Sydney, a free spirit

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 4. The Spirit of Place, Sydney by Falynn1 Comment

I’m sure for all of us, the first week or so of our study abroad experience involved a lot of running around. In Sydney, we had long days of orientation and planned activities from the moment we arrived up until the weekend. As a result, I spent the majority of my time the first week in Sydney’s Central Business District, similar to New York City’s Financial District. NYU Sydney’s accommodation is located at the very south of CBD while our academic building is north, so I spent each day walking up and down, seeing many parts of ‘the city’. I was definitely liking what I was seeing: beautiful architecture, busy streets filled with crowds of people, diverse restaurants and stores. However, I really wasn’t catching Sydney’s vibe. I couldn’t seem to figure out the spirit of Sydney. Of course, I believe truly understanding the spirit of Sydney takes longer than the time I have here, let alone one week. But I didn’t even really have an idea. I pictured a beachy, laidback, slower pace and vibe, but I wasn’t seeing this at all. At the same time, it wasn’t really intense and fast paced. I was having an identity crisis for the city I was about to call my home for four months.

As the weekend rolled around, I was excited to see more than the streets I had been walking up and down for the past week. I hopped on the train with a few friends to Circular Quay, where we caught the ferry to Manly, one of the many beaches of Sydney. Upon arrival, I could already tell a huge difference between this neighborhood and the CBD I was used to. People were dressed in comfortable, summery clothes. Streets were wide and blocked off for pedestrians only. Stores had their doors open with displays and products outside. Signs were colorful and inviting. There were restaurants and cafes everywhere with outdoor seating. There were stands where artisans sold their personal crafts.  At the end of the main road was the beach. People were laid out on the sand. Others were walking along the concrete trail running parallel to it. Everything felt comfortable and relaxed. I put my towel down and took a seat. The air was fresh and the scenery was breathtaking. I finally was feeling the vibe that I was expecting to feel. This was the spirit of Sydney.

What I’ve come to find now is that Sydney is so diverse in character. Just like in New York, every neighborhood is unique. It would be impossible to really know New York City by spending all of your time in, say, Midtown East. It is a very built up, clean-cut area that is so lively and hectic during the day then quiet at night. Just a few minutes downtown, however, and you reach the East Village, which in many ways comes alive at night, and where the people look and act so different from what is found in the other neighborhoods. New York’s over-arching upbeat spirit is seen in different ways in different areas. The same goes for Sydney. For me, I’ve felt the comfortable and laidback spirit in so many different parts of Sydney that I’ve now gotten to see. It even exists in the CBD. I look forward to, with time, develop an even stronger sense of what makes Sydney such a spectacular place to be.


  1. Hi Falynn,

    I appreciate the way you pointed out the importance of experiencing different boroughs or districts of one city – kudos to you for continuing to move with your eyes open. It is easy to sit in one familiar spot on one familiar street and decide that you understand the spirit of a city. But every neighborhood, every street, even every little coffee shop contribute a different ingredient to the spirit of the whole – this explains why people decide to live and work in some areas, and relax or party in others. I also found it interesting that you brought up what you thought the spirit of Sydney would be prior to your arrival, and how that preconception compares with your lived reality. I think you should continue to think about how mass media along with local cultural rumors and reputations affect the spirit of the place. Is the spirit of a place changed by what people think it should be?

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