Family & Friends · Lifestyle · Travel

The Land of Oz . . . One Month In

So, I gave up (temporarily) my New York City life for a new one in Sydney, Australia.  

My arrival in Sydney last month was safe, but not uneventful.  Sometime after take-off, I (and the entire plane) was awakened to learn that we would be spending the night in Vancouver, Canada — not part of the plan, at all.  It had to do with a sick pilot and a crew that would be working overtime even if they could find a replacement pilot. So we were all bused to a Marriott hotel in Vancouver at 3 a.m.  This added 36 hours to my already 36 hours of travel. I arrived in Sydney happy but feeling quite exhausted and wearing clothes I’d had on for three days.

The upside of this change in plans is that I arrived at the Sydney airport at the same time my sister Phyllis did who was joining me to help kick off this new adventure, so we were able to travel together to my new temporary apartment.  It was great having her with me as we learned to navigate this awesome city together.

I was lucky enough to find an apartment (in Milson’s Point) almost immediately and it seems perfect.  It’s a 10 to 15 minute walk to my office and surrounded by every kind of transportation I can ever imagine needing: the bus, train, ferry, a taxi stand, and GoGet (their version of ZipCar) are all steps away from my apartment. As is the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  It couldn’t be more perfect.  And the view.

Untitled1View from my bedroom.

Sydney is just beautiful.  I walk around this city in awe that this is now my life. I’m just bopping along and then I look up and am gobsmacked by yet another beautiful scene. 

Untitled 2Jacaranda trees

Now that I’m all settled, my next order of business is to get a social life.  Much easier said than done, especially for someone like me. I’m an introvert, though most people don’t know that and they just think I’m unfriendly.  So, on the recommendation of my good friend, Heather, I decided to join a few social groups. (Heather is my inspiration for taking on this Sydney adventure. Five years ago she upped and moved from New York to Dubai, by herself, and has made quite a nice life.)

I joined InterNations, Wild Women on Top (hikers, not porn stars), and Meetup. I even joined Tinder.  I’m not all that excited about any of them, though I’ve had nice outings with them. Not being excited has nothing to do with the groups and everything to do with me being surrounded by people I don’t know.  I assume (hope) I’ll get over that at some point as I do more.  What I do miss is hanging out with really solid friends and not just people I kinda know.  Of course, building friendships takes time.

Untitled 3My dear New York friends of many years.

In the meantime, I had lots of fun last weekend joining a new friend (well, acquaintance, really) at Sculptures by the Sea, an international art show at Bondi Beach where sculptors from around the world display their work.  Like everything else here, it was beautiful.

Untitled 4Sculptures by the Sea, an international art show at Bondi Beach in Sydney.

One of the people in New York I miss the most is this kid who lived down the hall from me. From the time she could walk, she would toddle down the hall by herself (sometimes at her parents’ urging, I’m sure), knock on my door and hang out for however long she felt like it.  

Untitled 5

I think I miss her most because it’s the one relationship that is hard to sustain. With all my other (grown-up) friends, we stay in touch via text, Facebook, email, FaceTime/Skype, and Words with Friends.  That’s not quite possible with a four-year-old, though we try, using her mom as an intermediary.

Being in a new country and culture takes getting used to, of course.  I’m enjoying noticing the small things that remind me I’m in a new place. A guy I met took me driving last weekend because I need to get comfortable driving on the “wrong” side of the street.  Unlike most of the world, Sydney drivers (and the Brits) sit on the right side of the car and drive on the left side of the street.  I did pretty well, only driving up on a curb once when I turned! 

A few other little US vs AUS things I’ve noted:

  • Renters have to bring their own appliances. Having to buy my own refrigerator makes no sense to me.  I keep thinking about what I’m supposed to do with it when I return to the US in two years. (Selling it feels like it’ll be a real PIA).
  • We pay for condiments. Even though ketchup naturally goes with fries and ginger goes with sushi, many restaurants charge for this.
  • There are really nice public bathrooms everywhere. You can even go into a restaurant or store and use their bathroom without buying anything.  Just try that in NYC (except maybe at Starbucks and McDonald’s who are friendlier in this regard).
  • They greet each other with “how ya going” (not “how ya doing”). It took me a minute to realize that the proper response is “I’m fine” and not “. . . walking to the store.”
  • Australians can’t be bothered with saying the whole word, so they shorten them. Breakfast is brekkie, McDonald’s is Maccas, afternoon is arvo (I don’t understand that one), air conditioner is air con, football is footy, chewing gum is chewie. . . and so on. Every word seems to have a diminutive version.
  • This is a thong:



I am excitedly looking forward to the next couple of months, where I will celebrate my birthday, some version of Thanksgiving (not a holiday here), Christmas at the beach, and Sydney’s world-renowned New Year’s Eve fireworks. All Aussie style.

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  • Susanna Gaertner November 23, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    Thanks, your report brought back happy memories of the 7 years in the ’90s when I scuttled between Manhattan and Sydney (Manly). Those jacaranda trees are amazing, but I also remember the funnel webs in the garage!

  • Anonymous November 21, 2015 at 12:12 am


    Loved hearing all the stuff you’re doing. Driving on the left while sitting might just scramble my brains for good. Can’t wait to hear about your birthday adventure.
    Am loving your boldness and rooting for you daily.

  • Eleanore W November 20, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    Thanks so much, Pat. It’s been a really great adventure, so far. I promise to stay in touch! ?

  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. November 19, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    Dear Eleanor,

    I love your “letter from Sydney”! Do send us frequent updates and serve as our role model for yet more adventure. I really really admire your spunk and determination to have an always interesting life.

    Dr. Pat