Happy new year everyone!

As 2016 gets smaller and smaller in Bea’s rearview mirror, Siu On and I have been spending some time reflecting on our first year spent settled down in Sydney and have come up with some surprising and not so surprising results.

Just to recap our 2016

We rang in 2016 with a rock climbing trip to Victoria’s Arapalies, and I started it off jobless having quit my awful travel agent job prior to Christmas. Meanwhile, Siu On was going well working in Rope Access and we were surviving, but not really thriving. It took me a good few months until I managed to find full time work, with volunteering and exploring Sydney whilst I job hunted. Fortunately that  contract job eventually translating into a permanent position where I still am close to a year on. I’m back in government where I work as a Policy Analyst – not a far cry from my days spent working in government procurement policy back in Perth! What is it they say about the apple falling? Ah well, it pays the bills and once I found work Siu On and I started to save some money… finally.

After running our savings down severely from our drive across Australia, we opted to plump up the bank account and stick to trips that cost little and were local so we got to explore a lot more of New South Wales as a result! Though we did manage to save enough to treat ourselves to a very belated honeymoon to Croatia and a few bits and bobs here and there (like much needed car servicing!), but otherwise we were focussed on building a good financial foundation for whatever lies ahead… which was a lot of bills.

Siu On and I basically worked our butts off and saved as much as we could without going insane in 2016. Our travels were not as exotic or extravagant as previous years, though you couldn’t tell it from our pictures on Instagram and the articles I’d posted over the year on the blog. I wish we could say that we ended the year on a high but to be honest we were worn out and a bit miserable at the end of 2016.

Things we learned living in Sydney

1 |  We don’t like noise, crowds or long commutes in traffic

The last time I had to sleep with ear plugs in was when I lived in London 10 years ago, and I only lasted a year before I called it quits and came home! Okay so I know we also chose to live in a suburb and building that has constant noise from cars, drunken hipsters, horns and sirens, and even planes flying overhead most hours of the day and night, and as a result we’ll drive for hours on the weekend to get away from the city so that we can get a good nights sleep. However, it’s the trade off for being closer to work.

The traffic congestion really irks Siu as he has to drive a lot for work, and Sydney’s traffic is notorious in Australia for being slow and painful – sometimes I beat him home even when I’ve had to work back an hour and catch a slow train! We’ve found that these things have contributed to us being more stressed, uptight and strung out which has not had a good effect on our health and wellbeing.

2 |  We need to be close to nature – mountains for Siu, and sea for me

Siu On grew up in Minnesota in a similar fashion to me back in Perth: pristine nature was on our doorstep. Siu is a total mountain man, give him rocks and sheer cliffs and he’s in his element, for me I need the salty water and sand beneath my feet to feel whole. Even though Sydney has these two elements, the Blue Mountains are over two hours drive away and not really doable if you want to get away after work for a little bit, and the sea here is an hours drive away in traffic where I’m crammed in like a tin of sardines on a tiny bit of sand that’s polluted with plastic and glass – not really my idea of fulfilling.

3 |  You spend as much as you save in Sydney

Siu On and I live really cheap but Sydney is really expensive. And I lived through the mining boom in Perth and I’m telling you that Sydney is really, really expensive! We earn a good combined wage but the cost of living in this big city is very high, and a lot of the time we look at our savings and feel down that we’re not further ahead in our savings goal.

I overhear eavesdrop on many backpackers on my morning commute lamenting the fact that they’ve come to Australia on a working holiday only to realise that all they’ve done is work and not had a holiday! We also realise that because of the previous points I raised, we do end up making concessions for our wellbeing which costs money, otherwise Siu On and I would fall deep into the pits of depression from how much this city constantly shits on us.

4 |  We don’t like big cities

I’m going to say that one in general terms because when I lived in London it was a very love/hate relationship which erred more so on the ‘hate’ side, and when we’ve travelled to large cities we’ve always had a preference for the smaller ones. But honestly, Sydney has been a tough place for us to settle into and we know it’s not the place we want to spend the rest of our lives in, which makes us less inclined to put down roots and make the effort to fit in. I don’t want to lose my Perth-ness or Siu to loose his Minnesota nice because that’s what makes us different here and it’s who we are through and through. Sydney is challenging that and I don’t like it one bit.

5 |  Travel should be from a place of contentment, not a place of desperation

Travel is a band aid answer for your problems. From my own experiences, 9 times out of 10 I found that using travel as a way to fix something usually didn’t fix anything, because the things I thought it would do, it never did; so when you come back from your trip, your problem is usually still there.

Siu On and I hoped that our honeymoon to Croatia would help us get through the remainder of 2016, as we were struggling with living in Sydney, but we found that coming back from a totally kickarse holiday made the rest of the year here even more painful to endure. The days dragged, we kept comparing everything to Croatia, and we just wanted to pack up and go back to travelling. We definitely should not have gone to Croatia with that attitude and that sort of pressure for the holiday to fix what we were dealing with in Sydney. Enjoy travel for what it is, not what you want it to do.

Going forward, move ahead

So what do we want 2017 to bring us? We actually don’t have any concrete plans so far for this year because we’re still recovering from 2016 to even think about it. (Even though we were meant to figure that out whilst we were in Byron over Christmas and New Year – see what I mean about lesson 5?) Besides doing a little tinkering on the blog (did you notice the new layout?) and the usual daily grind, we’re looking to be more creative and allow ourselves the time to rest.

Basically we’ll keep doing what we’re doing and be more open to options, opportunities and possibilities to explore more of the world, and to live a more simple and meaningful life that makes us content.

So from Siu On and I, here’s looking forward to finding contentment where we are and searching for the everyday simple pleasures and treasuring them in the moment. We hope that 2017 is a kinder and more relaxed year for all of us.

Ciao for now,

Jelena & Siu On