My first Saturday in Sydney became my favourite day thus far, nearly most accomplished and the most rich with meaningful conversation (per cousin Jill’s inspirational quote from my Daily Dose box). The Universe gave me signs, beautiful sunshine, kind potential flatmates and every blessing there is except strong internet.
I woke that morning with butterflies humming in my stomach with anticipation to find a place I could call home. I dressed in athleisure, put on my lucky Sydney necklace and dreamcatcher bracelet from Chels, making sure to pack my hat and water bottle so that I’d have no excuse to give up. The night prior, I stayed up searching and filtering flatmates.com.au so that I could line up plenty of places, ranging from 4-bedroom houses to beach-facing flats shared with 1 or 2. As I whored myself out to strangers both Aussie and expat, I listened to New Music Friday on Spotify. Perks of being in the world’s first time zone: I’m hip to the new trends.
First stroke of luck: Carolyn introduced me to a lovely friend (with whom she shares a lifelong bestie back in LA) named Marissa. She’s lived in Sydney for about 12 months with six to go, and originally studied abroad the same semester as Jill at UNSW! Not only is she so kind for offering to welcome me immediately; she offered to meet me for coffee or brekkie by the beach to kick off my day of apartment searching. Her and her fiancé Johnny recommended a cafe called the Nine, to which I Ubered while catching up with Carisa via FaceTime. Lovely but roundabout drive. I can’t wait to learn the bus system!
After an iced latte and delicious avocado toast slightly tainted with “seaweed salt,” they ushered me off to the first spot with good luck and invites to friends’ couches and Facebook housing groups. I walked uphill to Home #1: Anna’s four-suite tri-level which houses her, two expats and two rag dolls named Meeko and Rocky! She was direct, kind, seasoned with an independence and warmth that made want to keep her as an auntie and mentor. Room was street-facing, huge with two large closets, private modern bath and brightly lit. Liked it.
Home #2 was slightly further uphill, only a few more blocks from the beach (which I could see on my walk from the cafe). The two-bedroom sanctuary with an unreal view of the Eastern sea is home to Pete and Rui, an older couple who work in sales downtown; seemingly the nicest, most hospitable couple in all of Oz. Have a private room with own bath and bed provided. Living space was airy but would have been tight! Very tempting option.
Home #3 was a short walk North of 2 on the main thoroughfare that is Bondi Road. Neighbouring the chicken cafe I ate at Wednesday night, it was quaint and tucked down a strange alley… but located above a florist, which I loved. The girl was lovely and 3-beds looked like they would have made a fine hub. But the room was too tiny and Bondi is feeling increasingly far from the city by this point! Home #4 was a third-floor share with a charming Irish guy, with a perfect balcony and sunset views from the glass shower. Wanted him as a friend and loved the warm vibe, but couch was weird leather and sharing with a boy is still meh on my scale of preference at this point. Sad to tell him!
Home #5 was an Uber ride from Bondi, back toward my current interim neighbourhood on the border of Surry Hills and paddington. Spoiler alert: I thought this might be the one. I unexpectedly received a lovely tour from 61-year old Uber driver named Marissa (two in one day?!) through Paddington, down Oxford Street en route to Surry and was drawn to the quaint shops, churches, markets and storefronts we were passing. I knew I was getting progressively closer to my office and current hood, so that felt good! We turned onto a diagonal street not far off the main thoroughfare, also near the heart of the “gay-borhood” and neighbouring a cool, edgy fountain next to a pink and purple hotel that looked like my gate to heaven. I crossed the street to find 148 (on Goulburn), a modern gray complex with a buzzer and neat-looking foyer.
Rupert, who had reached out to me on Flatmates.com boasting an en-suite bath and nice room, buzzed me up and always seemed lax and flexible on time. He looked younger than I had assumed (at 38!) and had blonde Jimmy Neutron hair, cool wardrobe. He blew me away with a step-down master suite right by the door (convenient), private bathroom with huge tub, built-in shelving and a separate glass shower that’s pretty and sleek. Jaunt up the stairs led to this giant, airy common room with floor-to-ceiling windows (like the master!) that were fully open onto a large patio. His wooden table and giant deep couch begged imagery of small dinner parties, cozy nights in and great TV access, if I’m honest. He had Spotify on, I felt comfortable and then: TWO major good omens jumped out at me.
Not only did Rupert have a giant world map on the wall — that I found out used to have pins on all his destinations —he also had not one, but two wooden hippo figurines on his frontmost side table next to the couch. Bayan, the bestie [and hippo-obsessed screenwriter] who I had chatted with earlier that morning, jumped back into my mind and heart! Would he tell me that this was a good brave choice, that my gut was screaming at me only good things?! Rupert loves to travel, used to recruit, and saves his money for adventures he’ll remember. An upcoming dive trip with local fur seals and a GoPro? Designed his own outdoor deck-lounge with a movie projector over Surry? Yes, I thought: I could get used to this.
This was only the start to my day; after charging my phone next to his couch, I walked a mile or two back to Paddington and explored shops, murals, and cafes — constantly looking for more signs. The street and neighbourhood in the running for first were quickly cornered by a smoothie shop (that yelled Love Life! on its mural), book-share shelf and coffee stops galore. I crossed for more storefronts and noticed pleasantly a park, bookstore and acaí bowls in proximity. Fatigued by delight, I then grabbed a bus and felt proud that I trusted the routes and my Opal card.
