Sydney hasn’t changed that much in seven years. The landmarks, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, are still there. The city looks busier but it may be because it’s summer—it was fall last time we were here and the weather was getting cold. There are more tall buildings and King’s Cross, Sydney’s sketchier district, was cleaned up much like Carnaby Street in London.
Last time, in 2003, I had fallen in love with Sydney. I was a bit tired of traveling at the time and briefly considered living in Australia for a while. That was before I moved to Canada. Settling in Sydney had sounded easy at first glance: lots of backpackers seemed to find work easily and posting boards in hostels were a mine of information. Sydney looked like a dream city: close to the water and laid-back, it had a great public transportation network and all the amenities of a big city.
But of course, it was just a fantasy. I didn’t have a work visa (French nationals weren’t eligible for a Working Holiday Visa at the time). Feng did and he briefly looked for work but there wasn’t much outside of fruit-picking in farms. I couldn’t really picture myself living in a hostel as a long-term resident and money was running out. We had flown back to our respective countries without much regret.
Looking back, I don’t think I would have enjoyed settling in Australia, even though I truly love the country as a backpacker. First of all, it’s so damn huge and far—far from of anywhere in the word (even New Zealand is a 5-hours flight away) and huge because well, outside the East Coast, getting around is hard. Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane are within reasonable distance but you must cross a few deserts to go to West, Center or North, where population is scarce. It’s a different world Down Under and I feel disconnected from it. Must be a cultural thing—I feel closer to North America or to Latino cultures than the British.
I think I also changed a little bit. Immigrating to Canada taught me that there is a huge different between traveling to a place and living there long-term. Being a traveler is easy since you simply take the best of the place and don’t have to deal much with every day’s little annoyances. You basically don’t get to see the “dark side”.
And that’s how I chose to visit Sydney this time again. I’m enjoying it as a traveler, always on the road.