It’s a strange feeling to finally, truly travel completely alone.
It’s one thing to walk down familiar streets with confidence all on your own or to dine in complete silence with just you and your phone in your home country. These were things that were part and parcel of my life as a closet introvert. However, being in new territory is just unnerving and exciting all at the same time, a case of sensory overload.
You’re on your toes, a little worried something might happen, you know, Murphy’s Law. You’re crazily anticipating the sights, the sounds, the smells and you just can’t decide where to look. After that mix of roller coaster emotions, you also settle into a type of zen. At least in my case I did. I experienced a refreshing wave of freedom and calm.
I mentioned in one of my earlier Sydney posts that “人算不如天算” and that means man proposes, Heaven disposes. It’s a saying to describe a situation that no matter how well you plan things out, the outcome is not just based on that, there is also a chance that fate will intervene. In a funny way, it also indirectly means “Que Sara Sara”, what will be, shall be.
Well, for nights on end (and this is till wee hours of the morning), I was planning the Sydney trip right down to the pit stops and even where exactly to park if we were to do a self-drive trip. I was fretting over whether we would have enough money to do everything we wanted on our trip and I even did up an itinerary document with all those details included (even expected expenditure to the cent in both AUD and SGD, seriously). That was my level of utter neurosis. It was really eating me and I was irritable and unhappy because I was stressed and worried that my first trip to Sydney would not fit into my boyfriend’s budget.
What’s funny is that this trip was supposed to be a “solo trip”. I had booked tickets to Sydney and meant to go alone. This whole concept of me travelling solo was met with resistance by my other half who had really good intentions. He was worried for my safety and wanted to go as well. But there were so many things I had wanted to experience on my own before I did with him. It wasn’t personal, but it was something I really wanted. However, after his insistence, we became a travel party of two.
Now that we were two, I worried constantly about whether my planning would please him as well; Whether he would enjoy the activities and if he had the budget to go to certain attractions (he did mention that some places were too expensive). I gave myself unnecessary stress, trying to meet “assumed expectations” and I stayed worried. It would be all over my face, my burrowed brows, down turned lips and I often scowled when I drafted our itinerary. It wasn’t a good time for me. The planning was horrendous and it was mostly self-inflicted.
Then the weirdest thing happened while we were in Sydney. After all that planning, several arguments and all that, my boyfriend had to cut his trip short and return to Singapore due to his grandfather’s passing. This was just day two when the news broke. It was a confusing situation and while it was a no-brainer that he would return home immediately on the next available flight, it was a big dilemma for me. All that was planned didn’t apply anymore. I had to make snap decisions on my next step and I cancelled many non-refundable bookings and managed to make plans to stay with a friend at her place (Thanks William and Eve!) and return home a couple of days early to be in time to send his grandfather on his final journey.
It was so crazy that I fought to be in so much control and yet in that one moment, everything changed. Everything that was painstakingly built up, crashed. It was all for nothing. Man proposes, Heaven disposes.
In all this change, there were lessons to be learnt. The main one for me was this: To let it go, just loosen that grip and let things be. Of course I later also learnt a hard lesson in sensitivity and being a good girlfriend, but let me leave that for another day. (This story is running a little long and we’ve not even skimmed Blue Mountains.)
So that was how I ended up travelling solo to World Heritage-listed, Blue Mountains, famous for the incredible view and iconic Three Sisters.
I took a leisurely two hour journey from Sydney to Blue Mountains by rail. As I boarded the double-decker train and hastily tried pulling my luggage on board, everyone took quick glances at this Asian girl travelling alone before going back to their own devices. I spent the journey gazing out into the soothing view of a city slowly giving way to vegetation and the great outdoors. I alighted at Katoomba and struggled to find my B&B.
You’d think travelling alone would be more dangerous and with all these inhibitions: don’t talk to strangers, keep to yourself, watch your belongings. I relied on my phone and Australian tourist data plan trying to navigate myself to the B&B where I would be putting up for the night. Quite a few passers by noticed I was lost and offered to help guide me in the right direction and I eventually got there. I met only polite and friendly people, no one was rude or mean in anyway at all. I had nothing in control but I really felt relieved and calm that things were working out on their own.
It was a chilly morning and I didn’t have on a lot of clothes, just a thin comfy blazer, a tank top underneath, a pair of jeans and non-hiking shoes (a pair of stylish Crocs pumps that were very comfortable and didn’t fall apart).
I strolled to Blue Mountains from my B&B and in fifteen minutes (was it more or less? I didn’t really notice because it was quite enjoyable to walk in such good weather) I was at Echo Point.
Echo Point overlooks an impressive expanse of lush forests and rocky hilly areas. The sky is impossibly blue. How come we share the same sky, but not one that has the same deep shade of blue?
Although it is just two hours from Sydney, Blue Mountains is a world away. It is a perfect charming escape from an itinerary that’s packed with a to-do list of city-centred activity.
I decided to take the bush-walking trails and see where it would take me. I was headed towards the Scenic World where I planned to take the cable cars and steepest passenger railway.
The route I took was unplanned and I just followed the trail to see where it would lead. I went up and down rocky sandy steps and I just enjoyed the fresh mountain air as I trudged past forests of trees and interesting rock formations. There’s not much crowd anywhere, so it was a refreshing experience to just move at my own leisurely pace.
I found myself really loving just standing and looking (and zoning out) at the natural landscapes at several stops or “look outs”.
I took some time to really watch the world go by when I reached Queen Elizabeth Lookout. Here are the “Three Sisters” at Jamison Valley. They are named Meehni, Wimlah, and Gunnedoo and there is an aboriginal legend behind these rocky formations.
So the “Aborigine Dreamtime” story goes, there were three sisters of the Katoomba tribe who fell in love with three brothers from a neighbouring tribe. Marriage between tribes was forbidden and the men forcefully captured the three women causing a tribal battle. Wanting to protect the three sisters, a witch doctor from the Katoomba tribe turned them to stone. However in the chaos, that same witch doctor was killed and all three sisters could not be turned back to their human form, forever standing in stone as a reminder of this battle.
Embarking on this little hike alone proved to me that I really am a person who loves to be left on my own to discover and appreciate things. I enjoy company of course, and I love talking. I’m quite the chatterbox. But I definitely enjoy my alone time a lot more. It makes me feel so much freedom and I am free of worry. Blue Mountains is such an unforgettable and stunning national park. I think there is so much left for me to explore still and I want to go back to view the magnificent waterfalls and check out the hazy blue forests once again.