One year on: an expat in Sydney | Lifestyle

Forty Baskets Beach
Forty Baskets Beach

And so, just like that, my one year anniversary of life in Australia rolls around. Adjusting to life in a completely new country has been a whirlwind, and whilst the longing for home and loved ones remains strong, there isn’t a single part of me that regrets making the leap.

There’s no doubting that life in Australia is pretty damn good. Besides the weather (heck, it’s been in the early 20's today in the middle of winter!) and the immense beauty of the NSW coastline, Australia is a country full of possibility; I feel calmer, more inspired and truly like anything is possible.

One thing that really struck me when moving to Australia is its connection to nature, and in particular, the ocean - I’ve often mused how Brits refer to that big expanse of blue as ‘the sea’, whereas our Australian counterparts always talk about ‘the ocean’. As someone who has been an animal lover her whole life - brought up spending long languid weekends on horseback, with dogs trailing behind and a cat to warm your toes once you finally returned home - I’ve almost surprised myself with how long it’s taken me to convert to cruelty-free beauty. Moving to Sydney inspired a sea change in me - a sudden appreciation for the vastness of our planet, its errant beauty and its vulnerability at the hands of a growing human race. There’s something about the word ‘ocean’ that conjures a feeling of wonder and deep respect for all that lives in it. I’m far more mindful of how and what I consume, of the perils of single-use plastic (plastic water bottles and plastic straws, I’m looking at you) and even learning to tolerate bugs (though there are some exceptional Australian species that will not be befriended) in the belief that every creature is a living, breathing organism and has a right to be on earth as much as my human neighbours.

Swimming with turtles on Lord Howe Island

Swimming with turtles on Lord Howe Island

Feeding the residents of Ned's Beach, Lord Howe Island

Feeding the residents of Ned's Beach, Lord Howe Island

And, talking of the ocean, learning to feel at ease with this big expanse of blue has been part of my journey these past twelve months (despite the fact that this particular big expanse of blue is probably more dangerous than expanses of blue I have grown up alongside my whole life). Sydney is frequented by marvellous creations called ocean pools, which essentially provide a sheltered way to enjoy the saltwater on your face and dodge a shark or two. At least, most of the time they do - they are sometimes at the mercy of a high tide and crashing waves, and sometimes also home to creatures such as the blue-ringed octopus, a creature whose bite is 1200 more toxic than cyanide (don’t all rush down there at once). Joking aside, ocean pools, and mainly this very famous and frankly breathtaking pool at Bondi, have helped me overcome my fear of water. I’m still working on it, but I feel like I can crack it - and thanks to the glorious weather and warm water, there’s ample opportunity to do so.

Bondi Icebergs

Bondi Icebergs

Kayaking in Sydney Harbour

Kayaking in Sydney Harbour

With this new-found wonder for our planet and its precious ecosystem, it was a former colleague of mine that really made me look long and hard at the products I was thoughtlessly putting onto - and into - my body. Our skin is our largest organ and absorbs 60-70% of what we put onto it. For years, the wellness movement (an industry worth billion, I’ve recently discovered) has taught us what to put inside our body to feel our best, and now my attention has turned to the beauty products that I’ve been buying for years and years, mainly out of habit. I don’t ever want to be somebody who preaches to others, but instead leads by example; but what I will say is, not only is buying a ‘green’ beauty good for your health, it’s good for the planet too, by ensuring that environmentally-friendly manufacturing methods have been followed, as well of course ensuring no animals have suffered as a result of the product making it onto a shop shelf.

Green beauty at The Sustainable Salon

Green beauty at The Sustainable Salon

I take a passionate interest in conservation, too, and have immersed myself in a whole new world by volunteering as a Zoo Keeper at the world-famous Taronga Zoo on Sydney’s north shore. These fortnightly shifts are equal parts hard work and magical - witnessing the special behind-the-scenes moments and the bond between keepers and their animals is an absolute privilege.

Zarafa, one of Taronga Zoo's resident giraffes

Zarafa, one of Taronga Zoo's resident giraffes

With green beauty comes the obvious step into aromatherapy, naturopathy, yoga and meditation - all areas that are full to bursting in a hub such as Sydney. It’s such an incredible place to delve into new areas of discovery.

Of course, it would be remiss of me not to talk about life in Sydney and not mention the sheer, almost unfathomable beauty of this part of the world. Part of the adventure of moving here was that we have no ties and could use Sydney as a base to explore the Southern Hemisphere and, since we arrived twelve months ago, we’ve been lucky enough to visit Lord Howe Island, Port Stephens, the Hunter Valley, the Southern Highlands, Bendalong in the south, Byron Bay and Melbourne. In the coming months we’re planning on visiting Port Douglas in North Tropical Queensland, Western Australia for Christmas and a road trip around New Zealand in February; visiting the ‘Red Centre’ at Uluru, and undertaking an outback cattle muster in the depths of rural Queensland. Japan, Hong Kong, India, the South Pacific and Malaysia remain firmly on the Bucket List, too. But for every weekend we plan away from home, we remind ourselves of the incredible lifestyle that Sydney offers us on our doorstep; coastal walks, beaches galore, incredible food, heaps of sunshine, events, COFFEE (that’s a whole separate blog post!) and, of course, a community of like-minded expats who have all made the leap, too.

Bendalong Bay, NSW

Bendalong Bay, NSW

Riding in the Blue Mountains

Riding in the Blue Mountains

Lord Howe Island
Lord Howe Island
Fitzroy Falls, Kangaroo Valley

Fitzroy Falls, Kangaroo Valley

Glow Worm Tunnel, Lithgow
Glow Worm Tunnel, Lithgow
Ned's Beach, Lord Howe Island

Ned's Beach, Lord Howe Island

I am of the firm belief that you find beauty in your surroundings, and I am not arrogant enough to think of Australia as a superior place; I have always adored the English countryside, endless rolling hills, the charm of quaint fishing towns and characterful villages; but that said, there is an unerring magic that lures so many people to this part of the world, one in which the sun casts a golden glow on clifftops and on turquoise waters; the world-famous Harbour, for its all glory so unassuming;  endless summers, rife with optimism, possibility, a laid-back vibe and the opportunity to explore.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Milk Beach, Sydney Harbour

Milk Beach, Sydney Harbour

Whilst I will never forget my roots and look back with rose tinted glasses at the life I used to have - and I continue to yearn for a four-legged friend to join me in everyday life - it’s fair to say that, a year in, Sydney and Australia have stolen my heart.

'...Bondi. December. The way the sun made the cliffs golden in the late afternoon. The daily swims, the briny air, and the strong coffees. It was a place that exuded a vital sort of health, a honey-baked splendour. I didn’t know if beautiful people moved there, or if you became beautiful by living there, submitting to the rhythm of the place; running on the beach, surfing, laps of Icebergs, all that yoga, all that meditation, all that warming sun...' Brigid Delaney