I think I have officially earned my big girl pants.
On a recent trip to Sydney (my first time in Australia), I chalked up three things on my never-before-done list.
I flew alone.
I travelled abroad, alone.
I dined in a restaurant (a proper one, not a fast food joint or a cafe) alone.
The nice thing about going exploring on your own is there’s no compromise involved. You go at your own pace, see what you want to see.
But you do then have to ask strangers to photograph you.While wandering open-mouthed around the Sydney Opera House, a lone guy saw me angling to snap a self shot against the backdrop of the famous sail roof, and against the bridge. He offered to take one for me – kindly, I thought. And then he wanted to have a photo of us together, in which he snuck his arm around me. And the photo he’d taken of me was, in a word, CRAP. I gapped it down to the lower levels quick smart, and found a nice pair of fellow female tourists to take my picture. As I started to leave to head down toward the quay, I spotted the creepy guy not far away looking at me – he’d followed me down.
I had to make conscious decisions to push myself. Not automatically zooming in on the cheapest thing on the menu. Not automatically ruling out any dish involving tofu (I got the battered vegetables in chili miso at Mother Chu’s, and it was the best damn thing I tasted all the time I was there. The catered food was mediocre to dire on most days, so I didn’t feel too bad about fitting in some restaurant sampling).
I had to learn to go with the flow. When I needed to take a round trip on the Sky Safari at Taronga Zoo in order to get back up to the shuttle buses that were leaving soon, and they were only doing single trips down to the waterfront, I took a single and caught a ferry back instead – mostly because the people in line behind me, who were with the same delegation, were doing the same (an example, I guess, of how easy it is to find buddies when you’re all travellers in a strange place together).Darling Harbour, Sydney
Realising just how sheltered you are – priceless. I met a guy from Palestine – a place I simply can’t comprehend, a place he’d never left until this month, a place that’s been occupied all his life … a place that doesn’t even have its own currency, he told me. It was beauteous seeing him experience so many things for the first time – first time out of the country, first time on a plane, on a ferry, for pretty much everything that occurred over here.
It’s the little moments I want to remember. My face upturned to the sun whilst walking alongside Paddy’s Markets. Catching the tram without cocking it up. Marvelling at the ferry terminal ticket machines, and the auto turnstiles. The sprawling wall at the end of Darling Harbour, engraved with the names of migrant families for generations past, and room for many more in the future. The bustle and sheer scale of Sydney fish market. The sleeping koalas, so small in real life, curled up high in the branches of a thin tree.