Debra Swersky
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Somewhere Over The

I was the last climber in our Sydney Harbor BridgeClimb group. Our leader, Emily, suggested that those who enjoyed the fear factor of heights should move to the back of the tour line to enjoy extra, more leisurely, views of the city. Never one to be squeamish I let as many people as possible ahead of me. As the climb began I soaked up the thrills and lingering climbs along the ladders and walkways that dangled from the bridge. (Dangling is a bit of an overstatement. The whole activity was exceptionally safe considering the height.)

After a walkabout on the underpart of the bridge and a series of ladders, the approach to the summit via the archway of the bridge appeared short. Once I could see the top, I had to remind myself to take in the view on each step as we ascended. Upon our approach to the summit I recall stopping just shy of the mid-point, taking a deep breath and being flooded with emotion. My eyes danced over the Sydney Harbor, past the Opera House, to the skyline and I felt tears well-up. The magnitude of the moment was not lost on me. 

When I was fifteen my mom had opened a credit card in my name, a Delta SkyMiles credit card. She told me all about airline miles and about how they can help you get to faraway places for less money. She then asked me to pick a destination. Having already visited South Africa to see my family several times before, I picked Australia to visit our friends. At the time I didn't know how many airline miles it cost to get there, nor how long it would take to accumulate those miles. I just knew that the farthest place away from home that I could think of was Australia.

As the years passed, and our friends from Australia came to visit us in America, I was slowly but surely accumulating airline miles... never once spending them. Each time they visited they would reiterate Sydney's beauty, the readiness of their guest-room, and their family's willingness to host. I was ready and waiting... my eye had never left the prize. To me it didn't make sense to spend my miles getting to any destination other than the farthest away from where I was.

Finally, a billion airline miles and many years later, I booked our flights to Australia. In Sydney there was only one activity that I had "planned": The Sydney Harbor BridgeClimb. We were waiting to schedule our tour and time so that we could choose the day with the nicest weather.

Unbeknownst to me, the Sydney Harbor BridgeClimb had become a symbol of all of my years of waiting to see Sydney. The tears were not all happy, but not entirely sad. They commemorated the hard-work, the planning (or lack thereof), the dedication, perseverance, and persistence that I had experienced while pursuing my goal. It is clear to me that not everyone will have the opportunity to experience this view, buy a plane ticket with airline miles, or travel to Sydney. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. 

The enormity of the occasion was driven home at the mid-point where our group hung out before making the turn-around to descend. There, extending from the opening of the Sydney Harbor, made special for our group, was a rainbow. Needless to say, I feel truly fortunate to have been able to visit our friends in Australia, see Sydney from all angles, and experience the spectacular sights, like rainbows over the harbor, from the top of the Harbor Bridge. 

But now I ask myself, where to next? (Suggestions welcome.)

Debra Swersky