Woman of the Week: Maya

Maya is a student at Indiana University whom I met through her older brother, Adam. One of the Suitcase Six ladies, Marie, has been dating Adam for a few years so I’ve gotten to know Maya through group hangouts of mutual friends in our circles. I had such a great time talking with Maya about her pre-med life, travel plans, and the awesome women we both have met. She has a great perspective on travel and I’m excited to share her answers with you here. 

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1. Tell us about yourself.

I’m going to enter my junior year at IU. I am on the premed track, and that dictates a lot of what I do with my life. I’ve always travelled since I was young so I’ve definitely always prioritized it because it’s what my parents have taught me to do but also because I find it fulfilling for myself. 

When I can I travel. I swim semi-competitively so I guess I like that. I spend a lot of time talking and being active in the scientific community even if it’s not through school – through work or clubs that I do. Especially in regards to minority representation in the scientific community, so I like to dedicate a lot of my time to that.

I’m part of the IU chapter of the Minority Associate for Premedical Students (MAPS) and I’ve been involved since I was a freshman, increasingly more so. I think it’s really special because it addresses things about being a healthcare provider & civil servant you wouldn’t have thought of, such as things that block minorities from accessing healthcare and its quality disparities – things that go into the profession you wouldn’t think about otherwise. It’s really unique and I think something everyone could benefit from learning about, not just minorities or health-related professionals.

2. Why do you travel?

I think a lot of it started before I could even consciously decide to travel. So, my family – half of my family, my maternal side, is on the other side of the world. We have almost no relatives in America on that side. So that is definitely a motivator, and like I said my parents have always prioritized it. Some people go to Disney, or go to spring break or eat out every Friday, but we have put traveling as a priority. My mother (being European) places a high value on vacation culture and travel culture.

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Maya with her bother Adam.

On the other hand my dad is from America, coming from a working class family, and he definitely had to learn to take time for himself and enjoy vacation and not play into the “work till you die” kind of mentality. But even still he’s been really encouraging about it and knows it’s something we want to do so I think it’s something both of my parents agree upon.

3. How do you balance travel and work?

For me, it just takes a tremendous amount of forethought. Sometimes I do get anxious about how am I going to see my family. For example, my cousin just moved to New Zealand and it’s like “When am I ever going to see you again?” It is a priority for me & when I can’t do that it does weigh on me.

I’ve been planning a trip this upcoming December, and I kind of was thinking about it before this summer, more than six months in advance. That definitely helps with costs, like airfare. Also for me, I’m a planner, that’s just my personality. But I’m a student, so right now trips are definitely centered around school breaks or school trips.

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4. What is the best lesson you’ve learned from your trips?

I would say probably to – especially if you’re somewhere where you don’t usually find yourself – not say “no”. Or at least be very judicious with your no’s. At home, I’m type A, a planner, I like routine. But it could be as little as trying that food, or “I’ve already eaten a croissant, do I need this baguette?” Yes, you do, you’re in the heart of France!

This past summer in Spain, I went canyoning. I’m not an outdoorsy person, but my friend had the idea and made the reservation without really knowing what it was. And it was spectacular, amazing –  I lowered myself down a waterfall on a rope!

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If you’re going to travel, that’s something I’d work on adopting before you go. The more I travel with students, the more I see that. So many people in Spain in the group of 12 students with me were miserable. Some of the problems were with dietary constraints, which can be hard to overcome, but some people just sat in their apartments and didn’t do the activities we were doing, and wallowed. I guess that kind of goes hand in hand with making the best of a situation – If you find yourself in a shitty Air B&B or miss your train, try to make the best of it. You’re still in this place, you’re still travelling.

5. Tell us about one of your favorite travel experiences.

In general, I really like travelling with people my age, especially my siblings. I hadn’t done that until we were old enough to handle ourselves on international flights. Now growing up it’s one of my favorite things. It just makes the trip much more special – going out…there’s so much more to do when you’re with a group of like-minded people. My favorite trips have been with my siblings or with the group of people in Spain, my college aged friends, meeting people in hostels.

The older I’m getting, the less value “vacations” are having for me. Like the “beach + resort formula”, for me that’s not really the kind of vacation I’m so much about. And I feel like travelling with people my age has shown me how it can be, other sides of travel. And I like the kind of freedom that comes with it.

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6. If you could share one travel tip, what would it be?

Other than planning hella in advance, because prices are more reasonable in advance…I would say just think about what you NEED. For me, I never go anywhere without jeans and some kind of hoodie, unless I’m going to the tropics in the middle of August. The same with buying – I know I just said “say yes” to everything – but I always ask myself “do I need this souvenir, do I need these things” when packing, because then if you’re abroad and you haven’t packed it you’re just gonna have to buy it and that money could have gone to something else. So just always think about “will I use this, do I need this”.

 

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Any final thoughts you want to share with us?

 I’ve heard some women express this, or just American people generally, “Why would I travel”? They feel like they need all of these things in order to travel. This one girl I’d met had gone to Africa, Europe – but she was afraid to go to the Spanish train station by herself. Being a woman, you always have to be on your guard, but don’t be so apprehensive. Unless you’re going to a literal war zone…there’s always those travel advisories, but I wish that as a whole Americans wouldn’t have so much anxiety about travel, and especially women. I think it ties into the egocentrism of Americans ‘why would I leave? I have all the things I need here”. I’d just want people to recognize that the same things they are so worried about abroad (getting stolen from, lost, in situations with strangers, etc.) can just as easily happen within the States, so not to be so apprehensive about going to a new country and trying new things.

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