service!

  • Bondi’s Best: Yummy seafood. We tried to come here without a reservation and ended up having to make one for later in the week.

  • BondiTony’s: The BEST burgers! Grass-fed, organic stuff, craft beers, healthy-ish options, and vegan milkshakes. We came here twice during our stay.

  • Fonda: Our first stop after the first day of practice. Of course you should drink multiple margaritas and much Mexican food after three hours of yoga, who’s to say you shouldn’t?

I was lucky on my final morning at the beach, when my mates had departed, that the sun finally came our for a few AM hours and I go to do Yoga by the Sea. It was a much appreciated way to wrap up a rainy week.

Yoga by the Sea

Koala Brekkie

Just to confirm that Australia is every bit as amazing as you’ve always imagined it to be, here are some photos of our brekkie with at the zoo with the koalas.

Koalas

Yup, they do call it brekkie in the Aussie way of shortening everything to make it sound 100 times cuter and more fun.

Tasmanian Devil

We saw all of the Big 5 (kangaroos, a crocodile, wombats, platypus, and the aforementioned koalas).

Wallaby
Koala selfie

The Anti-Plan

Usually, when I go on a trip, I’m at the forefront of the planning process. I want to see and do everything, so I fill up every second of the day with activities and places to go. I love being able to experience all that a city has to offer, and I don’t want to waste any time.

Because this trip to Australia was a recent surprise, I didn’t take many of the usual steps in scheduling out an itinerary for every day. I made sure I had places to stay and friends to visit, and there was the yoga training, but beyond that, I left the schedule pretty open. Much to my delight, the results of the non-plan have been incredibly positive so far!

On my second day here, I decided to walk down to the beach while Amanda was at work. As I strolled along the sand, I looked over to my left and noticed a tall, sporty blonde woman stretching about 20 feet away. “Is that Kerri Walsh??” I asked myself. I creepily walked a little closer and then noticed the nets and setup for an obvious volleyball tournament that was going on behind her. Pretty certain it had to be her, I circled around to the top sidewalk to find out which teams were playing in the tournament. I perched on the wall and checked the schedule on my phone. It was her! And the US team would be playing next on the court that I was now sitting on the wall right above! I played volleyball for about 15 years, and I definitely didn’t think I would ever have a front row seat to watch the USA women’s team play, so this was a Pretty Big Deal. I settled in to watch the match, and they won! It was definitely a point for leaving a day unplanned, since I wouldn’t have been wandering around the beach if I’d scheduled a snorkeling appointment or a tour.

USA Womens Volleyball

Lucky for me, the ladies I was traveling with in week two did have a plan, and I was able to join in for some key experiences. On one of our first nights in Bondi Beach, we went to a show at the Sydney Opera House. I hadn’t even thought it would be possible for a normal person like me to go to a concert inside the building I’ve seen in so many images from afar! It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience (or many times in a lifetime when I sell all my belongings and move down under) that we had to seize, and if you’re ever coming here, I recommend checking the schedule because you may find something you like.

Sydney Opera House night
Sydney Opera House inside

And finally, a top reason I’m glad I opened my planning palms and left my vacation fate in the hands of others on this trip was the KOALA BREAKFAST! Yes, you read that correctly, and in Sydney at the zoo, you can eat breakfast on a patio in full view of about 6 koalas. After you finish your eggs and Vegemite toast and weak instant coffee, you may enter the koala enclosure and have many many pictures of yourself taken with koalas. And the staff members are actually very patient and don’t even rush you through the whole koala photography experience. And the koalas are sleepy, so they don’t seem to care what you’re doing either way. What a treat!

Koala

So I’m here this month supporting the non-planning process. When you’re booking your next adventure, consider leaving some time open to see what kind of magic takes hold.

Manly to Bondi

I’ve gotten used to managing my way up and down public transportation stairs wielding my backpack and giant suitcase, that’s for sure. After Amanda and I finished doing yoga on grassy hilltops and taking coastal walks to swimming holes, it was time to trek to Bondi Beach for the yoga workshop.

On a Monday morning, I took my favorite and the most exciting form of Australian city transport, the ferry! Like, this is the view that people are getting when they take their regular commute to their regular jobs (or wherever else they happen to be going that day):

Sydney Opera House

Wow!

The ferry brought me to the train, which brought me to the bus, which brought me to Bondi Beach where I would meet Colleen, Katie, and Laura and where we would spend the seven days.

Bondi Beach