It’s 2:00 AM, San Francisco time, and I’m wide awake. I’ve been home for two days, but it seems that my body clocks are still set to Sydney time, where it’s now nine o’clock PM. So I feel like I should be up and doing stuff, whether it’s walking around the city taking night pics, or enjoying a few pints with mates at a local pub, and not lying in bed, trying fruitlessly to sleep.
This body clock confusion is typical behavior for me in the days following my arrival back home from Sydney, as jet lag always kicks my ass, and if experience serves me well, sleep is still another two or three hours away. Also as usual, I’m still feeling like the man in the middle: I’m still not here, and I’m definitely not there.
I actually woke up at midnight, and I tossed and turned in the dark for a while until I decided to get up and write. But lying in the dark without any distractions offered me the first real chance to finally process the long two weeks I spent in Sydney.
Now, I like to pack it in on my trips; I’m not a lounge by the pool sipping mai tai’s kind of guy, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I like to experience as much of the flavor of the place I’m visiting as I can. Being a photographer only adds to that allure. So I’m up-and-at’em, and I do so much that after the first week it all becomes a bit of a blur, and remembering everything that happened on this trip is still a bit of a challenge.
I often liken my travel trips to nuclear fallout, the aftermath of millions of ton of stuff being heaved into the atmosphere where it hangs in limbo for a bit before slowly drifting back to earth. Well, things are filtering, and I’m starting to connect the dots.
So there’s lots I could tell you.
I could tell you about all the Sydney sights, like the stark, strange beauty of the Opera House and the lovely, gentle arc of the Harbour Bridge. There’s the lush beauty of the Royal Botanical Gardens (where they invite you to walk on the grass) or the decidedly decadent Kings Cross. I couldd tell of the funky weekend markets in Paddington and The Rocks, or the powerhouse pints of some of the best beer ever at The Lord Nelson Hotel (one of three that claim to be “Sydney’s Oldest Pub”). Or I could relate the wacky, old school, Coney Island fun of Luna Park, or the amazing energy of Circular Quay and the Opera Bar on a Friday night. And let’s not forget the stunningly beautiful 40-minute ferry ride to Manly Beach or spending the afternoon at one of the worlds great museums, the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Or I could tell you of getting caught up in the larrikin spirit of Australians in general and Sydneysiders in particular. This was one of my more social trips as old friends introduced me to new friends, and I met a lot of very cool, very interesting people (HELLO Lyn Collins from Adelaide!). Getting swept up in the Aussie spirit of mateship and good times is easy, particularly if you’re a traveler refreshingly free of anything resembling an agenda. Sydneysiders may be addicted to their cell phones, but they’re also a vibrant, welcoming, fun-loving people, and I think one of the things I like most about visiting Sydney is that I feel so welcome there. I’ve been there so many times, and I absorb the Australian spirit so much, that I often feel like a citizen of a city I don’t live in.
And not to brag, but it stokes my ego every time when tourists ask me for directions, and I can not only accurately give them, but offer short cut alternatives. It’s my thing … let it go.
I could tell you guys so much, and I’ve already told you of the rejuvenating effect this city has had on me. But my time here also offered me a primo opportunity to just be alone with myself and my thoughts. I think it’s very important for people to spend time alone to just sort things out. Too many people are afraid of being alone, of becoming reacquainted with themselves. How can you know yourself if you don’t spend time with yourself? You can’t.
Oftentimes people reach a crossroad, and that’s when it’s especially important to look deeply within, to think it out, to trust yourself to make the right steps, and then vow to act on them, even if they’re tough. Ultimately, you’re the director and star of your own movie, and you can either be Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day Lewis, or Adam Sandler and David Spade.
Things in my life were pretty confusing in the months leading up to this trip, and in some ways I consider 2013 a crucial year, especially career-wise. So spending lots of time alone helped me to see things a lot clearer, gave me the mental perceptions to better sort things out and to also realize that a lot of the things that I was worrying about aren’t really that big of a deal. As a result I’ve come back home with a fresh game plan and a renewed confidence in myself and my abilities, really eager to get it on!
And all of this, every aspect of this trip to Sydney, can be summed up in one night. I was at a place called Milson’s Point in a suburb called Kirribilli, just across the harbour on Sydney’s north side (if you need directions, you know who to ask). Milson’s Point and Bradfield Park offer spectacular, across-the-water views of the Opera House, the non-stop ferries steaming out of Circular Quay, and you’re practically standing directly underneath the bridge. It’s really beautiful, especially on a warm summer night. The shot at the top of this post is what it looks like.
I had my camera mounted to my tripod, my powerful new telephoto lens mounted to the camera, and I was taking long, seven-minutes exposures of the whole scene. At one point I looked up and saw nothing but stars, and I looked back at this magnificent setting, and all I could think of was this line from “But Not Tonight”, one of my favorite songs from the Depeche Mode musical combo: “The wind in my hair, Makes me so aware, How good it is to live tonight. And I haven’t felt so alive in years.”
And that’s it — that says it all. There’s my amazing two weeks encapsulated in a few short lines. Sydney 2013: mission accomplished.