My first day was very difficult. I was exhausted and jet-lagged.
After wandering through the airport, struggling to figure out where I needed to go, and paying an exorbitant amount of money on a train ticket and cab ride, I arrived at a friend’s son and fiancee’s home in northern Sydney.
I struggled to carry my backpack and everything into the guest room and then I just sat there and cried. I finally came to the full realization that I was actually doing this. I am traveling the world for an entire year and I will be doing this by myself.
“By myself”. Those words really bothered me. The thoughts and connotations of the phrase “by myself” stung as they whirled around in my mind. How would I be able to cope without anyone familiar for an entire year?
My world was about relationships. My parents, my brother, my sister, and my friends were the central people in my life. Before this trip I talked to at least one of these people everyday. I thought about all of them everyday. I was terrified of leaving this comfort zone.
In my first two weeks, I was quick to realize that my world is STILL about relationships, both old and new. My true friends and family will always be there for me even if I am in a different time zone.
In this year I will develop new relationships with people, places, and organizations.
I have met many incredible people in my first two weeks: my kind and gracious hosts when I first arrived, their friends, and people I have casually met at cafes or while waiting for public transportation. After a week of searching, I have found my “home” in Sydney with a wonderful home stay family in a suburb south of the city. I am reminded of home with my home stay mother’s fabulous cooking and her kind, generous, and supportive nature.
I have also met people who are willing to discuss ideas and questions related to my project. I have grown close to a family who has opened up to me about their experiences with domestic and family violence.
A kind social worker who I met on the bus spoke to me about his disgust for the child welfare system’s emphasis on fulfilling bureaucratic needs over the needs of their clients. He explained how his experiences have shown him that most organizations are more focused on appeasing the religious elements of their structure and mission than on the actual work that they were doing to help children. “The children come second or third in this system.”
An older woman on a park bench talked to me about the issue of refugee children on Christmas Island. Hundreds of refugee children are suffering on Christmas Island and other holding facilities off of the Australian mainland. Reports on the nightly news suggest that these children and their parents are living in absolute squalor where some children are kept in shipping containers and are only exposed to sunlight for up to 3 or 4 hours a day.
I struggle to understand how and why child abuse and maltreatment are such an under-discussed issues that are still so prevalent in societies like the U.S. and Australia. These societies are supposed to be “developed” and are prided as “world powers.” If these societies are so advanced, then why are children-both citizens and non-citizens alike-suffering in these countries to the point that their “safety”, “wellbeing”, and “welfare” are comprised? Hopefully my work in the coming months will help me to better understand these questions and how I can approach understanding possible answers.
I have also pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone and really have tried to explore the local area in the past two weeks.
I have walked along the beaches of Bondi, Cooggee, Manly, and North Head. I wandered around the city going to the historical section where the settlers first landed called “the Rocks” and I explored the touristy areas around Darling Harbour.
I have really fallen in love with the scenic beauty that Sydney has to offer. Only a few days after landing, I explored a scenic section of the North Sydney shore by walking around Cremorne Point.
It was absolutely beautiful! There were sailboats and cliffs, waves and beautiful views of the harbor and surrounding areas. I saw the city in the distance from many different angles, the opera house, and the famous bay bridge.
The walk was absolutely exhilarating and liberating. I have never felt so free. I was free to do exactly what I wanted to do. I could walk at my own pace, choose which path I wanted to go down and just enjoy myself and all of the sights and sounds around me. I did not feel alone. Instead, I felt an inner peace: a peace and acceptance that I am in control of my own destiny.
In the past two weeks, I have also shown myself that I am capable of more than I could ever imagine. With few contacts in an unfamiliar place, I am thriving. I am exploring, experiencing, and living. Even with the challenges and even with the difficult times, I am excited to see everything that this journey will bring.