I just finished my third stay in Perth. My third ever stay, my third stay in the past year. As someone who grew up on the east coast, there was a general mockery towards the west coast – “ah, it’s too far”, “I’ve never been there”, “I bet it’s boring there”. It was the subject of many jokes.
During my high-time concert days, I’d often see teenagers respond to posts on social media with, “Come to Perth! Pleaseeeeee!!! 😢”, begging local bands to play in their town. I didn’t quite understand it. What was ever so wrong with Perth?
Australia is the size of fifty Texases (or something like that), and the common misconception from people around the globe is that you can quite easily see the Great Barrier Reef, Blue Mountains and Uluru (Ayers Rock) in a matter of days. Well, you can, but it’d be a lot of travel time and everything is so spaced out, not to mention there isn’t much to do on the road between major cities, once you start driving really far out. And that is the reason why a lot of Australians have not seen much of Australia at all. And the reason why Perth… to everyone… just seems so far away.
Let’s start with Mixin Conf. A conference that, for some reason, captured my attention in its early days. I’d applied to speak at the conference, but collected a couple of nos for the talks I had proposed. Keeping an eye on the conference updates, I really wanted to attend because it sounded like it was going to be great. I truly believed I would enjoy it, and like I said last year – conferences on the east coast seem to take themselves far too seriously. The conference turned out to be a blast and I met a handful of friendly, talented, patient and fun people.
I even went to the afterparty. Those who know me know that I am introverted, like a quiet night in, and generally avoid being where the people are at. But after the conference, even as I lay on my bed in the apartment I was staying in, something told me to get up and walk to where the party was at. I lightened up, and made many new friends that night.
The Mixin team even supplied a list of places to go to and places to eat at, including a small selection of modern cafés in and around the city.
I met up again with my friend Kim, whom I met on the internet via one of our favourite bands, The Griswolds. We only get to see each other when we visit each other’s cities! (And now I have one-upped her by visiting Perth more times than she’s visited Sydney.)
My first trip to Perth, I felt many feelings. Perth was quiet. Compared to what I knew of busy, cramped Sydney, I liked it. Something felt relaxed. Laid-back. Friendly. At the same time bringing a slight, tugging, but welcoming discomfort – it was my first time travelling completely alone, and I didn’t know too many people. I spent a bit of time wondering what exactly made Perth the boring city everyone else made it out to be. But there were things to see. Stuff to learn about. Areas to explore. Solace to find. And everyone made me feel welcome. Something about being in a city so far away from other cities is that everyone else feels the same way you do. Everyone understands it.
When I returned home, I joined the Fenders Slack group to keep in touch with some of the people I had met. Through that, I met many others. Although I had never spoken to some of them directly, by letting me into their little world, I felt like I could call them my friends. Chatter was prominent almost every day of the week. A simple “good morning” brightened my day – my friends were there, and they were well.
Perth left a great impression on me, and so I went back in January. I sneakily found a way to speak at the inaugural Localhost meetup, and so I had even more reason to rock up. Nick and I jumped around to touristy spots and finally got to see quokkas and ride bikes around Rottnest Island. I tried to eat at every cafe in Northbridge.
I came back a third time.
But the question is why. Why am I saying all of this? Why am I always coming back?
“You’ve fallen in love with Perth,” they said.
This time, I spent more time with the people in the community. I found people who have careers in the same industry, who think like me, and who are also a lot of fun to talk to. And it somehow felt so much easier than trying to find “my people” in busy, crowded Sydney. I attended events and it felt like I was living here, not just visiting. I laughed internally and felt glad that I could remember street names. I remembered my way around places and walked the streets with a comfort that I just don’t get back at home.
I somehow made a lot of people think I moved to Perth. I have dropped many hints that I like Perth, more hints than I drop about liking Sydney.
“Have fun in your second home,” my friend Monica said.
I have a lot of “second homes” – there’s Nick’s parents’ home; there’s the gym; there is my beautiful workplace; there is Caffe Tiamo, that I frequent regularly.
And then, of course, there’s Perth.
Thank you Perth, and thank you to everyone (you know who you are) for welcoming me back again. You’ve been great. It was wonderful spending time with you. I will be back. 😊
More posts about my time in Perth will be published in due time – I had a busy one this time around!