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  • Gabriel

Home for the Holidays

It's been incredibly busy especially with Sydney opening back up so I haven't written anything in awhile.

We're catching a flight back to Singapore tomorrow afternoon for a short break and wanted to blog as we close off the first chapter of our time in Sydney.

So here's a list of what's been happening between my last blog post and now:

  • Fed some Alpacas out at Blue Mountains

  • Got the hang of work and then lost the hang of it

  • Visited the SEA Aquarium & a couple of museums

  • Had Korean BBQ with Sarah for the first time and she's now a semi-convert

  • Went to the Sydney Film Festival which was a Jap show at 10am or something. We left 3/4 way through

  • We had a friend from Singapore come up to visit and our first time hosting. By the way, where's everyone else who said they would come visit!

  • Had a winery lunch

  • Picked oranges from an actual orange tree

  • Slept in separate rooms for the first time since we arrived 7 months back

  • Went cycling with Sarah for the first time

  • Had a great birthday weekend at Hunter Valley planned by Sarah (Easily the best weekend so far)

  • Played Pixar themed mini golf

  • Caught a movie by myself at the theatres

  • Managed three Huntsman spiders that entered our apartment. I say managed because they were way too big to kill so we captured them in tupperware and tossed them out. By the way, three Huntsmen is three too many. Google it and you'll understand why.

  • Did our first drive through Covid test (Sarah, not me)

  • Experienced Christmas overseas with all the Christmas markets. Still felt pretty festive despite the warmer weather

  • Shopped a lot for friends and family back home

  • Bought fairly pricey tickets back to Singapore for Christmas & New Year's (Worth it)

  • Started a new Christmas tradition to have a Christmas meal

  • Did not get a Christmas tree for the first time but we did have our own Christmas thingy going on with the sock exchange, advent calendar and the wrappy station where all gifts come to get wrapped

Three reflections to mark the end of our first chapter in Sydney:

#1: Nobody Told Us That

Before we moved over, we met a few people who made the move from their home country to Singapore. We talked about the logistics of moving, the emotional strain, the weather, how long they stayed, and everything in between.

The one thing nobody brought up was how life would feel a little less meaningful especially at the beginning of being in a new country.

Sydney is a great place to live. The country has a lot to offer whether it's nature, museums, shopping, or food. The problem with these amazing experiences is that they are experiences that need to be shared. Sure, Sarah and I have each other so we're thankful we get to share those experiences and we have over the last seven months but it's a little limiting.

Sometimes we experience certain things and we would say, "<Name> would really enjoy this", or "We would definitely bring <Name> here". After months of mostly Sarah and myself, life started to feel less meaningful for the both of us when we can't share it with anyone else other than both of us.

Life is really great in Sydney but there's a huge social and family gap missing and it does wear down on us which is why we felt it was worth it to pay the price for our flight tickets back home just to get a proper top up on our social and family tanks before we make our way back here.

#2: Life in Sydney is Challenging

A few people have commented about how our lives in Sydney looks awesome on Instagram. The only reason it does is because it's the Instagram life.

Now that we live here, our day-to-day routines are like most working adults. Wake up, breakfast, work, come home, dinner, watch TV, repeat. And it's like that 99% of the time. We don't go to the beach, check out museums, go sightseeing or dine out the way people would do when they're on holiday. It's the same daily grind just in a different environment.

The other bit about the daily grind in Sydney that's different from Singapore is the level of convenience that you don't notice until it's gone.

  • Our Sydney home to the train station on foot is 1.2KM. Our Singapore home to the train station on foot is 600M.

  • Sydney buses come in 20 to 30 minute intervals or more instead of 5 to 10 minute intervals.

  • In Singapore, if you're lazy to cook after work, you can pick up food from the hawker for $4 per person. In Sydney, it's at least $15 to $20 per person which means you can do it maybe twice a week before you realise you're not rich enough to do another take out.

  • Restaurants in Sydney close around 7 or 8pm not 10pm. And if restaurants are closed, you can't just walk to another nearby hawker, you definitely need to drive out, park, and pick up food.

This sounds as though I'm whining about how difficult our life is is there but that isn't the point. The point is that these challenges come with a side of personal growth.

When I was back in Singapore, the level of convenience was so high that my personal growth stagnated. I didn't feel challenged because everything was easy and routine. That was my personal push to make the move. And after 7 months of living in Sydney, I can say for sure that both of us has experienced personal growth that we would otherwise not get in Singapore.

Challenges facilitate growth and that's a good thing.

#3: Where's Home

Sarah and I talk a lot about what's next for us in Sydney and my answer is always for us to head back to Singapore first so we have a fresher memory of what life in both countries feel like. That way, we can make a more informed decision of what we actually prefer. Especially since our last memory of Singapore was 7 months ago with both of us completely worn out from the packing and shipping so not a great memory benchmark.

One of the more interesting conversations Sarah and I have had was our take on life in Sydney. I saw Sydney life as not our real lives. Our real lives are back in Singapore and this is just a detour, a new experience. To me, this isn't our real life. Sarah said that life in Sydney could be our real life if we wanted it to be as long as we committed to investing the time and effort to make it work. I didn't disagree with that perspective.

So where's home for us? It really isn't easy to decide. Sydney has a much better quality of life but poor socially. Singapore has a terrible quality of life but amazing social and family support systems. It will be very hard to give up life in Sydney but at the same time, we also need that social and family presence because we need to have a meaningful life.

There's a quote from the book I'm currently reading that says:

"You're so fixated on trying to make the best use of your time - in this case not for some later outcome, but for an enriching experience of life right now - that it obscures the experience itself. It's like trying too hard to fall asleep and therefore failing. Living more fully in the present may be simply a matter of finally realising that you never had any option but to be here now." ~ Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It

Heading back to Singapore is the perfect way to mark the end our first chapter chapter and to start a new one.

While we may not be clear yet on where home is or what our plans are yet, we're certain that our time in Sydney isn't done yet and that's good enough for now.

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