New City, Same Me

In The Art of Travel, 3. Getting oriented, Sydney by Flurin

“All type of knowledge, ultimately means self knowledge.” – Bruce Lee

Arriving in Sydney I would have thought that my brain would start to map the city by first remembering where all the big buildings and landmarks are, and then work on the finer details from there. However, what I learned is that mapping a city is a highly personalized affair and has been very telling about what I value at the current moment. I believe this point is easier to see than ever because of the introduction of mapping applications such as ‘google maps’. One quick look at my search history and you are able to gain a good picture of what I feel is important in my life. The locations, which I have searched, combined with the locations I remember from walking to and from the searched locations then basically allow me to see what I value, since these are the things I consciously and unconsciously found to be relevant in my life. So let’s explore how I see Sydney.

The first thing that comes to mind is that I know where all the gyms are in a 1 mile radius of my residence. I know about all of their membership options, the pros and cons of each gym and I remember how it felt to workout there for the first time. So, I can conclude that based on the level of detail I recall about each of these locations, that I value my personal fitness to a strong degree. Additionally, I can easily recall where most of the healthy food options are located around my student apartment, and especially those that are on the way back from the gym I currently frequent. This leads me to the conclusion that I place a high value on my health in general. So, the logical next question would be: what else I can learn about myself from how I see this particular city? I clearly value my academic success because I have already extensively researched most of what there is to know about the local libraries and which ones are most likely to serve my purposes. Next, although I could walk to most places, I have already ingrained in me all of the metro stops that are relevant for my daily activities, which I feel is a partial indication of my laziness and also of the value I place on convenience. Lastly, when I look at the things I have starred on my google maps account, it becomes evident that I love food and mixology (almost all of my starred locations are restaurants or cocktail bars).

The most fascinating aspect about my mapping of Sydney is the stark difference in how I actually see Sydney and how I thought I would see Sydney. As I mentioned before, I thought that landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay, Darling Harbour and many more, would make up most of the image I have of my surrounding area, but in actuality my mapping of Sydney is much more mundane than that. Circular Quay is mostly a metro station to me and only as a footnote exists as a beautiful landmark in my consciousness. Similarly, Darling Harbour is a place, which is close to our school building, and Sydney Opera House is almost an abstraction in that I know of it, but I wouldn’t be able to articulate how to get there. Yet, if you asked me where to find a good grain bowl or salad, I could easily point you in the direction of two or three in my area. I think the takeaway I have of this surprising situation is that the expectations I tend to hold prior to traveling are rarely accurate or worth holding.

Image source

  • Aerial Sydney by Night: Flurin