Taking her own path

Graduate travels through pandemic

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UW-W alumna Monica Cull is happy that she took a non-traditional path after graduation to travel the world.

Samantha Butzen, Student

There tends to be a typical path for many individuals after college: a job, marriage, house, babies. But it is not for everyone. Sitting down on Feb. 9 with UW-Whitewater graduate Monica Cull, two years after her graduation, made it clear that for some taking a different path can be a better choice. 

Reflecting on turning 27, Cull took to social media to express her understanding that she is fine with living for herself. Fear was a prominent feeling when Cull realized, standing in a desert on her birthday, that she is no where close to where many of her friend’s are in life. A dream job, the perfect spouse, and a set plan are not necessarily in the cards right now, but instead she’s found traveling as a passion worth following in prioritizing in life. 

Cull caught the urge to travel during her study abroad experiences, meeting her best friend and travel partner along the way. Together they continue to travel as a way to recharge the happiness in their lives. The pair seek adventure and new experiences any chance they get. They have been to places such as Texas, Colorado, Indiana, Wyoming, Ireland. 

Q: How did it feel to share such an open and honest social media post like the one on your birthday?

A: “I definitely didn’t want to come off as too preachy or anything. I cared what people thought even though I didn’t want to. I felt behind all of my friends that were getting married or having babies, but the whole point of the post was to explain why I am living the way I want and I’m not wasting time.”

Q: What is it about traveling that you find so fulfilling?

A: “I was very ignorant about the world until the first time I left the country to study abroad. I made so many friends from everywhere that made me realize that these places around the world are concrete and important. I grow and learn, and become who I want to be with each place visit.”

Q: How have you managed to maintain travel as a priority during a global pandemic?

A: “First and foremost we took safety and spread of COVID seriously. We have kind of transformed from Airbnb and concert people to outdoorsy and camping people. It has also changed our perspective of the world even more being outdoors most of the time. The outdoors helped the mental heath aspect and maintained social distancing and safety.”

Q: What are some noticeable differences or challenges of traveling during the pandemic? 

A: “Even camp sites have limited space during this time. Some nights we had no spot to go to, so we stayed on the side of the roads. You learn a lot. Many things were closed including caves and reservations, to protect the spread of COVID-19 to vulnerable local communities. I am getting used to most of the differences by now though.”

Q: How do you see travel in the future? 

A: “I think it will either be non-stop travel or people being too afraid for too long. I really hope that people start being kinder to each other after realizing what we miss when on lockdown. I also hope that travel will be cheaper, but I somehow always find a way to travel regardless.”

Cull calls attention to an important point of living your life for yourself. Even if it is different than her preference of traveling, she encourages people to find what makes you happy and go with it. The most important opinions are your own, and no matter what path is taken, it can be the right one

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