When I made it to Paddington markets, I reminisced the Melrose Trading Post and marvelled at local art, savoury food trucks (how is my Mac auto-correcting to English spelling of words like “favour” and savour”?!) and Made in Australia signage (see: Saturday’s Snap story). I bought my first souven— I mean, purchase; a friend asked over Snap whether I was already engaged and I realised that yes: Sydney had proposed a home, a flatmate and a leap of faith. I said YES. My new ring is sterling silver and comprised of a small infinity loop that forms a heart beneath it!
In Paddington I met up with Daryl: a three-year-local who hails from Atlanta and #transformed from a different state-side LinkedIn office. She previously worked with (my first SF roommate) Britt at Groupon and seems to have so much in common when it comes to [our] path to Sydney. She showed me around, introduced me to the cutest shops like Opus (picture: Picnic meets Papyrus in quirky Oz fashion) and led me to maybe my next fave cafe called NotJustCoffee. We sat upstairs, gazing at bougainvillea and local birds and a cute lazy Bulldog below. While sharing a delish rice bowl and kale salad, we told each other our inspirations, feelings on work and life, dating histories and insights on living. I was overjoyed and relieved to have her insight on neighbourhoods that are fun versus home. We wrapped the afternoon and wound down as the sun did, heading back to her brownstone-like haven so I could re-charge.
I took the bus again and found my direct route to Sydney Town Hall or Darling Harbor in the near future. As I walked to my hotel, humming to Tulou Tagalog and relishing in my day’s accomplishments, I realised once again that I am literally living my once-upon-a-dream. The sun was approaching eye-level and, unbeknownst to the tourists and visitors beside me, I was approaching what felt like home.
The next weekend...
Sunday, after packing up my interim home and sipping my beloved instant java, I ventured out in an Uber to move my things exactly 1.5 more kilometres. I realised nostalgically that these three cases had traveled from North Beach to Lower Haight, then Lower Nob to SFO. Next? SF to Maui, Maui to Honolulu and (thanks to Quantas) directly across five thousand miles of Pacific to my new home of Sydney... from the Mantra to Surry.
Upon arriving at my newly decided-upon mid-rise in my recently-christened-with-a-coffee neighbourhood, I felt a tingle and surge of anticipation run through my body... and all the way down my arms hands and suitcases. I was almost there, with only twelve steep stairs and a minimum of three IKEA trips to go! The beep that accompanied the swipe of my key at the front door panel brought me straight to reality: I was officially a resident of Sydney, Oz.
In the arvo, sitting in the coziest corner of my new room — exposed brick on one side and my very own pillow on the other — I sipped borrowed chamomile while Kelly from Airtasker helped me assemble my new Malm IKEA bed. I could not have felt more grateful nor productive (well, maybe if I had assembled every last bit myself) after a half-day trip around the home-in-a-warehouse, in which I solo explored all of the [Swedish] possibilities of my new space and downstairs oasis. It was a sentimental journey.
As I strolled alongside couples, newlyweds, dumbstruck parents and their toddlers that Saturday, I couldn’t help but acknowledge them with sweet appreciation, only a touch of yearning and mostly good riddance. I envisioned the independence and freedom before me. I thought of JGL and Zoey in 500 Days; I thought of my first apartment with Jill, and my first roommates in life (the sea-stars, of course). Realising the start of my creative process with a giant, blank slate at my fingertips, there were endless combinations of solo sanctuary meets work-space, think-place and more in the aisles ahead. I grazed my fingers over desktops, bounced youthfully on the mattresses, and wiggled bed frames to test for both comfort and durability. I let my imagination run wild.
After sticking to the essentials and only indulging in one, pinnable world map for my new room, I made it back to the city just in time for a walk and nice meal. This would be my last night of nomadic limbo. I planned to soak it up wholeheartedly — with sake and sushi — because my stay symbolised the grace of my company, the ease of my new city and my transition to a new stage of self. Name: Coraline. Age: 28. Location: Sydney! As I strolled home through the narrow streets and damp winter air, I felt both safe and saturated with wonder and awe. Who knew such a dichotomy of happy-sad, nostalgic-excited could not just exist, but persist and deepen so quickly!
Fast-forward to sitting in my bare-walled basement-loft with my first-ever bought-brand-new queen-sized bed. With a lamp on the floor and my life-blood beside it — a short stack of current reads, my journals and Daily Dose box — I’m acknowledging another dichotomy. Life and its collections, its findings and its purchases are all simply comprised of a set of “things.” While I know that none of these things will go on, their meaning and the pleasure we derive from them are no small thing. I'll savour my trinkets, gaze upon their symbolism and cherish their emblematic comfort in my cheeriest and loneliest of times. Being in a new world, I can appreciate the memories of my last one and love seeing glimpses of “home” or my friends in the corners of my new sunken sanctuary.
What thrill and comfort me even more, however, are the blank walls and light-strewn haven that surround me. They’re illustrative of the endless new discoveries and learnings still to come. I’m home, Sydney. Bring me that blank space and I’ll write your name.
A broad down under
Who am I?
I am a girl who loves my island and a girl who loves the sea; it calls me.