An unexpected trip to the land Down Under

My trip to Patagonia back in November 2003 had been a eye-opening, soul-searching adventure of a lifetime.  I had been in perhaps the most stressful, worst job ever so getting away from the hell I was in at the time, to such a magical place, felt like a boulder had been lifted off my chest.  I could breathe again.  I could relax.  I could enjoy life.  I could be me.

But then as they always say in life, all good things must come to an end.  I had to go home and back to that god awful job that caused me so much pain and distress.  I was trapped in an incredibly unhappy, miserable situation in which I drove home from work each day in tears.  Yet there was no way that I could quit, or so I believed.  I didn’t want that unfortunate mark on my resume nor on the career ladder I was trying to climb.   I felt trapped.  Chained.  Stuck.  And miserable.

How could I go back to that hell?  Too much had changed during that week in Patagonia.  I realized that it simply wasn’t worth it.  You’ve got one shot at life, so why not give it your best?  Nothing, and I mean nothing is more important than happiness.  I needed to leave that awful, unkind, brutal place and be somewhere completely different where I was treated with kindness, respect and where I felt free.  I needed a new beginning and oddly enough, I believe it was fate.  I got just that opportunity.

Less than 24 hours after I was home, the mysterious acts of fate rang at my door.  On my first day back to work, by noon I was laid off.  Just like that, my life had changed.  I could not believe my good fortune (for in my eyes being laid off was easier to explain to a future employer than quitting).  I felt like it was a sign from above, a voice inside my heart and soul telling me that I was free.  It truly was an act of fate.

Looking back now, almost eight years later I realize that it was one of the best things that could have happened to me at the time.  For sometimes in life, it takes hardship, struggle and unhappiness to truly realize what is the most important to you.  Thus this period of my life greatly encouraged me to examine my life more deeply and figure out after ten years out of college, what I truly wanted out of my life.  It was not climbing the corporate ladder, making a lot of money or having a fancy title.  It was life itself which meant enjoying it and having a family.

Two weeks after I got laid off from my job, my dad and decided to take a trip.  Instead of looking at the negative aspect of being laid off (i.e. not having any money, needing to find a new job, etc) I looked at the positive.  I was free!  For a travel addict who never ceases to stop wanting to wonder the world, being unemployed offered me an opportunity to take another trip.  Thus in early December, a month after returning from Patagonia I found myself on board a Qantas airplane en route to Australia, the land Down Under.

We were fortunate to find an excellent deal with Qantas airlines.  For $2,200 we received an international flight to/from Australia, plus three internal flights and hotels in three cities.  We would have a two-week trip with four days in Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef.  I couldn’t wait!

We left for Sydney on December 2nd.  I flew from Minneapolis to LA and arrived around 4:30 PM, early for our 10:30 PM flight.  This ended up being a fortunate thing as I was able to score the emergency exit row all the way to Sydney.  That meant 14 hours of extra leg room!

The flight was uneventful and I managed to sleep six hours thanks to the extra leg room.  Before I knew it, the crew was serving breakfast and we were almost there!  I was so excited.  I’ve always wanted to go to Australia.  I went to New Zealand the previous year and had fallen in love with it promising to someday venture a little further west to make it to Australia.  And here I was!

We landed around 9 am in Sydney, feeling extremely disoriented after the 19 hours of flying (the most I’d ever done at that point) yet thrilled to finally be getting off the plane.  The next three days proved to be exactly how I’d imagined:  Wonderful!

We spent the next few days checking out beautiful Sydney, a fabulous, hip, urban city that is so insanely lovely I thought I could easily live there.  We went to both Bondi and Manly Beach, saw a ballet at the Sydney Opera, took a train to the Blue Mountains, walked and shopped til we dropped, and ate splendidly.  Sydney was definitely how our guide book described it:  Sophisticated.  Sexy.  Laid Back and cosmopolitan.  Plus the people were so beautiful yet not artificial or rude.  The city was full of eye candy, that is for sure.

We spent three fabulous days in Sydney before it was time to hit the Great Barrier Reef.  I instantly fell in love with the city and can’t wait to someday go back.

Here are some pictures of my time in Sydney:

Leaving on Qantas dec. 2-16 2003….landing in Sydney on the big boy

Lovely flowers in The Royal Botanical Gardens…so refreshing for me in the dead of winter!

Hyde Park

Views of downtown Sydney

Bats swarm the trees in the downtown Botanical Gardens…eerie!

A nice walking path along the harbour…oh I could so live here! 

Views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

The Harbour Bridge…no, I did not climb it (you can, if you are nuts!)

They say that the best way to see the city is by water so that is exactly what we did. We hopped a ferry and went to spend the afternoon in Manly, a beachside neighborhood. The views from the ferry were spectacular and breath-taking. Sydney is definitely a city that utilizes its waterfront. There are restaurants and bars all along the harbor. What a city!

Catching a ferry to Manly

The Beautiful Sydney Harbour

Sydney’s famous landmark, the Opera house, up close.

The Sydney skyline

We arrived in Manly in the early afternoon and were fascinated by the beach culture of Australia. Everyone from small children to seniors, were decked out in their speedos. Of course, everyone is as fit as can be. More eye candy awaited.


Manly Beach</em>: I could stay here all day!

Unfortunately our picture perfect weather began to disappear and the clouds moved in. We had to head back to Sydney as it wasn’t a good day for the beach.

The Storm Moving in

After an absolutely delightful dinner looking out the restaurant windows at the famous white sails of Sydney’s Opera House, it was time to go to sleep. We were exhausted but looking forward to our next day.

Day 2 in Sydney ended up being a rainy start. We already had plans to play golf at the Long Reef Golf course outside of Sydney. We took an hour long cab there, began to play and were soaked to the bone in heavy rain. It wasn’t fun but we had to at least play the first nine holes since we couldn’t get our money back at that point.

A rainy day for golf

Thankfully the weather cleared up by early afternoon, so we were able to make a trip over to the world famous Bondi Beach. I had heard that it was a “must see”.

Trip to bondi beach

An open water swim race at the beach.

The clouds were still heavy which was too bad because I really wanted to seat myself at one of the many hip outdoor bars and drink a bottle of wine. Oh well. It just wasn’t in the cards. The weather unfortunately was not cooperating. So when all else fails, what do we do? Eat and drink!

We had another gourmet meal in Sydney and drank our small worries about the weather away. We hoped tomorrow would be better since it was my birthday and we were planning to take the train to the Blue Mountains for a hike in the rainforest. I crossed my fingers when I went to sleep.

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