I’ve always been intimidated by the idea of traveling alone. Where will I eat? What will I do? What if something happens? Can I really be all by myself for days on end? Will I be lonely?
The answers to all of these questions are: Out, Anything you want, You’ll figure it out, Yes, and Yes.
After exploring Singapore for work, Adobe sent me to Sydney, Australia to train some of our team out of our Sydney office. During this leg of my Asia Pacific trip, I was able to take a few days off to explore the land of deadly animals, awesome accents and the world’s best sunsets.
Sydney blew me away. It’s a lot like San Francisco, actually. Great food. Good cocktails. An artistic, funky culture. The people in our Sydney office couldn’t have been nicer — filling my head (and notebook, of course) with tons and tons of recommendations. Places to eat, drink, shop, and explore.
It was incredible meeting some of my coworkers from the Sydney office. Putting faces to names and voices is priceless. I got quite close to my colleague from Singapore who traveled with me to Australia (and went to Uni in Sydney) so she showed me around. The Opera Bar. The Harbour Bridge. The Rocks Market (and the best pancakes I will ever have in all of the land). She and her friends took me to a restaurant in Newtown that could have been pulled straight from San Francisco’s Mission. Menu written on the walls and ceiling, only serving maybe six items total, dimly lit, full of wood and tile and hipsters.
After the work part of the trip was over, I moved from my hotel in Darling Harbour (cute, quaint, posh) to an airbnb “tree house” in Paddington. I booked this airbnb the week before in Singapore and was thrilled to meet the women who live in the main house. Rasa and Cavy, two fantastically fun Aussies, and their brother Haydon, welcomed me to the apartment above their garage. It was perfect. Spacious, clean, safe, private — everything you could ask for when staying in someone else’s home.
I began to unpack. I was staying in this apartment for five nights, so I wanted to settle in. It was during this unpacking that I met my first Australian Huntsman Spider. Within seconds, I was texting the girls to send Haydon to rescue me from the hugest, scariest, spider that was literally jumping around the closet. (Seriously. Google Huntsman Spider. It’s terrifying.)
Welcome to Australia.
My first night in the tree house was loud. The neighbors decided to throw a rager into the wee hours in the morning. I had made it this long without jet lag, so I was a little nervous. It wasn’t until Cavy yelled out the window a few choice words telling them to “be quiet” that I knew I’d get along just fine.
Thank goodness for Skype and FaceTime. Video-chatting while thousands and thousands of miles away really helps with the loneliness that creeps into the quiet moments while traveling alone. Sure, it’s hard to match up timezones (especially since I was essentially wayyyy in the future) but making it work was completely worth it.
I woke up my first morning and Skyped with my parents and The Boyfriend. It made me miss them and wish they were traveling with me, but it was comforting to hear familiar voices and see familiar faces.
After video-chatting, I went exploring in Paddington. I stumbled upon a little coffee shop, Tiger Mottle, where I enjoyed the best avocado toast I’ve had in my life. Picture proof below.
I took a train to Milson’s Point with my colleague and we walked across the Harbour Bridge. Explored The Rocks and the adorable market full of handmade treasures. We walked around Glebe and found a delicious Italian spot to enjoy some dinner. I said goodbye to my colleague and prepared for the next few days of traveling solo.
The next day was spontaneous. The weather was atrocious — cold, rainy, windy. I wore every single sweater I brought and still had to go buy a scarf. Best $10 I spent in Sydney, that’s for sure. I decided to get some coffee and walk around Paddy’s Markets to buy some souvenirs for family and friends. Stuffed koalas, bottle openers, keychains and kangaroo balls (yes, literal kangaroo scrotum, stuffed, hardened and attached to a bottle opener) in hand I made my way back to the tree house to drop off my things. I was stumped. The weather was impeding my plans to be outside, but I wasn’t going to let it stop me.
I hopped on a ferry to Manly Beach. Since the weather was so terrible, I didn’t spend much time at the actual beach. Instead, I decided that I would embark on the Spit Walk — a walk from the Spit Bridge back to Manly. Usually, the walk takes about 4 hours, but it was already around 4pm and I didn’t want to get caught on this “bush walk” in the dark. By myself. So, I found a bus that took me to the Spit Bridge and I started the trek back.
This walk was breathtaking. It was out in the middle of nowhere, right along the coast. The views were spectacular. As the sun began to set, I did get a little nervous. Only because I was 1) by myself and 2) had no idea where I was. Other than that, I was totally fine…
Right as the sun was tucking behind the hills, I came upon a secluded beach (later to be known as Clontarf Beach). This sunset. I have no words. I have never seen Mother Nature in rarer form. The purples sinking into pinks bleeding into oranges. It brought me to tears. Pictures don’t do the sunset I was lucky enough to witness even a sliver of justice.
