Monday, June 22, 2015

By Madison Voss*

Since I have been traveling around Australia, I have met quite a few people who enjoy traveling on their own. I am not one of these people, although for many reasons, I wish I was. Traveling through a different country, with a different culture, teaches one invaluable things with or without having other people along. But I have heard, and can imagine, that traveling alone gives one a true glimpse into who they really are like nothing else can. Thankfully, I am optimistic that I have still been given such a glimpse despite my inability to journey all alone.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen

Perhaps one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been a big "people-person." I get a great amount of energy from being in the company of others, and am one of those who really live off the familiar saying, “Happiness is only real when shared”. It therefore comes as no surprise that my favorite memories from my study abroad experience is meeting the amazing people that I did, and traveling with them.

My Traveling Partners in Crime

I was fortunate enough to meet a girl, that from the moment we first met, I clicked with. We shared many similar interests, yet had personality differences that thankfully balanced each other out.  This compatibility really came in handy on the many trips we took together throughout our time here.

There is no denying that traveling with friends, both old and new, creates memories and laughs that last a lifetime. However, nothing quite shows you the true colors of someone like travel does. The more unspoken side of traveling and studying abroad is that it can be extremely stressful, especially as a college student on a tight budget. From booking flights and hostels, to agreeing on where to eat, it is not always as glamorous as it may seem. That is why it is important to surround yourself with those that you are decently compatible with, or else many arguments with surely ensue.

One thing that I have learned in Australia, that ultimately applies to life in general, is that people prioritize where they spend their money very differently. Because my friend and I shared so many common interests, we generally liked to spend our money on similar things such as: nice dinning experiences, trying out different coffee shops, experiencing the local nightlife, and shopping at fun stores that we don’t have back home.

Loving Life and view in byron bay

Loving life and the views of Byron Bay

Whenever we encountered the inevitable travel woes, or had an off day where we particularly felt the many miles between us and home, we could find comfort and ease in each other.

While this life long friendship I discovered here has given me some of my favorite memories, it is important to acknowledge the other kind of travel companion that is equally significant. This travel companion I actually came here with, and knew very well before. Although we are both the friendly type, who really enjoy meeting new people and interacting with them, we couldn’t be more different in regards to travel and where we like to spend our money.

This friend of mine would rather live off a can of tuna a day, in order to be able to take a $300 dollar guided rainforest hike. The foodie in me would rather hang back and lay out on the beach for free, and afford a nice pasta dinner that evening.

These differences between us predictably caused some disagreements along the way, but looking back, I couldn’t be more thankful for his presence on the trips we took together.

It is these differences in us that pushed me to try things that I otherwise would not have, and therefore gain alternative perspectives that I wouldn’t have gained had I just traveled with people who were just like myself.

To conclude, traveling alone or with others, is an experience incomparable to any other. If you are the type who seeks to soul search on a journey all your own, I sincerely applaud you. You will reflect on things bigger and deeper than you can imagine, and gain the ability to answer questions you once didn’t even think to ask. If you are the type who like myself, needs the presence of others, remember that traveling with others who are similar and different to you are equally as important.

There is no right or wrong way to go about it, because either path will surely change your life. 

*Madison Voss is a junior from Ankeny, Iowa, majoring in communication studies with an entrepreneurial certificate at the University of Iowa. She is currently studying abroad on the Regents Exchange Program in Newcastle, Australia.