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 are then at the mercy of strangers to snap the obligatory shots of you at tourist spots.
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 … well, a three-year-old could have snapped a better pic. I gapped it down to the lower levels quick smart, and found a nice pair of women with accents that suggested they were from around Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka or similar 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).
Going 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 one-way trips, 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).
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.
He helped me find the Harbour Bridge – an epic mission, which made triumph taste so sweet – so I could see out my hope of walking over it, and I accompanied him to the Opera House. I’ll admit, I had wanted to do it alone – that really is how antisocial I actually am, I’d prefer to explore by myself – but it was all good fun. And come the next day, our last night in Sydney, I suddenly didn’t feel like being alone anymore, so it was nice to have someone to call on to wander the streets together. The city let through some rain that evening, and being a Tuesday it was quiet, but we took a meander around the CBD, my shoes cracked and flooding, squelching along.
It’s the little moments I want to remember. My face upturned to the sun whilst walking alongside Paddy’s Markets, heading to the leather goods shop I’d spotted days earlier (for the third time; it was closed when I first passed it, and when I went back a second time). Catching the tram without cocking it up and getting lost. 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 matte black Lamborghini on the sidewalk outside a showroom on the way to Kings Cross. The sight, smell and sound of Chinatown and its market. The bustle and sheer scale of Sydney fish market. Being so close to an emu at Taronga Zoo I thought it was going to run into me. The sleeping koalas, so small in real life, curled up high in the branches of a tall, thin tree. And of course, lazily wandering the length of Bondi, which despite being the middle of winter, was packed out (though it’s not obvious from the shot here of me and my shadow).
I need my September holiday to be here already…
Do you ever travel by yourself? Love it? Hate it?