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Our marketing chick Rebekah takes time out from the usual eXpertLocal blog to explain why she sees the value in eXpertLocal.
I lived quiet contentedly in and close to Redfern for almost a decade. I loved the suburb’s vibe and mix of culture. I loved being able to pop up for cultural events near the Block (yes, beyond what the media liked to tell you, life on the Block in Redfern was not all crime and problems). I loved watching the soccer training at Tech Park with a beer in hand at the Alexandria Hotel (it’s on the border, but seriously, it’s Redfern!). I loved strolling down to Redwater Markets at Redfern Park, seeing a cheery smile from the guys at First Drop Cafe or drawing at The Dock, popping in for my latest lecture about how I don’t treat my shoes well enough from Roger or raiding the Discount shop on Redfern street.
The noise, the sometimes odd encounters at the pub and the fact I could walk to the city were things I truly didn’t want to give up.
Yet in 2012, I was priced out of the market rent wise. My partner and I, and our loopy Labrador simply couldn’t find a house big enough for the 3 of us in Redfern for the money we could afford.
So I gave away the Twitter account to a couple I thought loved the area as much as I do, packed up my house, and moved to the Bronte/Waverley border.
Goodbye city, hello sea
A sea of sound got replaced with quiet. Instead of walking for half an hour and finding myself in the city, I found myself at the beaches Bronte or Clovelly. The crazy life of Surry Hills Shopping Centre (or as I liked to call it, Redfern Mall) became replaced with the shiny glass and expensive public furniture of an enormous Westfield. I felt awkward and weird. Ridiculous I know, but I think I went a little bit into culture shock.
Not knowing where to go or what to do in the first few months really sucked. I only had one friend who knew the area really well, and that was form him growing up as a teenager, 15 odd years ago. So unless I wanted to play hooky and have a sneaky smoke in the park (no Mum, I donâ€™t), I was plum out of luck.
The more I read online reviews of local shops or things to do, the more cynical I became. A lot of places I got excited about were often long gone, closed or something else entirely. Working from home, I needed to feel like I could leave the house with a “place to be” or a purpose. But because I didn’t have a clue where I was most of the time, I started to feel a little annoyed and really out of place.
What I really wanted was the connection.
I wanted to go to places and have people know my name, have a chat and feel not quite so alone.
It started me thinking about some of my expat friends living here or overseas, or friends who’d studied and worked overseas. And it reminded me again of what it was like to leave a country town, go to a big city uni and not know anyone at all, or the place I was living in, and how that felt.
Pulling my bottom lip off the ground, I did things that made me feel more and more comfortable with each adventure. I started with the local dog park. This grew to going to the coffee shop, Eugene’s. Then there was the beautiful Bronte to Clovelly sea walk with camera and dog. That grew into a beer at the Clovelly Hotel with friends followed by dinner by the beach at Swell and breakfast at Three Blue Ducks.
Now I love the area, but gee it took some time to get my head around living in a new place!
It’s not always that simple.
Sometimes, you don’t have a dog or a couple of friends who are willing to drive for half an hour for a meal but you still want to get out and about and discover a place without it being a tourist experience. Or maybe the language of the place you are in isn’t what you speak. Maybe the culture is really alien and having some inside knowledge would be very, very helpful.
eXpertLocal is about giving that freedom back to people. And that’s why I believe in the project, run tours and want to use my skills to get people to know about it and use it. I want newcomers to a city or suburb, or someone who just wants to try something new, to be able to do that with a couple of positive, supportive people to have a chat with while they do.
So if you feel like a fish out of water in Sydney, come do a tour with me. Or if you can relate to that feeling, why not share what you now know by running your own tour?
It takes a small step, but it’s worth it.
You can catch Rebekah’s dog Gibson as he tweets about Bronte life (and life as a happy Labrador) via @Bronte_labrador.