Matthew Benczkowski is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A molecular biology major at the University of Pittsburgh, he is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.
In this week's post, Matthew talks about how losing your way can lead you to find something else you never thought of.
"And Hansel said to Gretel, 'Let us drop these breadcrumbs... so that together we find our way home. Because losing our way would be the most cruel of things.'" Unlike Hansel, I say forget the breadcrumbs and lose your way. Getting lost is not the worst thing in the world. In fact, wandering around for a couple of hours makes me feel more connected with a city than any tour could - exploration feeds the soul. Over the past week I have tried every mode of transportation, been to remote suburbs and journeyed around downtown.
I took a day for myself to get lost and I have never been so happy. The thing about meandering alone is that you can get as distracted or be on track as you like. I started off my day by waking up early and making my way to the Central Business District to grab a quick cup of coffee, taking in the sights that the hustle and bustle often cause us to overlook. Being in a global city, history is everywhere, so take the time to enjoy it. During the scavenger hunt the week before, I anxiously questioned locals about where a historical statue was, or who a famous person was, and the replies were all inconclusive. People would say they work in the Business District and that they should know what and where these historic sites were, but no one did. I took the time to slow down, smile, and enjoy the atmosphere.
I made my way from the Business District to the State Library of New South Wales, to the Sydney Opera House Botanical Gardens, through downtown all the way to Darling Harbor and back. I traveled with no destination, no expectations, but rather let my body follow my senses.
SIGHT. Take your mind off of everything and follow your visuals. Where it may lead is unknown until you open your eyes to the world around you. In my case, I followed the trail of abstract. Whether buildings, art, nature or other, a global city like Sydney has more unique sights than imaginable. The sights in Sydney continually amaze me. Whether looking at the architecture and the way the sun hits it, or the peculiar placement of a statue, Sydney does not disappoint visually.
SOUND. An aural sensation; block out your other senses, and see where you may go. On a windy day the bridges in Darling Harbour are filled with the sounds of boats passing, birds cawing, and my favorite: the flags lining the piers and bridges fluttering in the wind. There are many hidden parks, coves and cafes to escape the honking, the rush and noise. Walking short distances from the inner city, you can find your peace. Sometimes you need to stop for a moment to take in the caw of an unfamiliar bird or listen to the waves crash upon each other as the wind blows.
SMELL. Scents fill the city. Whether the it's the smell of pastries and coffee in the morning, the aroma of flowers and the outdoors, or the smell of food being prepared fresh down at the harbor, every street you walk down provokes you. I have found it nearly impossible to walk anywhere without getting hungry (which is so strange for me, because I am such a picky eater). The streets are lined with restaurants, cafes, and little pop-up shops. No matter what hour, scents always draw me in.
TASTE. Whether you have a craving for something succulent or are looking for a classic meal, Sydney has a restaurant for it and everything in between. To follow up with scent, go where your nose leads and your taste buds will not be disappointed. The coffee culture in Australia is huge, so I stop at a different café and try a new drink often. The restaurants, although pricey, serve up huge meals with desserts to follow. Whether vegan, vegetarian, or just picky (like me), you will want to try as much as you can to immerse yourself in the food culture.
TOUCH. From architecture to natural formations, you are drawn in to different textures. With some of the nicest and most beautiful beaches in the world, old architecture, and preserved nature, Australia satisfies every textural craving imaginable; from soft sands and worn down rocks, to jagged brick from decades ago, to roots weaving an overlapping pattern on any terrain.
Typically, getting lost is a huge concern in a new and big city, but getting lost prompts familiarization. Wandering leads to a new sense of adventure; exploration to unknown areas. With no set direction, I learned more about the global city of Sydney than I would have if I followed any rhyme or reason. I chose to lose my way, and there is nothing wrong with that. So go ahead, lose yourself in the rush, in the city, in the history, in the amazement, in your senses. Follow your own desires, but travel with an open mind, take in the sights and smells around you and try something new. Lose yourself.
I want to redefine lose, because by some paradoxical event, losing can in turn mean finding. Find yourself in your senses, because you never know what you may discover.
Until next time,
Matthew's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned.