Last weekend I was sitting on my bed and binge-watching Netflix for the umpteenth time, carefree and very content with my present situation. It wasn’t until Netflix thoughtlessly checked in with me to ask if I was “still there” that I caught myself in the realization that I had not moved — except for life vitals such as coffee — for the entire first half of a day (yes, it was only midmorning and I had already shamelessly watched multiple hours of Netflix).
The fact that Netflix clearly thought no sane person would be actively watching a show for that long made me realize that there was a whole city outside my room just waiting to be explored. I essentially had what I call a “Netflix epiphany” (very millennial of me, I know), and decided that I wasn’t going to waste the rest of this Sunday in front of my computer.
However, I also knew that I didn’t really want to spend any money, so I scoured the net for fun yet cheap (or even better, free) ideas on what I could do for the rest of the day. The results turned up so much more than I expected, and a lot of them were, thankfully, creatively different. I was opposed to just going to another museum or walking around the city. The options included walking across the lower pedestrian walkway of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, since climbing the arch costs several hundred dollars; visiting Cockatoo Island, infamous for its history of holding convicts; finding Wendy’s Secret Garden, a hidden (but public) garden created by the wife of a famous artist after he passed away; hiking to North Head Sanctuary at the tip of the Sydney Harbour National Park for breathtaking views of the Sydney skyline and surrounding harbor, and so on and so forth. It actually became difficult to pick just one adventure for the day.
Since arriving, I had a dire need to jump on one of Sydney’s ferries again. I missed the fact that ferries were just another casual mode of transportation to get around the city, and I decided to go somewhere that would require me to take one. Of course, the first place that came to mind was Manly. Manly is a beautiful beachside suburb home to — you guessed it — the famous Manly Beach, known for its bigger waves and legendary locals such as Layne Beachley, seven-time world surfing champion. Manly is across the harbor, north of Sydney with a thirty-minute ferry ride each way.
Since I clearly like to do my research, I also looked up some local fish and chips restaurants knowing that there was simply no other lunch I’d rather have in Manly, but also because I wanted to make sure I knew how much money I would need and what I’d be spending going forth. Since it was also Sunday, I knew I had no excuse to get out and about. Sydney has a wonderful and very handy “Sunday Funday” scheme that caps all transport spending at a maximum of $2.50 no matter how far I travel on, or however many modes of transport I choose to use (including ferries).
All in all, I had an amazing day full of fun and excitement, and definitely full of beautiful scenery. I’m glad I didn’t stay inside watching shows all day, but instead took up the various opportunities available to me.
As a student, it’s always easy to forget the experiences that are readily available to me because I do one of two things. I either guilt myself into saying “I need to study,” when really, several hours go by and I just end up at the bottom of a dark YouTube spiral watching odd videos I hadn’t the faintest idea how I even found; or I tell myself that I shouldn’t be spending money in the first place, especially on things that are unnecessary (plus, I should be studying anyway).
But being abroad has taught me that I don’t necessarily need to travel the world to see amazing things or have life-changing experiences. There is still so much in my own backyard that needs to be conquered first. People from around the world travel to places that others simply call home, so there’s obviously something special everywhere.
Jenisha Sabaratnam writes the weekly Travel column on her study abroad experiences in Australia. Contact Jenisha Sabaratnam at [email protected].