Laura is my oldest friend – we met in second grade as 7 and 8 year olds and have been running around together ever since. We’ve gone to the same schools up until college, and I’ve been so lucky to have such a steady friend for the past decade and a half! She’s studying to go into an amazing field and I’m inspired by her travels and her work ethic. This girl is so low-key about all the incredible adventures she’s done, I’m excited to have the chance to pick her brain about all the trips she’s taken so far.
1. Tell us about yourself.
I am starting my second year of a PhD program in Clinical Psychology at Arizona State University. 1 down, 5 to go… yay! I went to Emory University in Atlanta where I double majored in Psychology and Spanish, and subsequently, my interest in Spanish has prompted quite a few of my excursions. Furthermore, I come from a very international family so travel has always not only been enjoyable but also necessary. My parents were born and raised in England just outside of London. All of my extended family lives in that area as well. My parents moved from England to Holland, where my older brother was born, then to France, where I was born, then back to England, where one of my sisters was born, and then finally to the USA, where my last sister was born. Four kids, four countries turns out to be a good fun fact for silly introduction games and what not. Growing up we not only moved around a few times but also took many trips back across the pond to see family.
2. Why do you travel?
I travel because I firmly believe the world is too beautiful to stay in the same small bubble. There is too much to experience and see. A lot of people are scared to make that first trip and be far away from home, but what they don’t realize is the value gained in coming back a different person. The things you believe are right or wrong, the things you think about yourself, the way you perceive others, and much more are all questioned through travel. Honestly, I think people need that.
3. How do you balance travel and work?
When something is important to you, you find a way to make it work. For me, as a student, that means staying ahead on all of my work, strategically planning absences and holidays, and being frugal with my already small student income. I am lucky that I still have some flexibility because of the academic calendar.
4. What is the best lesson you’ve learned from your trips?
I’ve learned a million and one lessons from my travels. If I had to pick just one, it would be the value of knowing that the media often portrays the worst of different cultures and people outside of the US (and even within probably). Seeing for yourself that you can’t judge populations of people based on one news story is something that I think extrapolates to all things in life. In my field in particular, the need for culturally informed mental health professionals and programs is apparent. The biases of other people do not have to be your own – go and see for yourself and make your own judgements AFTER experiencing!
5. Tell us about your favorite travel experience.
Hmmm… that’s a hard one. After graduating college in December 2015, I did a trip to Europe to celebrate and spend time with some family. First I went to England to see aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. From England I traveled to Belgium to meet up with my godmother who lives in Antwerp. After Belgium, I went to Spain to visit my Spanish host parents. Together we drove from the suburbs of Madrid down to Malaga for a few days. What made this one of my favorite experiences was that I was able to see so many people I care about. I love Europe because there are so many extraordinary places right next to each other, making travel much easier. However, at the same time it is frustrating because there is always more I want to see that is SO close comparatively but I can’t quite fit into the trip 😛
6. If you could share one travel tip, what would it be?
Invest some time into the local culture of wherever you are. Venture out of the tourist area to get a sense of what life is like. Stay at hostels and ask the guides there for advice on where to go and how to be safe while doing it.
If you want to know more about Laura and the Suitcase Six, head to the Suitcase Six tab or check us out on Instagram at @SuitcaseSix for more photos of the trips us six are taking!