Sydney to NJ

My last weeks in Sydney turned out to be some of my favorite from the entire year. I had an awesome time living in Coogee and working at my hostel over the month of October. I think I was most amazed at the amount of people I knew living in Sydney at the same time, and the feeling I had of living in this massive city across the world from “home” but really never feeling alone. I had friends from the farm, friends from NJ, friends from excursions I had done on the east coast a full year ago, etc. who had all ended up in the same place and it was really fulfilling to live with this social life which I’d somehow created over the course of a year. Since graduating college, I’ve never lived in the same city as my closest friends, in fact all of my besties are living in different places around the US, so this was genuinely the first time I felt like I was in control of living in a place I wanted to be and with people I enjoyed spending time with. It has really caused me to think a lot more about the lifestyle I want to have once this bigger journey is said and done, but I am not finding myself any closer to the answer of where that will be and what that will look like. Maybe next year?

Working for accommodation turned out to be a much better experience than I anticipated and I enjoyed the time I spent working and living with the hostel staff. I can officially say I’ve “bartended” (it was a small bar, but hey still counts) and I’m happy to have made some good friends in Coogee should I decide to head back that way; my manager at the bar was literally the biggest support I’ve ever had in a job and I loved him for that. He told me I should have a lot of babies so that there would be more of me running around in the world hahaha, scary. It was cool to have some of my friends come in and out of the bar over the weeks I was there too, and I ended up working the Saturday night of the Rugby World Cup final, which turned out to be the most profitable night our new-ish bar has had to date! I had a lot of small victories over the month. Since the bar job only took up 15 hours/week in the evenings, I had a lot of free time. I don’t think I could’ve lasted longer than the 4 weeks without another job during the day, but that month was one of the most guilt-free I can remember. I found it easy to just enjoy the downtime and the time I spent with myself; I went to the beach, went on walks (I saw a whale jumping one morning!!), slept in, cooked. It was really refreshing to not carry around that weight of guilt that we tend to feel if we aren’t being “productive enough” or doing something “useful”. I was living in a beautiful place, the sun was out every day, and I was really carefree and happy.

As the weeks wound down, and in all my free time, I felt pretty reflective over the full year that had passed. I journaled a lot about random thoughts and feelings, some of which are fun to share:

Some things I’ve gained: self love/confidence/assurance!!!, friends from around the world, a cute English boyfriend, 10 pounds, a bit of an accent, new music taste, anything you’d ever want to know about zucchinis, how to pick yourself up from heartbreak and discouragement and get back to being in control of life, knowledge on how to meditate, ability to live frugally and minimally, memories in some of the most beautiful places in the world, no object that didn’t fit in my 65L backpack, interest in remote work so I don’t have to go back to sitting in a depressing, dark office every day!!

Some things I’ve lost: a few tshirts/shorts, a pair of jeans I wore until they ripped, cheap sunglasses, flip flops, $20 AUD cash in Bali, a phone charger, money from my US savings account, attachment to things/objects I thought were important that were left behind, interest in anything that does not bring value to my life

*I had the idea to write out some things I’ve gained/lost in my journal, but never took the time to make a list. Writing those out for the first time was just crazy and really thought provoking for me.*

A list of things I love in Australia, top accomplishments, highlights, etc:

  • The sound of kukaburras singing; it always makes me laugh
  • The purple jacaranda trees that bloom in the spring
  • Bin chickens that look like dinosaurs
  • All of the natural rock pools and public places to swim all over the country
  • The way people gather and socialize in the local parks; the access we have to barbecues, outdoor facilities, camping, etc.
  • I had a year long “summer”
  • The positive attitude towards casual work, trade work, temp work. There is no stigma and I did not experience a “live to work” lifestyle
  • The beach culture gives me a happy/nostalgic feel for my beach summers in NJ; I loved watching the little nippers (jr guards) who came out for tournaments on Sundays in the warm weather months
  • I enjoyed good coffee, and had myself a cappucino whenever I wanted (except for those farm days…)
  • Aussie brunch is my favorite meal: I always chose the popular variation of sourdough with smashed avo and poached eggs
  • Consistent journaling was my proudest routine accomplishment- I have never? stuck to something new for so long and I absolutely cherish the 4 journals I filled over a year (When I got home I re-read the entries from my first few weeks, and I could’ve cried for the girl I was. I was so nervous, anxious, timid, insecure, unsure. I hardly feel that way anymore at all and I am glad that the friends I’ve made know me the way I am now.)
  • The vipassana retreat was by far my biggest mental challenge/feat, and zucchini picking was the biggest physical challenge
  • I felt the most physically fit while living in Noosa- I was running/walking in the National Park almost daily which felt so good. I felt the most unfit while on the farm (surpring due to the work, not surprising due to the drinking lol) but somehow felt the most confident in those months?
  • I lived extremely minimally out of a 65L backpack and 2 smaller day packs. I had to cut back on clothes, shoes, toiletries, accessories, etc. more than I’ve ever done and it felt SO GOOD; I really want to continue this practice in my life

