Snapshots from Sydney

The phrase, 'why not?' has snuck into my vocabulary as of late. It all started one day when I was at my internship, my co-worker announced that there were ridiculously cheap flights to Sydney around the time of my 21st. I had the money sitting in my account and I thought to myself, 'why not?' 

After looking forward to my trip for two months, it was hard to contain my excitement when it was time for me to board the plane. Travelling to Sydney would mark my first ever holiday alone. I was nervous beyond belief, but the idea of being able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted far outweighed any anxiety I had.

Once my plane landed, I headed to one of my favourite eateries, Bourke St Bakery. I sat in the sun - a very warm welcome after the cold morning I left behind in Geelong - and edited photographs from my 21st whilst munching on a fresh toastie. I felt so peaceful, so at home, if that was even possible.

I never used to like Sydney, it seemed far too businessy compared to the abundance of art and culture in Melbourne. But somehow, the rustling of luscious green trees in the summer breeze and apartment buildings dating back to the 1920s seemed to persuade my mind.

As I was staying in Sydney for a week, I wanted to book an Airbnb rather than a hotel - something I'd been wanting to do since my last trip in 2012. I stayed in Potts Point where I knew I would be surrounded by a lot of my favourite places to eat, beautiful architecture and a vibrant culture. 

Upon opening the door to my apartment, I spent about ten minutes walking around the rooms just saying, 'oh my goodness, oh my goodness,' to myself over and over again. I knew where I had booked was visually very lovely, but it exceeded all of my expectations. This wasn't a place I was going to stay, it was a place I was going to live.

As I calmed down from being in absolute awe of my new surroundings, I made myself a pot of tea and sat at the table. Windows wide open, the breeze carrying the voices of people conversing on the ground below up to my fifth-floor abode. I began reading How to be Parisian, a book my best friend and her family bought for me for my birthday. This is what I had been wanting to do, to just get away. Yet, I felt as though something was amiss. I had been on the constant run since May. There was always something to do, somewhere I needed to be, bills that had to be paid, that having all the time in the world felt strange to me. 

The next morning I stayed in bed until 2 pm, snoozing half the day away. To my surprise, I adjusted very quickly to doing absolutely nothing with my time. I walked down to a local cafe my host mentioned in passing to me on the phone and ate a delicious croque-madame. By the time I was done eating I was halfway through my new book and I struggled to remember the last time I read so much in so little time, just for pleasure.

Most of my time was spent wandering around the streets of Sydney, earphones in, eyes wide open and of course, my camera in tow.

In the mornings, I'd drink peppermint tea and spy on my neighbours with some binoculars I found in the kitchen. I'd stick my head out the window and watch people walking dogs of all shapes and sizes below me. Sometimes the smell of food trucks would entice me out of bed far earlier than I wanted to be awake, and other mornings I'd loiter around my apartment for hours, taking my time until deciding to go on an adventure.

When I left my apartment I had no plans, I'd just walk until an idea came to mind or something caught my attention. One day I visited the Art Gallery of New South Wales, somewhere I'd neglected (for no apparent reason) on my last two trips to Sydney. I was taken aback by the stunning architecture as I wandered around the 15th - 18th-century art pieces. For a moment, I felt as though I wasn't in Australia.

On the weekend, I was trying to take pictures of children chasing bubbles floating through the air in St James' Park, (a lot less creepy than it sounds, I can assure you) when AJ, a tourist from South Korea, asked me to take his photo. He noticed that I had a camera on me and what followed was an hour wandering around the city, me snapping away while AJ posed in front of my lens. As a thank you, he asked me a series of questions about my food and drink preferences that supposedly detailed my personality. Apparently liking popcorn means that you are a jealous person in Korea.

He gave me his email address to send him the photos when I got back to my apartment and went on his way.

While I was in the neighbourhood, I was finally able to meet my friend, Jeremy who I first met on Tumblr when I was fifteen. It was incredibly strange/exciting to meet the physical embodiment of someone whose voice and writing I'd gotten to know so well over the years. Jeremy was pretty much my guide around Sydney. He introduced me to the wonders of having coffee past 10 pm, took me on an exploration around Bondi at night and pretty much answered all of my annoying questions about getting from one part of Sydney to the other. We probably should have taken a selfie to commemorate our meeting after six years of chatting online.

On evenings where I wasn't gallivanting around Sydney with internet friends, (hey, Ruby!) I stayed in my apartment watching tv shows on Netflix and reading my book. Every night at 7 pm, the sunset would be reflected in the windows of the building across the park and into my bedroom. Naturally, because I didn't have anyone else to photograph, I took the opportunity to take some much-needed self-portraits. 

Self Portrait, Sydney, 2015

On my last day, I found myself procrastinating the trip back to the airport. I didn't want to leave. I was enjoying the weather, my own company, and the company of my friends far too much to head back to rainy Geelong. Before packing up my things, I dragged my feet down to the cafe near my apartment to have breakfast. I sat outside underneath a decorative chandelier, the sun was shining through the glass and reflecting onto my table, dancing around my breakfast plate. Someone was playing the ukelele across the road from their apartment and I felt really content. It was the perfect way to end my trip.

I definitely feel as though I've left a big piece of my heart in Sydney and I can't wait to go back later this year to hopefully photograph at MBFWA. 

travelCarolyn West