I can't pinpoint the exact moment it happened, yet I remember the first time I saw Sydney Opera House on television and promised myself that one day I'd see it in person. As I embark on a new adventure in moving to Sydney this isn't the first time I've been to this far away place.
The first visit
Just a little over ten years ago my dream of visiting Sydney came true as part of a three week trip around the world. Though the three day visit was brief I still remember that tingling excitement of seeing the Opera House for the very first time. A few days later I would join hundreds of Australians on those famous steps to watch their rugby team defeat New Zealand for a place in the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final.
The let's do everything visit
It was those memories that inspired a longer stay just 14 months later as my sister and I rented an apartment for four months, in which we attempted to do as much as possible.
Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, appearing on Australian TV show, Rove Live and meeting an Everton hero Tim Cahill at an international football match were just some of the highlights. These sorts of things didn't happen back home which probably heightened the experience but it was more a sense of belonging somewhere that made me feel more attached to Sydney. A feeling that I've since had with both Auckland in New Zealand and Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the north east of the UK.
The painful visit!
For some just visiting Australia once is a dream, for me it just created an itch to return time after time. So it wasn't long before I was back, this time just eight months later and this time with Angie.
In early 2006, and just a month into our year long travels, we stepped off the plane at Kingsford Smith Airport for our first stop along the east coast of Australia.
Strangely I can't remember how long we actually spent in Sydney, mainly due to the amount of painkillers I was probably taking. After a few days in the city and visiting Manly, Taronga Zoo and browsing through Glebe Markets we decided to hop on the train to Katoomba.
The day before I'd begun to have a bit of pain in my gums but thought nothing more of it. However on the first day up in the Blue Mountains the pain had become so intense that a trip to the doctors was called for (as dentists petrify me.) As expected he recommended a trip to my living hell but as it was a weekend at they were closed he prescribed some painkillers.
For the next few days I was dosed up to relieve the pain but it became obvious to Angie that something needed to be done as my face was swelling up and we made the decision to leave Sydney to jump on a plane to Brisbane where I was to have some treatment but also a place to recover as we stayed with friends.
The meetup visit
That visit didn't deter me from returning six months later as I flew in from Auckland, where we were living and working, to meet my sister who had flown from the UK to visit.
Most of the time we spent reminiscing, visiting places and doing things we'd done during our four month stay the year before. This was my fourth time in Sydney and by now everything was very familiar. Getting around on trains and ferries had become second nature and it began to feel like a second home, yet I still get that sense of wonder every time I see the Opera House and bridge (I do wonder if this will wear off given time.)
The tired visit
That two week trip was the last I'd see of the city for just over four years. In 2010 on our return journey from New Zealand to attend our friend's wedding we stopped off for a couple of days.
Both Angie and I were tired from a hectic two and a half week whirlwind tour of Hong Kong, Perth, Blenheim, Wellington, Palmerston North and Auckland visiting friends and family. It had taken its toll and we both seemed uninspired to explore the city once more.
The life visit
And so leap ahead to today and with just a week to go, the excitement is building (as well as some apprehension) as we are making our final preparations to pack up our suitcases for a lengthy stay in Sydney.
This time will be significantly different as we'll be looking to rent an apartment, working full-time and coming to terms with how much more expensive it will be in comparison to our stable lives in the UK.
Not that means we won't be exploring at every opportunity of course.