November 1st was a really good day. That cute English boy I mentioned finally finished his farmwork and flew to Sydney! Dec and I had been planning the 2 weeks we had together in Sydney for a while, and we were so excited when he finially came back to civilization. It was crazy that in the 3 months of knowing each other, we’d spent 1 together and 2 apart, so we we were really excited to just hang out in “real life” and see how we felt. Over 12 days we hopped around from Coogee to Darlinghurst, to the Blue Mountains and then back to Randwick and we had a whole lot of fun the entire time. We reunited with Sinead and Jonny and got to hang out with our other farm friends, ate a lot of Thai food, walked a ton and laughed even more. Some of our favorite days were at Barangaroo Nature Reserve, Watson’s Bay and hiking in the Blue Mountains. We had jam packed days and lazy days, we went to an arcade bar and a driving range, we talked about places we wanted to go in our second year, made plans and schemed about ways we could make more money. At the end of it, I think we’d laughed together more than I ever have in my life and I felt so full with companionship and the appreciation we had for each other even after such a short time. We’d decided to give each other a chance and have been counting down the days until we are both back in Oz eating pizza on Friday nights and adventuring around the city. In the meantime, we’re just on Facetime asking each other what time it is there more than anything else hahaha.

I’ve been back in the US for a little over 3 weeks now, which has felt pretty surreal overall. The time has been passing pretty slowly, and with it being winter and me not having much going on back here, so I am anxiously awaiting my next move. I spent my first 4 days back in Texas with my group of Gamecock football friends. We had a big airbnb and went to the Texas A&M game and it was such a perfect way to see everyone together. I obviously hadn’t seen any of those close friends in almost exactly 1 year, since we went to Oxford for the Ole Miss game last fall, and coincidentally that was the last time a lot of them had seen each other too. I had a hard time comprehending how the amount of time that had passed seemed so short, I can remember that weekend in Oxford so clearly, yet SO much had happened in my life in the months between. We loved on each other all weekend, had a great tailgate and enjoyed our massive sleepover. In true form, Jacob came at me with the heavy questions, and asked what my biggest learning from the year was. Pretty quickly, I was able to admit that I’ve discovered a more extroverted side to myself than I’ve ever given myself credit for in the past. I’ve tended to play the introvert/loner card because it’s comfortable and secure and I can identify with finding peace on my own. But with the people I met this year and the lifestyle I lived, I’ve also enjoyed being more open and social and gaining energy from others. It makes me laugh that in the past few months, if I’ve shared that I consider myself an introvert, I get a look of “you’re crazy” in response from those who don’t know me very well. Maybe I have a new confidence and tendency to be more outgoing because I am simply not as afraid anymore. I am not as self-conscious or timid around people because I’ve learned how much we all really have in common at the end of the day.

Since getting back to NJ, I’ve more or less been putzing around and trying to avoid spending too money on useless things. My mom and I spent Thanksgiving with Cameron in his new home, Asheville! I can’t believe how far he has come in a year and I am so proud. I’ve been bouncing back and forth with mom and dad, enjoying some NJ food, home cooked meals, and the comforts of my own bed, a couch and a clean bathroom. I’ll be able to see the few friends I still have in the area and more family over the next few weeks which will be nice too, so it’s definitely been worth it to come back for a little while. At the same time, I am really excited for the next big flight I have booked- I’ll be leaving for Bangkok on January 5th!!! Dec and I are meeting there and spending a week together in southern Thailand, island hopping from Phuket to Krabi, how ridiculous. He will head back to Australia on the 15th and I’m planning to stay in Thailand, meet up with a few other friends and spend another month or two traveling SE Asia. Australia will be calling though, and I’ll probably be heading back to Sydney come March-ish. It’ll be nice to get back there, enjoy the remaining warm days, get a “stable” job and make some money, and just enjoy a routine again. I’m so happy that I’ll have another entire year to enjoy Aus, I’ve still got more to do!!

I’m appreciative to everyone who sent me off over my last days in Sydney, to the family and friends who have welcomed me home and all of the support I’ve had to continue chasing this happiness I’ve found in traveling and living abroad. I know I could do it on my own, but the support makes it a whole lot easier. For now I am enjoying the cuddles with my doggies and the luxuries of non-hostel living. Happy holidays!!!!

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