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The Pros and Cons of Independent Travel

The past week was a hodgepodge of travel and adventure that opened my eyes to the awe inspiring nature of both New Zealand and, well, the world. Sometimes you just forget how amazing and diverse the planet we live on is and I was justly reminded to appreciate that. Granted, you tend to forget such things after living in behind a computer screen in the middle of suburbia for so long. What promoted said adventure you may ask? The two weeks of no classes that is our “mid-semester break” did. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. It was like the university gods somehow predicted when we would be at our wits end with the heaps of work we’ve been dealing with and would need the time to recuperate and satiate the urge building up inside all the students on exchange to travel.

Somewhat unfortunately for me, I was forced to spend my first week at the university in attendance of a field school for one of my classes (I saw somewhat because although it was bad timing, it was still a great learning experience!). It just so happens that the first week was when the rest of my IFSA friends had planned to travel throughout the south island. I was a bit dismayed at first, but I wasn’t going to let the idea of traveling alone stop me. In fact, I couldn’t help but embrace the idea. Which brings me to the first pro of traveling solo:

Pro: Freedom of the group burden
I talked about this idea with a few other solo travelers and we all came to an agreement about how much of a relief it is to not have to base all of your actions on the majority of the group. Meaning, I was able to travel where I wanted to, do the outings I wanted to, and most importantly, eat where I wanted to. I was able to do heaps of activities that I’m sure were not in the interest or a bit out of the price range for some people (I splurged quite a bit on this trip. I’m talking like a helicopter tour sorta splurge). The food situation is also much easier. You get to choose where you want to eat, get seated faster, order faster, and don’t have to worry about asking the waitress/tor to split the bill. But I couldn’t help but feel a bit of chagrin at asking for a “table for one”. Which brings up a con:

Con: You’re your own company
I couldn’t help but miss my friends back at Uni. Having people you’re comfortable around to laugh with and create as well as share memories with brings out more from the experience. You don’t have to talk to yourself and get weird looks from passersby nor have to take selfies or awkwardly ask random strangers to take pictures of you (both of which are very hard to do when climbing a mountain with a. nobody in site and b. arms that are too short to properly get the rainbow in the picture. Props to small tripods).

Pro: You learn about yourself
This is probably the main reason why I would push people to travel on their own at least once. During this time you have so much time to think about things and get a better understanding of who you are as well as grow. For instance, while climbing a mountain I learned how out of shape I was but also how fortunate I was for both the ability and opportunity to climb said mountain. In my solidarity I was pushed out of my comfort zone and by doing so I met a bunch of interesting individuals and ventured places where no Niyo has ever ventured before.

This brings up the life lesson of not letting others hold you back. You are your own person and have a general idea of what’s best for yourself. That being said, you shouldn’t be afraid to try new things (within reason and safety); whether a good or bad outcome there is still an outcome which you can learn and move forward from.

I wouldn’t say I would promote solo travel over group travel or vice versa. Both have their ups and downs. For me, long as travel is involved I’ll be there. I wholeheartedly embrace the saying of the great explorer Charles Muntz and his passionate fans Ellie and Carl Fredrickson: “Adventure is out there!” (I know feel obliged to go watch Up).

To put a bit more context to the adventures of said individual traveler, below is the list of my “excursions”.

  • Helicopter tour and glacier landing in Queenstown. Can’t speak enough on how amazing this was!
  • Hiking Lomond’s saddle. I saw multiple rainbows, at least until it started hailing like crazy.
  • Driving halfway to Milford Sound only to have the roads shut down because of snow. *This reminded me of my dislike of snow.
  • Horseback riding in Glenorchy. Almost as amazing as the helicopter tour expect for the gradual growing discomfort of sitting in a saddle for 2.5 hours.
  • A tour to the capital of Rohan… Edoras! My fellow Lord of the Rings fans will be able to appreciate how awesome it was. They gave us champagne which was icing on the cake.
  • Tour of almost all the LotR filming sites in Wellington. The tour extended my subway eating streak to 3 days in a row. The other two occasions where out of lack of actual restaurants.
  • Riding across Aotearoa in a bus/car/horse. I traveled probably around 3000 km in/on four wheeled/legged vehicles/animals during this trip across the most beautiful landscape in the world.
  • Finally, I ate heaps and heaps of kai (food)

Towards the end of it all I was starting to miss Auckland. It’s crazy how in two months I’ve grown so used to the city I live in and am starting to consider it home.

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