Sitting in the window munching on Blackstar Pastry’s signature Watermelon cake with a long black on hand, watching the weird and wonderful sight that is Newtown pass. As I selectively listen in on the nasally Sydneysider next to me banter about the previous night’s sexual escapade or the latest gossip in a circle of friends that’s regularly punctuated with a loud clanking of cutlery on crockery, I almost wonder what on earth I am doing here. Siu On and I left Sydney after 18 months in this city, and even now it’s not lost on me why.

Where did it all begin

Rewind our life back two years and we had just packed up our belongings into my Rav4 and were reversing out of my parent’s driveway, nervous and excited about the journey we were embarking on. I had dreams of romantic nights under the Nullarbor’s dark starry skies, I imagined finding off the beaten track locations and secret beaches in corners of Australia that few had visited. And of all the places in Australia, somehow we ended up living in Sydney.

There were so many other towns that we thought ‘we could live here’, yet we ended up in this hulking metropolis heaving with five million people stuck in gridlocked traffic and seriously lacking in open green space. Although we did find a small corner of Sydney where we could feel comfortable, it was definitely not home.

I’m excited to leave behind this place which I found so uncaring, unattractive and uninspiring. I realise how naive I was to think that my friendly and generous ‘Perthness’ would win people over, that my extensive career experience would leave me turning down numerous job offers, and that I’d be won over by the sunny outdoorsy lifestyle that Sydney always portrays in the media. However, my experience here really couldn’t have been more opposite. I struggled to meet people, making friends only with people who ended up returning to their respective countries for the same reason that we ended up leaving; I struggled to find a job where I would be taken seriously and have opportunities to use my skills; I found that the outdoors lifestyle was usually a long drive away, and the sunshine? Let’s not go there.

Sydney made me as bitter, depressed, and frustrated as the people I would see on the train in the mornings. And as I counted down the days until our departure, the more irritable and angry I become. It was a sign that I had definitely overstayed my welcome here, and I was anxious to get out.

Where to from here

Fast forward to five weeks later and I’m sitting back in my old room in Perth. We left. In fact, we left earlier than planned. We decided to take a month off to empty the trash that had accumulated in our heads and reset our compass to ‘travel and chill’. We needed it. We travelled back to visit friends in Melbourne, and then took that long straight road through the heart of Australia to truely get away from it all.

No regrets.

I’m strangely thankful for the experience of starting from scratch in a big city because it showed me that I was capable of building a life from scratch, and it taught me to save my laid-back Perthness for a city that will appreciate it. Where we will go from here? We have a rough plan, and if that doesn’t work out, I know that beautiful and sunny Perth will embrace me with open arms as it always does.

Sydney and I, we just didn’t really get along. I know that I tried my best and managed to do a lot of really cool things while I was there, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. So here’s to new adventures, new experiences and finding the puzzle where I fit.

Cheers, Jelena

Photography by Jelena and Siu On Auyeung.