A couple days in sydney
While I relaxed on a bench in Hyde Park and observed the strange sacred ibises, a man sat down next to me and began to eat his lunch. We chatted for a bit and talked about Sydney. Finally, I asked him, “What’s one thing I should experience before I leave?” He took a few moments to gather his thoughts, obviously wanting to provide a valuable recommendation. I could see that he had come up with something wonderful from the look in his eyes. “Take the walk from Spit Bridge to Manly and then all the way up to North Head,” he said from his heart. Serendipity. I’m glad I listened.
When I sat down on that bench in Hyde Park, I was actually meaning to spend 20 minutes in meditation. However, when the man sat next to me, I changed my mind and felt it would be better to engage with him. Why the hell not? I was only going to have three days to experience as much of Sydney as I could. A big component of experiencing a city is interacting with the people there. While you may not get a 100% true sense of what they’re about as a temporary tourist, you can attempt to step into the shoes of the locals you spend time with. I asked the man about the birds walking around with the funny beaks. He kindly answered and off we were (I very proud of how easily I can do this now, with minimal apprehension, whereas in my early adolescence the thought of talking to a stranger created a massive pit of fear in my stomach).
Earlier that morning, I flew from Melbourne to Sydney, ready to see one of the iconic cities that I only dreamed of visiting as a kid, watching movies like Finding Nemo that featured the famous opera house. The main purpose of my trip was to turn in my residency permit application at the German consulate, which will give me permission to begin work immediately upon my arrival in Germany at the end of March. I found it very convenient that it only takes about 15 minutes via train to get into the city. I got off at the St. James stop on the north end of Hyde Park and finished up organizing my application materials while watching people make their way to work on a beautiful Monday morning. I don’t think anyone realized that a young man in his board shorts with a backpacker’s look about him was also at work.
I found the consulate with the help of Google Maps and turned in my application. Unfortunately, the folks there were not optimistic about my chances of it getting approved without further credentials of my “special” skills as a baseball player and coach. I was significantly disappointed to hear that. I don’t have any formal baseball credentials other than I coached at various camps, played at the collegiate level, and am still playing competitive ball today (which is something big in and of itself). Despite my disappointment, I felt motivated to create something to add to my application. All I needed was a computer and free wi-fi. Fortunately, a backpacker’s pit stop came in clutch and I banged out a baseball specific resume. After emailing it to the folks at the consulate, I was ready to actually start exploring Sydney and made my way back to Hyde Park.
At that point, it was about 2pm and I wanted to get out of the sun as well as break my intermittent fast with some much-desired food. I decided to head over to the New South Wales Art Gallery because it was on the way to the Royal Botanical Gardens and Circular Quay. Since my trip to Paris three years ago, I compare every museum I visit to the Louvre, which is certainly unfair to every other museum I visit. Sydney’s art gallery was pretty cool though, with a few massive rooms with classic artwork and then a bunch of special exhibits on the levels below. I found an interesting painting of the Alhambra (always a joy to see that special place, even if it’s only a picture or painting), but my favorite piece was a spectacular representation of Milford Sound. Probably most importantly, the gallery also featured a health-focused café where I was able to buy a salad with broccoli, shredded radish, wild rice, smoked almonds, and salmon. A clean burst of energy. I was ready to walk to Circular Quay to catch a ferry to Manly (idk if I’ve ever used ‘to’ four times in a single sentence before haha).
On my way to Circular Quay, I walked through the Royal Botanical Gardens. I love gardens because they can teleport you into a natural, peaceful world, even if you’re a 10 minute walk away from towering skyscrapers. There were tons of people enjoying the scenery at the gardens. What’s particularly cool about Sydney’s gardens as opposed to Melbourne’s is that the gardens border the water on the sound. You get splendid views across and it gives it a unique atmosphere. There’s something about being able to sniff a hint of ocean that’s indescribable. At a certain point, I realized that I was about to round a corner and see the Opera House. In my post about San Francisco (the adventure of a lifetime), I mentioned how seeing/walking on the Golden Gate bridge was a surreal experience because I had an idealized concept of it in my imagination from an early age. The Sydney Opera House is in a similar category for me so it was wonderfully cool to see it in person. Following a classic touristy picture in front of it (for which I returned the favor and took photos of the guy who took mine), I made my way to the wharfs and hopped on a ferry to Manly.
Other than getting things sorted out for Germany, the other big draw for me in Sydney was the beaches. Once I booked my flights, my attention turned towards finding a surfing beach appropriate for beginners. Freshwater Beach came up early in my search and it immediately tugged at my heart. Apparently, Freshwater beach was where Duke Kahanamoku rode the first Australian wave in 1915. I had to surf at this historic spot! I saw a picture on google maps and I was sold on the idea of surfing there during my trip. In another burst of serendipity, I found an AirBnB host whose place was in Queenscliff, directly between Manly Beach and Freshwater Beach. On top of that, my host was an absolute homie, giving me a lift over to the beach and even letting me use his surfboard! Top stuff. My host and I also exchanged a lot of wisdom and he gave me many new ideas for personal development paths to follow in the next year(s). Here’s a list:
- Book recommendations including: The Art of Seduction, Mastery, and the 48 Laws of Power (Basically all of Robert Greene’s work haha)
- Wim Hof and his breathing methods (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaMjhwFE1Zw)
- Vedic mantra/transcendental meditation
- Vipassana meditation retreat (10-day) to deep dive into the practice
Next up, the Spit Bridge to Manly to North Head walk. I told my host about my interest in trekking the walk and he fanned the flame. He even gave me a ride over to the beginning of the walk! Throughout the 10km walk, I remembered a passage from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance about being in the moment. I desperately wanted to get into Manly and up to North Head before the sunset because I thought it would be a good view for an Instagram-worthy photo. This made the hike a perfect opportunity to forget my future goal and live for the present, the single unique step I was taking in the moment. I like the mountain climbing metaphor Pirsig uses to describe the paramount importance of hiking in present moment awareness, “It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow,” (Pirsig, 205). With that in mind, I took my time on the walk, appreciating the way the light hit the leaves of the foliage around me, observing the beachgoers enjoying the water, and taking in each stunning view with a deep breath. I got to Manly Wharf as the sun set and decided to call it there for the evening. I still caught the sunset, just no Instagram picture with it.
The next morning I woke up at 4:42am in order to make it up to North Head for the sunrise. It was an ambitious move. One that still has me vexed. A mostly uphill walk, I briskly raced the approaching light on the horizon, forgetting about my exhaustion. ‘This is not worth it,’ I thought, repeatedly. I walked into a half-dozen spider webs, all because I was too focused on getting to my destination. I even lost my nice Sigg water bottle (featured in the power of ritual) after it slipped out of my backpack’s pocket in an untimely dodge. I didn’t even realize it was gone until an hour later. I was much too focused on the destination. A stark contrast from the day before. I got to the Fairfax Lookout point and the sun was still touching the horizon. Divine rapture. It was worth it.
Weekend trips are an exciting break from your routines and familiarity with your home. I’ve had the privilege to go on quite a few over the past year. If you go with the right purpose, they can re-energize you for your everyday life. That’s what Sydney did for me. A couple days without my normal baseball workouts made me want to absolutely crush it once I got back to Melbourne. Let’s hope this carries me through to another level in my pitching journey. Suerte.