It's always great to get a chance to explore a city you haven't really had the opportunity to. Cities are beautifully messy packages of civilisation; jewels of engineering, culture, imagination and history.
I've written a lot about my connection to my own city, Melbourne, whom I love like a family member, but right now I'm hacking away at my laptop in Sydney. It's a place I've visited quite a few times but never really sunk my teeth into. I've always viewed it somewhat adversarially in many ways: particularly as a sports fan, but also in terms of the different cultures and philosophies of the two cities. It's always seemed the flashier, more superficial of the two cultures to me, which grated against my identity as a lover of the gritty, organic feel that I see and relate to in Melbourne.
I've been here with my buddy Dave the last few days and apart from attending a soccer match and the prerequisite drinking that is involved in that activity, we've really had very little planned, so we've spent a lot of time simply free-form exploring: just looking at things and thinking, "yeah, let's check that out", or "hey, I wonder what's down there, that looks cool."
This type of travelling really has a lot to recommend it, I think. It's not stressful like over-planned holidays tend to be, and it's really rewarding. We've ducked through alleyways, walked around bays, marvelled at gorgeous buildings, avoided fights, imbibed three dollar bourbons, watched an indie band cover a Rage Against The Machine song, played Metallica pinball, caught up with old friends and eaten more burgers and pizzas than any reasonable person should have.
In short, we've been exploring. This seems to me to be something like the right way to travel, if there could ever be such a thing. One of the drawbacks of the schedules and the structures of our lives is that they grant us very little room for exploring our own home cities because there is always something more pressing for us to do when we're at home. On this journey we've had a couple of concrete things planned, a couple of vague things in mind and a whole bunch of days where we have had nothing going on. These unplanned things that I mentioned above have been incredibly rewarding.
This might be a stretch, so you'll have to bare with me, but maybe there's an interesting parallel between travelling and doing creative work. The battle we face in both pursuits is seeing the things that we need to see whilst simultaneously putting our own individual stamp onto the proceedings. I wonder what the point is of spending a week visiting the top seven destinations in a new place and leaving with the same completed checklist hanging out of your pockets as the thousands of other people waiting in the departure lounge each day. Conversely, my experience is that the sort of events and adventures that make a trip meaningful are quite often the most serendipitous, the most intangible or the most surprising. This might be terrific as a theory but utterly frustrating as a tool for making travel better. How do we plan for what is completely and utterly unplannable? Similarly, how do we create things that make people smile, that make them think, that change the way they feel, when we know that the things that do that to us are so mysterious and unpredictable?
The answer might be exploration. That idea that we just need to make things up as we go along. To plan as little as possible as often as possible. To make sure that as often as we can, we put our own stamp on what is happening in our lives. Understanding that great things are not the things that other people expect to be great but the things that make us feel something, anything at all. Loose threads need to be pulled. Expectations need to be abandoned, completely and utterly. Go exploring, as soon as you can.