It was during that sunset that I felt the loneliest. I kept looking around thinking, “how is it possible that I’m the only person, right here, right now, experiencing the most magical sunset of my life, with no one to share it with?” I put my phone and my camera down and just let the moment take over. It was powerful and miraculous and one of my favorite memories of Australia.
The next day, I took a touristy trip to the Blue Mountains to see what Sydney’s “bush” is like. It was beautiful and cold and really, actually blue. I met a very nice family from Los Angeles on the same tour. I bonded with the daughter and her friend and it was nice to be around Americans again, even for a short while.
My second to last day in Sydney was spent walking around the Eastern Beaches. I started at Bondi Beach, grabbed some breakfast on the beach and bought a few souvenirs. The weather was perfect. I wanted to put my toes in the sand and water but was nervous and expecting it to be as cold as the Northern California beaches. I was very wrong. The water? Warm. Clear. Blue. Incredible. I walked up and down Bondi in awe of it’s beauty, watching the surfers and truly relaxing for much longer that I intended. But, the beauty of traveling alone? You can do whatever the heck you want for however long you want.
I dried off and took the coastal walk to Bronte Beach and had some lunch. These beaches are actually quite similar to Northern California beaches. Green, rocky cliffs jutting out into the ocean with small enclaves of white sandy beach. At Bronte Beach, I had a delicious seafood lunch and the best iced coffee (with ice cream!).
I was having such an amazing time just walking and taking photos that I decided to walk all the way to Coogee. It’s a long walk, but absolutely stunning.
Dinner was with coworkers in Surray Hills and was delicious. Capped off with the best gelato I’ve ever had at Messina. Apple Pie + Salted Caramel and White Chocolate = heaven.
On my last and final full day in Sydney, I had a mission. To go to Taronga Zoo and pet a kangaroo and play with a koala. That’s it. That’s all I wanted to do.
I arrived at the zoo at 10am, right before the “feeding” I had read about online. I thought this “feeding” would be my best chance at accomplishing my goal. I went straight to the information desk to ask where I go for the feeding and the gentlemen at the counter asked, “do you have any children?” “No, just me. But I’d like to feed kangaroos. I know I’m not a kid, but that’s what I want to do,” I responded. “Well, the feeding isn’t for you unless you want to watch some zookeepers feed sheep and chickens for a bunch of toddlers.” Welp. Dodged that bullet. Instead he offered to show me around the Australian Wildlife section of the zoo for a whopping $3. He said, in no uncertain terms, that he could not guarantee that I would accomplish my mission. In fact, it’s so rare for visitors to even get close enough to a kangaroo to take a selfie, let alone touch it. “Psht,” I thought. “I’ve got this.”
Lo and behold, during our walkabout, I was able to climb up a large rock (like, really large) and tactfully (and wishfully) reach out to pet a wallaby (which is actually even better than a kangaroo because it’s like a baby kangaroo and just as cute if not cuter). I almost dislocated my shoulder, but I pet the wallaby. You can see the sheer joy on my face.
Next, I went to the koala exhibit and paid $20 for a “Koala Encounter.” During this “encounter,” the zookeeper and a photographer take you into an enclosure where you can admire a koala that’s way up in the tree (but closer than you’ll ever get to one) sleeping (because that’s what they do for 20 hours a day). The photographer snapped a few photos and left. Right as the photographer left me and the zookeeper in the enclosure, the koala, named Maggie, decided to wake up and climb down the tree. TO GREET ME. AND SNIFF MY FACE. AND MAKE ME THE ACTUAL HAPPIEST PERSON ALIVE.
I had accomplished my mission, but I had one more walkabout to go through to see if I could get up close and personal with a kangaroo. Instead, I turned the corner on the path (all by myself) and there was a Emu. A huge. Gigantic. Terrifying. Emu. Who decided to get up close and personal with me. Like, really up close and personal.
Needless to say, I left the zoo satisfied.
My last night in Sydney was spectacular. I treated myself to a fancy dinner at a French restaurant that came highly recommended by a colleague. Rightfully so. By that time, I had gotten used to eating out by myself. It’s quite an adjustment, but I began to find it quite therapeutic. I really enjoyed the food, because there wasn’t a conversation distracting me from it. I became very comfortable asking for a table for one, or a spot at the bar. And at Felix, waiter was kind enough to bring me one profiterole as I couldn’t eat all three by myself.
Then, I walked over to the Opera House to see an aboriginal dance performance, Bangarra, inside the Opera House. It was a perfect way to end the trip.
Exploring Sydney was incredible. It was the most liberating and exciting experience I’ve ever had — to be in a foreign country, by myself, eating, drinking and wandering as I please. Traveling alone is now one of my most favorite things and I can’t wait for the opportunity to do it again. Also, Australia, I’m definitely coming back.
For more Aussome (see what I did there?) pictures, click here.