Sunday, August 16, 2015

My year of living un-dangerously...Tokyo, here I come!

Some world traveler I've turned out to be.

It just dawned on me that I've spent nearly a year doing something I haven't done since 1993: I've stayed put. Right before Japan Airlines flight 772 from Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport to Tokyo's Narita Airport departs at 8.15 Thursday morning, I will have spent almost exactly 10 consecutive months in the same country without a single international departure.

That's something I haven't done since 1993 when I flew to Bermuda with a group of my People magazine colleagues on a posh private plane with a full bar (and a bartender who made a killer Bloody Mary!). It was the first time I'd ever traveled outside of the United States, and it launched an adult life spent regularly jetting off into the far-off unknown.

When I returned to New York after several days, I promised myself I'd never again spend an entire calendar year in one country. I vowed to visit at least one new country every year, and it's a promise I've managed to keep. In fact, by the time Japan Airlines flight 771 returns from Tokyo to Sydney on August 30, I will have crossed another city/country off my travel bucket list for the third consecutive calendar year, having already done Tel Aviv, Cape Town and Tanzania.

The last nine years, in particular, have been filled with frequent travel, partly because my travel bug wouldn't have it any other way, and partly because visa requirements limited the amount of time I could stay in any given expat stomping ground without at least one international departure.

With my arrival in Sydney last October 22, I knew everything was about to change. For one, I'd be working a full-time 9-to-5 gig for the first time since 2006. Second, the company that hired me also sponsored me, which meant no more taking flight from my expat stomping ground every 90 days unless I wanted to.

I never expected to last 10 months. There have been four trips to Melbourne, one to Adelaide and one to the Blue Mountains, but I haven't once stepped foot outside of Australia since arriving here from South Africa. I wonder if that has something to do with how underwhelmed I've been with Sydney and, by extension, Australia, despite the fact that I spent years being obsessed with all things Aussie before officially living here.

Maybe it's like moving into your boyfriend's studio apartment and never seeing other people. How could you not get sick of each other when you never get away from each other? How could I fully appreciate Sydney when I'd never given myself the opportunity to miss it?

Everyone tells me to give it time...Sydney is a city that rewards patience. I've tried to be patient, and in some ways, it's paid off. I've settled into my job to the point that I actually enjoy both the gig and my colleagues. And one month ago, I moved into a dream apartment in the building I've wanted to live in since a couple of months after my arrival. Life is good, but Sydney isn't home. Maybe it never will be.

I haven't given up hope, though. I may never find my Sydney "family" or a make a new friend whom I don't work with or go on a fourth date here, but I'm excited to see where my trip to Japan takes me mentally. The best holidays are the ones you don't want to end that also somehow make you appreciate where you live more.

If I've already maxed out my appreciation for Sydney, I'm prepared to live with that. Now that the world traveler is on the verge of making a comeback, I know this arranged marriage can be saved. Just because I don't have to leave every three months doesn't mean I can't. Goodbye, Sydney. Hello, world. Boy have I missed you!
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