The Sydney Afterglow


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.

imageNow, 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.

imageI 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 could 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. 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.

imageAnd 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? The answer is: 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.

imageThings 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 Harbour 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 my favorite musical group, Depeche Mode: “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.


About Stephen Kelly Creative

Hi, I'm Stephen Kelly, a writer, editor, photographer and graphic designer living in beautiful San Francisco, CA, USA. Amongst the things I love are writing, photography, movies, music, fitness, travel, Batman, all things Australian, food and fun, all of which I hope to reflect in this here blog. Welcome aboard ... now let's get busy!
This entry was posted in Australia, Essays, Photo Essay, Stephen Kelly Creative, Stephen Kelly Photography, Sydney, Travel, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to The Sydney Afterglow

  1. petit4chocolatier says:

    Stephen, it sounds like your trip to Sydney did exactly what it needed to do. We all need those types of trips sometimes. And not using your phone the entire time was an excellent choice. I can tell by your beautiful summary you are definitely energized; yet jet lag. Your words sound of rejuvenation and jubilee! You definitely savored the moments at Sydney and thank you for sharing. I love the pictures too πŸ™‚

    • G’day Judy!
      Jubilation … what a perfect word! Exactly! Being there was a celebration for me … time to spend with myself and my camera! Huzzah! Alas, reality beckons tomorrow, and that’s OK.
      I’ve spent a nice portion of the weekend sifting through the countless number of pics I took, and it’s taken me back there, if only visually. And that, too, is OK.
      Got a whale of a Sydney photo-gallery coming up … once I go through them all, which should be, oh, let’s say sometime early 2014 (kidding!)

  2. I’m so glad you had a wonderful time. About a lot of the places, I know it’s typical to say, when one hears unfamiliar names, “I guess you just had to be there.” But in this case, I know that as soon as you can, you’ll make even more of your lovely photos accessible to us, of Sydney and elsewhere, so that we WILL have been there, and don’t have to articulate that envious expression. Good to have you back!

    • G’day Victoria! omg, I had no idea how many pics I actually took until I started sifting through them! I like what I’m seeing, and my goal is to get a cool gallery up by mid-week, although that may be projecting…
      But it really was a much-needed wonderful time. Good to feel grounded again!
      And I’ve been home three full days, and I’ve yet to turn on the TV! Success!!!

  3. Pat says:

    I am so happy for you. Thanks for sharing this part of yourself with us. You are so right that we can’t know who we are unless we spend time with ourselves. Right now we have company for a week and I’m about to go over the edge because of lack of time to spend just with myself. πŸ™‚

  4. Paula says:

    Welcome back, Stephen! Amazing serious of photos :). That first one is cracking!!!

  5. The Guat says:

    I love the Sydney afterglow and I like the fact that the trip gave you some perspective. I felt just like that when I came back a couple of years ago. Sometimes I so wish I could have bottled up that feeling and open it on demand, but your post definitely helped relive some of that. Thanks for the reminder πŸ™‚ And I love that Depeche Mode quote. Very cool.

    • Hey Guat,
      So sweet that you know what I mean, mate. I don’t know what it is, but I’m always drawn to Sydney. I think if you’re of a certain free-spirited, experience-things-in-the-moment kind of person, then Sydney is perfect. I’m a writer, and I still can’t intelligently articulate the seductive appeal this city has on me. I have a feeling I will go back again and again and again … even though this was my eighth trip there!

      If we can find a way to put that feeling in a bottle, we’d be billionaires!

  6. viveka says:

    A magnificent post … never seen you using so much words .. and so few photos – glad that you came home and feeling sure about your direction .. and how you will get there. Quality time with ourselves is something we should do more often. Many, many years since I was in Sydney – but it was a fantastic city even in the late 70th.

    • G’day Viveka! thanks! I rarely get so personal, but I really wanted to share my experiences with all of my blog friends. Sydney itself has changed from the last time you were here, but the fun, larrikin spirit of the Aussie people never dies, and it’s always fun being here! Ah, back to reality now, but it seems a lot more bearable now!

  7. Angeline M says:

    So good that you allowed this time for yourself. So many people don’t. We have to take ourselves out of our everyday lives, get away, and get our heads straight.

    • G’day Angeline … yes, it’s incredibly important! We were born with ourselves, and it’s important to take time to chart out your life … these days it’s even more important!. Glad I got to do it in such a cool city!

  8. pommepal says:

    You have really captured that Aussie spirit thing. I hope you are going to share more photos with us, love this selection

    • Hi pommepal … glad you liked this. I hardly ever get so personal, but it felt great sharing this with everyone. Sydney does that to me!
      I’m this close to getting a nice photo gallery up and running. Didn’t realize how many pics I took until I started going through them all. A week later …

      • pommepal says:

        That is the beauty of digital you can get very carried away when the scenery is so good and especially if you are lucky enough to get some good light as well. Look forward to seeing your pics

    • Hey Guat … cheers, mate! You really made my day! Thanks so much for the kind words … glad my blog brings you a little bit of Aussie good cheer! You’ve also included me in some very good company. Thanks for the props, mate, and right back at ya!

  9. ilargia64 says:

    Well…This post really surprised me…May be because it is the first time (since I read you) you have shown your inside thoughts and fears..I am glad you had the opportunity to think about all this in a different and dear place…In that way, you were free..Free.enough to worry, to fear, to trust and to be happy for being alive…And to find another path…Or may be the same one, but with a different faith…
    Big hug…

    • HI Ilargia … I know, I rarely get so personal. Sydney does that to me, though. Even though I’ve been there so often, each trip is life-affirming for me, but this one even more so. It felt really good to write this, and I knew that people who follow my blog would know where I’m coming from. My goal for this year is to start writing more, and that was the opening salvo. Glad you enjoyed my Aussie adventures!

  10. Marcos C. says:

    I love your photos, Stephen, once again you are doing a great job, thank you for sharing. I’m so jealous right now, I wish I were on another adventure.

  11. patriciaddrury says:

    your last photo in the sun was the perfect ending to an amazing tale… envy your travels but know I can live vicariously with your exceptional photos and gift of story telling. Glad I found your blog!!!

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