I’ve been in Sydney for 3 weeks now. I can’t really count the number of beautiful things I’ve seen, or how many moments have just involved taking a breath and savouring the warm clean air and the sight in front of me. People have been exceptional – friendly, outgoing and inclusive. I have had the good fortune to be here during Sydney festival, a series of events that lasts all of January and includes free outdoor operas and symphonies. I’ve fallen a little bit in love with this place after an initially fairly cold assessment of it, though maybe I’ve just really come here at the right time. The weather has been perfect for weeks with only a few extra hot days scattered around.
I’ve made random friends, met Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman, gone to a ninja gig in the suburbs, been to the Sydney Opera House to see Madame Butterfly, walked along the harbor at night, gotten the ferry to Manly. I’ve gone to the beach and gotten sunburnt, rained on, salt water up my nose and surfboard burned arms from being quite frankly shit at surfing. I have gone swimming in the middle of the night with a group of gorgeous gay men, and running at 6am alone. I have eaten breakfast every damn day, and it’s been delicious.
I’ve been happy a lot, sad a little and kind of lonely at various points but never bored, and until today never wished I was anywhere else. Today I experienced one of the problems with international travel that you never really think about until they happen. On Saturday there was a death in my family back in Ireland, and I am as my father put it “as far away as anyone could be without leaving the planet”. I can’t get home to be with my family, even if I left now I would not be back before the funeral even aside from the fact that it would cost me a fortune and work would be deeply unimpressed.
I know they do not need me there, but frankly I do so little for them that I regard providing support, an extra pair of hands or anything at all really at times like this as one of the few familial duties I can actually fulfill. I love my life, I love my freedom, and I love that I spend half my time flitting around the damn world. But sometimes being a very long way away from home can have repercussions like this, the ones you never envision when you are seeing yourself on a new adventure.
I realized the other day that I started to feel at home here in Sydney, and then I realized why. 3 weeks is the longest I have been in one city every night for at least a year. The last 5 and a bit years have been crazy enough, but it seems like the first 4 were just training for this past 15 months or so. The shape of my brain seems to have changed, the way I think about travel has gradually altered until I no longer see anywhere as being too far away to go. I used to think London to New York was a big trip, now I think of it the way I used to think of the bus from Limerick to Dublin.
Kavanagh once wrote “Through a chink too wide there comes no wonder”, and I think he had a point. The experiences I’ve had have been amazing, but that travel knowledge and experience detracts from the sheer fantasticness of some of the things I get to do as a matter of course. I believe that when I travel for myself again and not for a company that feeling will come back, I hope that is true.
But there is only one way to find out.