Our Australian Anniversary

Sydney Skyline, HDR Cityscape Photography

On Sunday, Jeff and I celebrated a special anniversary. As of this week, we have been in Australia for five years. FIVE YEARS. When we moved to Sydney, we were not even sure we’d be here two years. I still remember vividly when we first arrived—excited, alone, and nervous. But it wasn’t long before we settled right into our new home, met some amazing friends, and got quite comfortable. The other day we suddenly looked up, saw that the calendar read September, and realized we’ve been here half a decade. I spent a bit of time thinking about our big move today and thought I would share a bit of the story, as well as a few photos of our much-loved city and country. We can’t imagine ever growing tired of this view:

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, City Photography

Some of you know that I lived in Australia once before, when I came to UNSW as a study abroad student in 2001. I came with the belief that it was my only chance to live overseas for any amount of time—that such opportunities would all but evaporate the minute that Pomp and Circumstance played. Six months seemed a rather long while to be away from home at the time, though I knew the experience would be good for me. But what started as something I thought would be good to try ended up being something so much more, and over those six months I fell completely under Australia’s spell. The landscape, the culture, the cities, the people and their outlook on life all left such an indelible impression on me. If I were someone with an affinity for body decoration (my mother would use a different word), I may very well have come home with a southern cross constellation inked across some portion of my body. Instead I came home with a slightly more parent-friendly belly button piercing, an unhealthy (and to this date my only truly gorgeous) tan, and a hand-woven anklet that a stranger gave me in Byron Bay. I wore it for a year until it fell off in tatters. Australia truly changed me and taught me many things, and I wanted desperately to hold on to the experience. When I left Australia, I felt that somehow I had left a part of myself behind.

Fast forward four years, when I convinced Jeff (who had only experienced Australia through Steve Irwin and frightening nature documentaries about the Irukandji, tempered by my incessant stories about how great the land down under was) to fork over more than $1500 and countless hours of paperwork to apply for a visa with me. During our preparations to move, I often visualized what I would do on my first day back in Australia. I had visions of taking the train straight from the airport to Circular Quay, luggage and all, and running up to the opera house to give it a big, crazy American-tourist hug. But it didn’t exactly happen like that…

Qantas Airplane

As I briefly wrote about in one of our very first blogs, the week before we left Los Angeles was extremely stressful, and of course everything went wrong. Even once we boarded the flight I was still so wound up that I could not sleep, and spent the majority of the flight staring out into the blackness.  If you’ve flown from California to Australia before, then you know that due to the time zones you end up spending the entire flight in darkness until you land in the morning.  That night, it seemed particularly dark. I’ve never been one to have the slightest bit of anxiety about flying; in fact, I love flying.  But on this flight, I started really thinking about how we were suspended over an ocean for all that time—an impossibly big, impossibly black ocean.  Though it could have been my imagination, that particular flight also seemed to have far more turbulence than normal. Every bump, shift and shake made my muscles tense and had my stomach in knots. My imagination kept turning to the thought of the plane going down, plunging into the blackness like a scene out of LOST, in what would prove to be the most ironic moment of my life.

But we landed amidst a glorious sunrise with full view of the harbour bathed in golden light as the plane made its approach. It was beautiful. This is the actual view from our window seat as we descended into Sydney five years ago, taken from our point-and-shoot camera:

View of Sydney From AirplaneView of Sydney From Airplane

As we walked around the city that day, maybe it was the jet lag combined with the sudden change in season, but I wandered around in a dreamy daze. I felt quite so out of place and time to wonder if perhaps our plane had gone down into the darkness and I had simply manifested my own heaven. I was no longer inspired to run to clasp the sails of Sydney’s harbour icon in my embrace, but we still did make our way down to Circular Quay so that Jeff could see the harbour in all its springtime sunny glory.  We sat and had lunch at the tourist cafe City Extra. I ordered a lemonade. Suddenly a 7-Up arrived in front of me to jolt me from my daze just slightly. Yep. We had really arrived in Australia.

That was how our joint Australian adventure first began. Although my time here as a student will always be memorable, the last five years here have been so special. For one thing, I’ve been able to experience it all with Jeff.  We have both fallen so deeply in love with this land. As I contemplate how much time has passed it appears as a beautiful blur of new and old friends, travels to new and exotic places, several beautiful weddings and adorable babies who have joined us, lots of loved visitors, countless fun nights at pubs, concerts and parties, marvelous meals with amazing mates, stunning landscapes and adorable wildlife, countless train rides across the Harbour Bridge, tens of thousands of photos, and so many fun days in the sun. We’ve sung the national anthem at our Citizenship Ceremony. We’ve experienced a red dust storm. I got stung by a jellyfish (no, not the Irukandji). We’ve camped alone in the middle of the outback. We’ve swum with giant whale sharks. We’ve even thrown a shrimp on the barbie. We’ve had such a rich experience here so far and are grateful for every moment.

It’s been five years, but you’re certainly not rid of us yet, Australia. There’s more fun times ahead to be had! In the words of the Qantas commercial (that we both rather like), we still call Australia… home.

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Angus - Hi,
Just wondering if you would be keen to license me the use of one of your pictures?

Jack Martin - Someone once said “walk a mile in my shoes”.Following your footprints over the last 21 days has given me a crystal clear view of why you and jeff have been charmed by the Land Down Under!

Jayu - WOW! Hello Australians! Lovvvvved the way you have described the 5 years with 5 photographs that tell the exciting storyline of the sweethearts! You should become the writer too and not just a photographer! I bet you can write so much more for where ever you visit, where ever you land, where ever you fly, even where ever you meditate! I will await to read your writeup for whenever you visit India – especially Mount Kailas, Manas sarovar, Kerala or just the people of India. You know, you can make really great documentary films.
I already want to visit Aus, NZ and all other places!

Julie Boone Elliott - Great piece, Erin.

Alex Peade - Lovely write up . Your words and pictures made me homesick. I too never tire of the harbour and its beauty. So glad that your half decade has been jam packed with adventure – may the next 5 be the same.

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