Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen to this week’s edition of (Wild)life Down Under (as I shall henceforth be calling my blog). I promised to discuss my travels on this blog, but as fun as it would be to detail all the places I’ve gone and the things I’ve done there I think it’ll be more meaningful to talk instead about what I’ve learned. I’m now at the end of my Fall Break and before it started I went on trips the two weekends preceding.
These were all amazing trips and I’ll be definitely including photos from all along the way, but when I started thinking about what I wanted to write my blog on I found myself caught not on the different locations but on the different styles of travel. I’d just traveled with a small group of friends, a large group of people and completely alone. It struck me how much of an effect that actually had on my experience. Each varied in the level of control I had, how I interacted with the people I met, how engaged I was, how much I saw and more.
Let’s start with the most recent trip – a week alone in Adelaide and Kangaroo Island. Traveling by myself was a completely new experience for me. It was exciting to pick a destination and a place to stay all on my own. I got to do exactly what I wanted, when I wanted. I went on the hikes that interested me, ate the food that
looked good to me and when I found myself bored – arranged to leave when I felt it was time, even if it was earlier than originally planned. I met a lot of new people both at my hostels and on the tours I went on. Despite all of these perks I decided that traveling alone is not for me. It’s hard to completely independent. I didn’t realize how much that sensation had already been weighing on me just from studying abroad alone until I intensified it by leaving everyone from my program and residential college behind. It takes a lot of self sufficiency to enjoy traveling on your own; you are always responsible for your own entertainment and other arrangements. I’ll be interested to see if these feelings change later in my life, when I’m not already so removed from my family and friends.
The weekend before was the trip organized by IFSA Butler. I was impressed by how smoothly everything went. When we arrived at the departure location the bus was waiting for us and our
tour guide arrived soon after. Our guide ran through a lot of information as we drove and we stopped at a crazy amount of attractions where tickets were quickly acquired for us. The accommodation and food was booked ahead of time and fantastic. Both our guide and bus driver were knowledgable and friendly. On the other hand we had no say in where we went and for how long we stayed so sometimes were had to hurry through interesting places and other times we sat and waited for the bus to leave less engaging places. The restaurants we went to only had one vegetarian option so I had no choice in food and I don’t think I interacted with anyone outside of the group except a couple of rangers and ride operators. It was nice to have completely carefree travel, but you definitely give up choice and some of the experience by going with this style of travel.
Finally, my favorite type – a weekend trip to a friend’s hometown of Warnambool. I most enjoyed traveling with a small group of friends because it’s the perfect mix of the
earlier two. You don’t have to plan as much, because that responsibility is split between people but you still have say so you can ensure that you’re doing things that interest you. You have the ability to go off and do your own thing when you want or stick with people. Your group is also small enough to be approachable to strangers giving you the opportunity to meet new people.
Learning what I like and what works for me has been one of the best parts of my study abroad experience so far and I look forward to more of it. I didn’t realize how much I’d learn about myself by going abroad, but it’s really opened my eyes to what I need and how I function. I thought I’d just be coming here to learn about another culture and other people, it’s really cool that I’m doing both. It looks like I’ll be trying many new things this week like field work with a graduate student and volunteering at a wine and cheese festival. I can’t wait to tell you all about them.