For the better part of the semester now I’ve been living out an opportunity that most people have never even imagined they were capable of achieving in their lifetimes. Finding a way to combine my passion for traveling without forfeiting my education and being able to effectively hit life’s “easy button” for a while and still reap the benefits.I’ve seen amazing places throughout the American Southwest and had the blessing to also have what is in my mind a vital element to any traveler’s life, and that is to be able to share my experience with a group of people also along for the ride.
Even though I wasn’t formally acquainted with most of the 19 other individuals who are along on this expedition in its conception, I now feel I am able to refer to many of them as friends and know that I will walk away from our semester still having the luxury to know them and be a part of their lives as they will undoubtedly be in mine. Sure, they weren’t my close group of friends who I would have brought along with me given the opportunity, but hey, that doesn’t make me feel any less honored to have been able to become friends with them over time.
Now this isn’t to say that its been a necessarily smooth ride either over these past couple of months. In fact, there are times when one of the most troubling and hardest parts about traveling so far from home is the people your with (or not with depending on your perspective).
Take for example this scenario.
Recently about two weeks ago one of my compatriots in my journey had a bit of a rough day as the direct result of just being around the others in our group. Hours of being packed in small, cramped vans had slowly taken its hold on many of us and periodically we would find ourselves at each other’s throats for all the wrong reasons.
“Why is everything so negative all the time?” she asked me. “Here we are far from home and seeing all of these great things, meeting all of these awesome people, and whenever we’re at one of these spots it’s as if we’re all having a bad time because no one in the group can just get along and listen to one another.”
I couldn’t deny that truth of the matter considering about five-hundred yards away from us was the edge of the Grand Canyon on this particular day. I had seen it myself, the dissention amongst us from having been so close for so long. Hell, I was a part of my fair share of bouts between other people in our group along the way, a fact that makes me feel lower than dirt personally.
One of our other members who was there with us at the time gave her the advice to “numb” herself to the opinions and negative aspects of the other people we were with. The idea being that once she stopped caring she would end up having a better time in these places.
WRONG! As not only a photographer but as a person who values the power of perspective above virtually all else, I can pretty safely say that choosing to actively ignore the people around you is defiantly not the way to get things done properly in this particular situation.
I told her that even though she may dislike other people or feel like they had something against her that they were ultimately here for the same reason that we all were, and that undoubtedly all of us wouldn’t hesitate to stick out our necks for each other be it our best or worst day. Instead of repelling the other people, I told her to take in their opinions and if she did than in the long run she might be able use it to create common ground once more or find a way around situations like this should they arise again.
I may have been right, I may have been wrong. That’s the thing about the road and being on it for as long as we have, and as young as we are. Spend enough time on it and your best friend becomes your worst enemy. However, if you share an experience or two and you end up forgetting your past bouts entirely. Stop occasionally, take in the scenery, stretch your legs and get some air, or maybe just sleep on the matter you end up enjoying your time a lot more and the company you’re with as well.
From that day on I noticed she’s been a lot better than she was that day, and not just her but everyone in our class. Our major voyages across the Southwest have slowed down and we’re taking up roots for a while, much to everyone’s benefit. Old grudges are slowly but surely dissipating and becoming forgot as our semester winds to an end.
Group traveling is only as effective as being able to understand when it’s time to take a break from the people your with or the journey entirely. Meeting new people, seeing the sites, and even calling home every now and again makes more of a difference than you’d think for a weary mind. Sometimes even the time you spend alone and away from the hustle and bustle of other minds changes people for the better.
The places you go in your travels are ultimately only as good as the people who you get to see those places with or meet along the way. And sometimes the best people to meet are the ones who you thought you knew all along and turn out to be different people entirely.
So to my group who I’m with on this amazing adventure: You piss me off, you nag each other about stupid things, and above all else you are some of the worst people to be trapped in a van for eight hours with.
But never once would I trade my time with you for anyone else.